One of the first tasks for new Texas Longhorns head basketball coach Shaka Smart will be picking his three assistant coaches and deciding whether he wants to bring strength and conditioning coach Daniel Roose with him to Austin.
On the Texas side, former Longhorns assistant coach Chris Ogden already joined former head coach Rick Barnes at Tennessee, leaving Smart the option of keeping associate head coach Rob Lanier and assistant coach Russ Springmann on the staff.
Lanier is probably the most likely of the two to remain in Austin, as there's been buzz over the last several days that he wants to stick around. The two also worked on the same staff at Florida under Billy Donovan in 2008-09. Longhorn Network anchor Lowell Galindo called Lanier "one of best communicators/coaches" he's been around. Also responsible for recruiting Tristan Thompson and Myck Kabongo, Lanier could be an asset on the recruiting trail, too.
As for Springmann, his recruiting chops and ties to the state could make him an appealing candidate to remain in Austin, as he was the lead recruiter for Myles Turner, one of the biggest recruits that the Longhorns landed in recent years.
There were also plenty of advocates among high school prospects and those associated with that scene who wanted John Lucas to get a look at the Texas head coaching position. He won't be taking an assistant coaching job on Smart's staff, but if Smart wants to have ties to the Houston recruiting scene and the players associated with Lucas, elevating Lucas' son Jai from special assistant to a spot on his bench would make tremendous sense. And could benefit Texas tremendously.
So the next question is whether Smart will consider bringing some of his VCU assistants with him from Richmond.
Mike Morrell already cleaned out his office and left the Siegel Center with his possessions in a cardboard box on Thursday evening, a possible sign that he could be joining Smart on the Texas staff. In fact, he looks like the strongest candidate so far to have one of those three spots locked down:
Sounds like Mike Morrell, who was an assistant under Shaka Smart at VCU, will follow Smart to Texas.— Jeff Borzello (@jeffborzello) April 3, 2015
Formerly the Director of Basketball Operations for Smart in Richmond, Morrell earned a promotion to his assistant coaching position during the 2013 offseason. The two also have a previous connection from working on the Clemson staff together.
The bio for Rams assistant coach Jeremy Ballard touts his player development ability, crediting him for guard Troy Daniels hitting a single-season school-record 124 three-pointers during Ballard's first season at VCU in 2012-13.
"He comes from a very good coaching pedigree and possesses a terrific combination of work ethic, charisma and basketball knowledge," Smart said at the time of his hire.
However, Ballard could be in the mix to take over for Smart, so he might not even be available to take another assistant coaching position.
David Cason has the weakest ties to Smart -- he coached with Ballard at Tulsa, but didn't join the VCU staff as an assistant until last year. The experience of Ballard and Cason working with the Golden Hurricane could mean that they both have some experience recruiting the Texas area.
With a strong recent run on the recruiting trail that represents the best stretch during school history, one pertinent question is how much impact those three assistants had in landing those highly-rating players. Weekend sports anchor Chip Brierre or WRIC 8NEWS in Richmond said that much of the recruiting success was on Smart himself because he was always out recruiting personally.
So having ties to the state of Texas may be more important for Smart than having a familiarity with his potential new staff members.
Speculating about special assistants is too difficult right now, but Smart will have an important decision to make about his strength and conditioning coach. Todd Wright has a strong reputation around Austin and nationally after spending 21 years with Rick Barnes, including four years at Clemson, but he hasn't yet joined Barnes' staff in Knoxville, so he's a candidate to remain at Texas, too.
However, VCU strength and conditioning coach David Roose has been with Smart since he took over for Anthony Grant in 2009 and because the strength and conditioning coach spends so much time around the players, the head coach needs a high level of trust in that assistant. Plus, the "havoc" defensive system run by Smart that includes several variations of full-court presses and traps requires a high level of conditioning so that players don't wear down during games or during the grind of the conference season.
BON will continue to have coverage of Smart's staff as he begins to put it together.