In the whirlwind of the hiring process, new Texas Longhorns basketball head coach Shaka Smart has already extended multiple offers and met with his new team. He also has a message for former players after reaching out to several:
"You built this program and made it what it is today," Smart said in the message. "My goal is to build on the foundation you established. You have complete access to our program, whether it's coming back for games, practices, or just stopping by the office. We need you around. We want you around."
After getting the job, Smart made contact with the program's core players, starting with former star point guard TJ Ford, the heart and soul of the 2003 Final Four team.
"You know, a couple people had mentioned to me that TJ Ford is kind of a pied piper among the former players here at Texas," Smart said on Longhorn Network Friday night. "Sometimes people say that and it may or may not be true, but it's definitely true in this place. There's a reason why he led that team to the Final Four beyond his talent. He has something about him as a communicator and a leader that is extremely unique."
Smart met with some of his former VCU players after holding the team meeting on Thursday evening during which he announced his departure from the program he build. Directly thereafter, Smart got on the phone with Ford.
"He was so enthusiastic and excited that it gave me energy," said the notoriously energetic head coach.
Ford also encouraged Smart to reach out to a handful of other former players, including LaMarcus Aldridge, Royal Ivey, and Kevin Durant. As soon as Smart called those players, they had already just gotten off the phone with Ford. Like the good former point guard that he is, Ford set up Smart for the easy bucket with those former stars.
"It was great talking to those guys -- their passion for the program, their willingness to help," Smart said. "I really appreciate that."
Smart was brought in to energize the Texas basketball program. From the past, to the present, to the future, Smart is already doing exactly that.