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For Shaka Smart, relationships are key to foundation with players

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The Texas head coach appeared on the podcast of Seattle Seahawks sports psychologist Michael Gervais and discussed his personal life and connection with his players.

NCAA Basketball: Big 12 Championship-West Virginia vs Texas Denny Medley-USA TODAY Sports

Shaka Smart stepped back from his busy schedule in Australia on Wednesday to appear on "Finding Mastery", the podcast of Seattle Seahawks sports psychologist Michael Gervais.

On the podcast, Smart discussed his personal background, such as lessons from his childhood and his family.

The Texas coach said that his father's decision to name him "Shaka" was "the only good thing my dad gave me or did for me."

"I think my mom was going to name me Brian or something like that," Smart added.

Smart said that not having a father figured helped inspire him to become a coach, because he looked up to coaches as father figures in his youth.

That admiration for former coaches helped inspire Smart to be a relationship based leader himself, and serve as a role model for his players. The Texas coach said that relationships are at the foundation of everything that he and his coaching staff does.

"If I get a call from one of (the players) in twenty years and they say 'I'm just having this unbelievable experience and I'm having so much fun, thank you for the things that you helped me understand when I was younger' — That's really what it's all about," Smart said.

The 40-year old said that the best way for him to reach his guys is to simply spend time with them.

On the podcast, Smart recounted a story about how before the Australia trip, he invited some players over to his house to play board games with his five-year old daughter.

Smart noticed that after some time, the players let their guard down and became competitive about the board game, even trash talking each other afterwards.

The story was an example of how Smart used a unique avenue to connect with his players. Smart said that players are welcome to come over whenever they want, whether in small groups or for team bonding events.

"My style is just to coach these guys through relationships and try to create big E epiphanies," Smart said. "I think guys at that age group have a lot of small E epiphanies, but those are fleeting."

Smart will face a significant challenge in helping the 'Horns stay positive and come to these "big E" epiphanies in order to shed the memory of last season.

The Longhorns finished only 11-22 and the team's 4-14 Big 12 record was the worst in the conference.

Still, Smart believes that the year was productive from a learning standpoint, and that the team can draw on the experience to build on a better future.

"I do believe over the long haul if you can help guys become the best version themselves, winning will take care of itself, but not necessarily in the short term," Smart said. "It was a really challenging season, but in a lot of ways from a learning standpoint a very, very helpful one and one I think that we're going to be able to draw on and take a lot of experiences from."

You can listen to the full podcast by clicking the link below.