For some frustrated Texas Longhorns fans, new athletic director Chris Del Conte has a decision to make, right now — whether or not to terminate head men’s basketball coach Shaka Smart.
Never mind that Del Conte called Smart a “hell of a coach” just weeks ago and pointed to all the adversity the team faced this season.
Then there’s the matter of money. After Smart took his first Texas team to the NCAA tournament in 2016, then-athletic director Mike Perrin and president Greg Fenves rewarded Smart with a one-year extension through 2022-23.
More importantly, the contract is fully guaranteed, which means that firing Smart right now would cost the Longhorns $16 million. Hiring another coach would likely include a significant buyout at that school.
After the 2018-19 basketball season, that number will drop to $12.9 million. That’s still a lot of money.
Sure, the Texas athletic department is awash in revenue, but how does it make fiscal sense to dismiss a coach who has made the NCAA tournament two out of three seasons at that cost?
Why would a successful coach want to take the job when it means dealing with a fan base that thinks it should win at a high level every year, but can’t even bother to show up for games?
Maybe it’s time to stop reflexively trying to fire every head coach if they don’t immediately experience massive success — some Texas fans are even trying to run David Pierce out of town already. Maybe constant instability isn’t a recipe for success in major-college athletics.