ESPN's Jeff Goodman is reporting that Texas basketball head coach Shaka Smart is promoting Director of Basketball Operations Jai Lucas to one of the three assistant coaching positions on the Texas staff, and is demoting current assistant coach Mike Morrell to make room.
Shaka Smart demoting Mike Morrell off the road to move Jai Lucas up, per source. Like Jai, but Morrell got majority of players in UT class.— Jeff Goodman (@GoodmanESPN) April 30, 2016
Texas beat writer Brian Davis of the Austin-American Statesman confirmed the report in the early afternoon on Saturday. There hasn't been anything official from Texas, but the news of the impending change has made its way around the outlets covering the team, with a similar statement circulating.
"We are reorganizing our staff to help continue move the program forward," a source close to the program told Horns247. "We will always continue to access on a year-to-year basis on what's best on our program, we will evaluate what we are doing as it relates to our staff and do what is right for that current season."
Over the last few days, there have been several twists and turns in the story of Jai Lucas, a former basketball player at Texas under Rick Barnes who has served in several different non-coaching roles for Texas basketball over the past three seasons. On Thursday, reports began circulating that Lucas was set to take an assistant coaching position on Jamie Dixon's new staff at TCU. And then Friday, the story started to change, with indications that Smart was working to keep Lucas in Austin.
Which brings us to this latest report. There is some very simple math at play. A college basketball staff can only have three assistant coaches, and Texas already has three. If Smart is to make a counter-offer to Lucas that would match the responsibilities that he would have at TCU, then someone would have to be moved out of a spot to enable it to happen. According to Goodman's report, the man making the move will be Morrell, who has been serving as an assistant under Smart for the past three seasons, after working first as the Virginia Commonwealth DBO for the two years prior.
To understand the consequences of this reported shake up, one must reflect on the NCAA rules governing recruiting and practice. Only the head basketball coach and his three assistants are allowed to travel to recruit and evaluate players off-campus. And if Morrell is demoted, he will no longer be allowed to participate in practice or coach players in any way.
So why is Smart working so hard to keep Lucas in Austin? This takes us into the dangerous realm of speculation, but there are some basic facts that we can use to guide us. Jai Lucas is the son of former NBA player John Lucas, who runs camps and clinics in Houston and ends up training many of the top high school basketball players in the state of Texas. The elder Lucas is viewed to be somewhat influential among prep players in the state.
And there is one current Texas recruit that has worked with John Lucas -- five-star big man Jarrett Allen. Perhaps Jai is seen as an important part of this recruiting process, or perhaps not. But surely Jai Lucas' ties to and understanding of the Houston basketball landscape can be valuable in recruiting the state.
But still, this is a bit of a surprise, because Morrell wasn't exactly chopped liver as a recruiter, though Smart still trusts Morrell "as much as anyone."
Sure is. This is a head-scratcher by Shaka. https://t.co/0dXubvvmIG— Jeff Goodman (@GoodmanESPN) April 30, 2016
We will do our best to keep track of this.