After a difficult regular season in the Big 12, it seemed that Texas head coach Shaka Smart might be on the outs. But five straight wins en route to a NIT title win at Madison Square Garden might have given athletic director Chris Del Conte cause to reconsider.
In an interview with Horns247, Del Conte confirmed that Smart will return to Texas for a fifth season following the 21-16 finish. However, Del Conte also made it clear that the team is not where it needs to be and emphasized that the goal is to win the NCAA Tournament, not the NIT.
“We’re not where we want to be,” Del Conte told Horns247. “But we’re making progress. Our goal is to win the NCAA championship. But we won the NIT championship, and that locker room is cohesive…”
Nevertheless, Del Conte conceded that he was happy to see the team win its final game of the season, an 81-66 win over Lipscomb in the NIT Final.
Smart has faced a lot of difficulty replicating the success of his predecessor Rick Barnes.
In four years at the helm, Smart has a 71-66 overall record with a 31-41 record in Big 12 play. He led the Texas Longhorns to the NCAA Tournament in 2016 and 2018, losing in the First Round both times.
This past season saw the Longhorns go 16-15 in the regular season, finishing sixth in the conference, before quickly losing to Kansas in the first round of the Big 12 Tournament.
But Smart and the Longhorns were more than happy to accept an invitation to the NIT, and with wins over South Dakota State, Xavier, Colorado, TCU, and Lipscomb, were able to secure the school’s second-ever NIT title.