After the year that the Texas basketball had, few expected the job to open. Shaka Smart made the pretty surprising decision to head up to his home state of Wisconsin and take the job at Marquette, ending what was a very up-and-down tenure in Austin.
The Longhorns had their best season under Smart, going 19-8 and winning the Big 12 Tournament. They earned a No. 3 seed in the NCAA Tournament, but fell in an ugly game to No. 14 seed Abilene Christian, in one of the bigger upsets of the first round. Smart probably wasn't going to be fired, but after three NCAA Tournament berths in six years, all of which ended in the first round, it doesn't sound like the Longhorns were overly broken up about his decision to take over the Golden Eagles.
Plenty has been written already about who may take over the Longhorns. Texas Tech's Chris Beard is a Texas alumnus, and is just a few years removed from leading Texas Tech, hardly a college hoops power, to the national title game. If UT can lure him from a Big 12 rival, that would be a very popular hire.
The most famous former Texas basketball star in the world, Kevin Durant, has other thoughts. Another former Longhorns standout, Royal Ivey, is one of the assistant coaches on Durant's Brooklyn Nets. He'd like to see the former UT point guard get a shot at the job.
Ivey played at Texas from 2000-04 before heading to the NBA, where he was a journeyman guard for over a decade. He left the school as the career record holder for games started at 126. He's coached in both the G-League and NBA since his retirement in 2014, serving on staff with the Oklahoma City Thunder, New York Knicks, and now the Brooklyn Nets.
Durant's thoughts about the next staff don't end there. He also wants to see whomever the next coach is bring back former Rick Barnes assistant Russell Springmann.
Springmann was instrumental in recruiting Kevin Durant to Texas back ahead of his one sterling season in Austin in 2006-07, as well as Texas standouts D.J. Augustin, Damion James, and Jordan Hamilton.
Stadium's Jeff Goodman detailed the winding road that Springmann took to his current position on staff at Oral Roberts, one of the Cinderellas of this NCAA Tournament. It involves him turning down head coaching opportunities, including the one at Mississippi State, not being asked to join Barnes at Tennessee, and finding himself out of coaching for a time.
“It was tough for him. He was at the highest level and then he’s out of Texas,” Durant told Stadium. “He’s been through a lot, but I think his journey has helped him in a way. I know he’s happy now and that’s what matters.”
“It shows he can recruit at the highest level and also the mid-major and lower level. He knows the game and is persistent. Beyond that, he’s a great person and a friend to me and my entire family.”
Springmann and 15-seed Oral Roberts can keep it rolling tonight with their Sweet 16 battle with Arkansas.