Shaka Smart turns down Illinois’ $2.5 million coaching offer
BY HERB GOULD Twitter: @HerbGould March 21, 2012 12:34PM
Multiple sources tell the Chicago Sun-Times that Shaka Smart has turned down an offer to coach at Illinois. | AP
Updated: March 21, 2012 4:29PM
Shaka Smart has told Illinois athletic director Mike Thomas he’s not interested in becoming the Illini’s next basketball coach, multiple sources told the Sun-Times on Wednesday.
Smart, 34, is believed to have turned down an offer of at least $2.5 million a year to succeed Bruce Weber, who was fired after nine years in Champaign.
Smart will remain at Virginia Commonwealth. “I’m looking forward to building on the successes of our program and university,” Smart said in a statement released by VCU Wednesday afternoon.
Where Thomas goes from here is uncertain. Alabama coach Anthony Grant, apparently responding to speculation he was on Illinois’ radar, reportedly has said he’s not interested in the Illinois job.
Thomas is under pressure to hire a minority coach because Illinois is one of three Big Ten schools that have never had a minority head coach in men’s basketball or football.
But Thomas has been on record since last fall as saying that while he’s sensitive to the diversity issue, his agenda is to hire the best coach.
Other possible minority candidates include Florida State coach Leonard Hamilton, 63. Sources say Hamilton would be interested, but his age is a major drawback.