Virginia Commonwealth University head basketball coach Shaka Smart may not be leaving to take the Illinois job, but he will be making one (temporary) career change this month. Following the Rams’ 63-61 loss to Indiana in the Round of 32, CBS has announced that Smart will join their Atlanta studio team of Ernie Johnson, Steve Smith and Seth Davis for coverage of the regional semi-finals and finals across CBS and TBS Thursday through Saturday.
Smart’s only the latest coach to take this kind of guest-analyst gig, as St. John’s coach Steve Lavin and Villanova coach Jay Wright already worked with CBS and Turner on earlier rounds and CBS Sports Network brought in four current coaches and interestingly enough, recently-fired Illinois coach Bruce Weber, for some of its tournament coverage. Moreover, the same release also announces that Kansas State coach Frank Martin will be joining CBS’ New York studio team of Greg Gumbel, Charles Barkley, Greg Anthony and Kenny Smith for coverage Saturday and Sunday. The Smart move is particularly notable, though, as not only is he a well-known coach who shot to stratospheric levels of fame last year with the Rams’ incredible run to the Final Four, but he’s also a name who’s been making plenty of news since his team’s exit given Illinois’ pursuit of him.
It’s going to be interesting to see how the studio team handles Smart’s recent appearance in the headlines. Given how much attention his reported decision to stay at VCU rather than jump to Illinois is getting, they’d be remiss to not ask him about his reasons for remaining in Richmond. However, Smart is there as an analyst, not an interview subject, so Johnson and company will have to be careful not to get too distracted by his personal saga. All signs indicate the newest CBS panelist has both a great knowledge of basketball and an ability to explain it, though, and if handled correctly, his recent appearance in the headlines could be the cherry on top. From here, it looks like CBS made a nice move to get Smart.