Shaka Smart is a "hell of a coach," Texas athletics director Chris Del Conte said last March, just three months after Del Conte arrived in Austin. A year later, his "hell of a coach" is having a hell of a time winning games.
On Wednesday morning, Texas was projected as a 9-seed by Bracket Matrix (an average of 118 Bracketology projections). Hours later, the Longhorns blew a 19-point lead at Baylor and fell to 15-13 on the season. And while they're still widely projected to avoid whiffing on the NCAA Tournament for the second time in three years, they'll fail to win 20 regular-season games for the third straight season and, unless they win two of their three remaining games (Iowa State, Texas Tech and TCU), they'll finish below .500 in the Big 12 for the third straight season.
Four years after Texas finally landed one of the most sought-after mid-major coaches of all time, the Longhorns are struggling to reach national relevancy, let alone national prominence. One year after calling him a "hell of a coach," could Del Conte fire Shaka Smart?
Don't bet on it.
UPDATED: NET Rankings, Quadrant Records
Three years ago, after Smart led Texas to 20 wins and the NCAA Tournament in his first season, then-athletics director Mike Perrine rewarded Smart with a one-year contract extension through the 2022-23 season. Like Smart's original deal, the extension is fully guaranteed.
2019-20: $3.3 million
2020-21: $3.4 million
2021-22: $3.5 million
2022-23: $3.6 million
If Texas fires Shaka Smart after this season, the buyout is $13.8 million. Del Conte runs one of the most lucrative athletic departments in the country, but eight figures isn't a small price to pay.
Smart's record suggests he's on the hot seat. His contract, however, suggests he'll get at least one more season to deliver something more than mediocrity.