Shaka Smart is the hottest name among all college basketball coaches right now. He’s taken an 11th seed Virginia Commonwealth team to the Final Four. But not too long ago he was a part of Oliver Purnell’s staff.

“I spent about a week interviewing Shaka,” Purnell said on the Danny Mac Show. “We had about eight very bright young coaches who were interested in our [Director of Basketball] Operations job [at Dayton]. I just had them all work out basketball camp so I would have an opportunity to really get to know them. And not just in a two or three hour interview, but all week, and have a chance to talk with other people who have interacted with them. Shaka clearly rose to the top.

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“He was [at Dayton] with me, then I took him to Clemson, for about two weeks, and then he took the first-assistants job at Akron. And then a couple years later, when I had another opening at Clemson I was able to hire him back as one of my full-time guys. He was there for a couple years with me and had everything to do with us turning that program around. Then he went to Florida for one year, then was hired at VCU.”

Purnell is obviously very excited with what his one-time assistant has been able to achieve this season, but equally excited about what the future might hold for him.

“He’s just growing,” Purnell said. “Just think about how good a coach he’ll be in about 20 years. I’m just excited for the present and his team and also excited for his future.”

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