By Adam Hoge-
(CBS) Yes, Shaka Smart is Illinois’ top target and yes, the Illini are willing to fork out the money to get him.
This is not news.
The only news is that VCU’s season is over, which means Illinois Athletic Director Mike Thomas was finally able to offer Smart the job.
That has happened, as 670 The Score’s Dan Bernstein wrote on Twitter Tuesday morning: “I am told the
#Illini have made their pitch to Shaka Smart, and his side is doing its due diligence. The figurative ball is in his court.”
It’s also not news that Smart is hesitant to jump at the offer right away. One can only look at his decision to stay at VCU last season instead of jumping to North Carolina State as evidence that he is not eager to leave Richmond, Va. The difference is that VCU was able to pony up with a raise around $825,000 a year ago, something the school won’t be able to do this year as Illinois comes in with an offer well above Smart’s 2011-12 base salary of $1.15 million.
That said, Smart has indicated he’s not worried about the money and it’s unclear whether or not he thinks Illinois is the right job for him. In fact, according to multiple reports, Smart was out recruiting in North Carolina Tuesday… for VCU (although, don’t assume that means he’s not coming to Champaign, as many Illini fans have today).
Meanwhile, here is some news: Sources close to Simeon head coach Robert Smith say he has had conversations with Thomas in Champaign about an assistant job. That does not mean Thomas is out hiring assistants already — he has made it clear the new head coach will have control over his assistants — but it’s no secret that Illinois wants to reconnect with the Chicago Public League and bringing Smith on board would go a long way in that regard. Thomas is intrigued by Smith and at the very least, even if Smith does not join the Illini staff, a relationship between the two is a good thing for Illinois.
The bottomline is that we’re still in a holding pattern, just with an official offer now. It’s Shaka Smart’s move.
Adam is the Sports Content Producer for CBSChicago.com and specializes in coverage of the Bears, White Sox and college sports. He was born and raised in Lincoln Park and attended St. Ignatius College Prep before going off to the University of Wisconsin-Madison where he earned a Journalism degree. Follow him on Twitter @AdamHogeCBS and read more of his columns here.