The 42-year-old has amassed a career record of 234-122 since taking over Virginia Commonwealth University in 2009, and making the move to Texas six years later. From 2009-15, Smart led VCU to a 163-56 record, highlighted by an improbable 2011 Final Four bid, despite being both an 11-seed and one of the First Four.
Now after four seasons at Texas, Smart – whose Longhorns are 71-66 during that span – have two NCAA Tournament bids, making seven in his career, and an NIT title.
“It’s great to win a championship any time you get in any type of tournament,” said Smart after outlasting Lipscomb 81-66 in the NIT title game last week at Madison Square Garden. “There's 32 really good teams in the NIT to start this tournament. So to be the last team standing and to be able to win a championship is big.”
But more importantly, Smart recognizes that the lesser postseason titles are best utilized to catapult a team the following season.
In his first season at VCU, Smart and the Rams finished as College Basketball Invitational Champions, which typically hosts the best set of teams without NCAA or NIT Tournament bids.
Year two was the run to the Final Four, which helped establish VCU as a perennial NCAA Tournament team, making March Madness for the remaining five straight seasons under Smart, and three of the last four.
“To be honest with you, the meaning of winning here tonight is something that's going to be determined over the next several months by our team,” Smart offered. “There have been teams that have come and won the NIT and they have been able to use that as an unbelievable spring board into a more successful season next year and an NCAA Tournament run.”
As his team celebrated, Smart relayed that message to a couple of key returnees in starting guards Matt Coleman and Courtney Ramey.
“I told Matt and Courtney when they came off the court, I said, ‘You guys have experience here in this tournament, what goes into winning, what goes into winning a championship,’” Smart said. “Now it's something that we need to bring to bare consistently in order to win more championships.”