Shaka Smart: Principles that worked at VCU will work at Texas

Shaka Smart finally received an offer he couldn't resist.

Smart was introduced as the new basketball coach of Texas on Friday, leaving Virginia Commonwealth for the Longhorns after turning down several suitors, including UCLA, since taking VCU to the Final Four in 2011.

He also reportedly received offers from USC, NC State, Maryland, Marquette, Illinois and Wake Forest over the years.

Smart, 37, said this job was different.

"To me, it was a no-brainer," said Smart, wearing a burnt-orange tie to his first news conference at Texas. "I don't want to take away from any other program, but there is only one University of Texas. There is unbelievable potential here."

Texas men's athletic director Steve Patterson said he did not interview other candidates.

"We looked out on the horizon and said, 'Who do we really want?'" Patterson said. "Somebody all of us [schools] have had an eye on for some time. Somebody who is a great and dedicated coach. Somebody who plays an exciting style of basketball."

Patterson said Smart received a seven-year contract, the first six years fully guaranteed, with average compensation of about $3 million.

Smart is the first African-American men's basketball coach at Texas. Charlie Strong, the school's first African-American football coach, completed his first season in December. Smart said he did not realize the historical significance until friends told him.

"I take that really seriously," he said.

Smart won at least 26 games in each of his six seasons at VCU, a feat matched only by Duke. His teams reached the NCAA tournament five times. He is leaving for a Texas program that hasn't been able to nudge Kansas from atop the Big 12. But the Longhorns have the wealthiest athletic department in the country, and easy access to some of the nation's biggest recruiting grounds in Dallas and Houston.

"The caliber of player goes up when you're talking about Texas and you're talking about the Big 12," Smart told "SportsCenter." "But the things that you're looking for in a player do not change in terms of coachability, being a highly energetic player out there on the floor, being a versatile guy and being somebody that gives your teammates energy. We're going to look for those same core characteristics. It just may be a little bit more talented individual."

Smart gained prominence during VCU's run to the Final Four in 2011. The Rams went from a questionable selection, barely getting a bid and playing in the First Four in Dayton, Ohio, to beating five major-conference schools to reach the national semifinals, the last victory coming against Kansas in San Antonio.

The Rams (26-10 this season) have been back in the NCAA tournament each of the past four seasons, but they were eliminated in the round of 32 in 2012 and 2013, and lost their opening game in overtime each of the past two seasons.

There were mitigating circumstances this season. VCU lost Briante Weber, the leader of its full-court "havoc" defensive style, on Jan. 31 to a knee injury and played the last 1½ months with scoring leader Treveon Graham bothered by a high left ankle sprain, sometimes even sidelined.

"That was as difficult as anything I've done in quite some time," Smart told "SportsCenter" of his farewell meeting with the VCU players. "Saying goodbye to those guys, you never are prepared for that. It was a hard night. It was a very, very emotional time.

"The good thing is, when I woke up in the morning today, you still feel some of that emotion, but the prevailing emotion is excitement."

Smart's jump to Texas has left VCU athletic director Ed McLaughlin with an unexpected coaching vacancy, one he doesn't expect to have any trouble filling.

McLaughlin said he has already heard from a number of candidates, although he didn't identify them.

"Thank God that we don't have any limits on text messages anymore on our cellphones because I would owe $3 million for the last 24 hours," McLaughlin said Friday by telephone from Indianapolis, site of this year's Final Four. "The interest has been incredible, and quite honestly, it's humbling."

VCU is looking strongly at two coaches with ties to the Rams in Chattanooga's Will Wade and Rice's Mike Rhoades, multiple sources told ESPN's Andy Katz. Both were assistants under Smart before taking their current head-coaching positions.

McLaughlin said the next coach will have a lot to say about whether the havoc trademark carries on, but in what he hopes will be a "quick but thorough" search, the style of play will remain a priority.

"I think style of play is important for our student-athletes," he said. "They enjoy the style of play we have. I think it's important we take that into consideration with a new coach. Our fans, too, love how we play now. I think those two things right off the top. We also want someone who is a winner."

McLaughlin plans to handle the search himself, with input from university president Michael Rao when needed. The AD said he will use the gathering of coaches at the Final Four to get the ball rolling soon.

Smart said he intends to play the same full-court basketball at Texas but with the flexibility to make use of an offense of taller players than he had at VCU.

"Like any coach, I'm gonna fit what we do around personnel we have," Smart said.

Asked about suggestions that his full-court defense might not translate to the power conference level, Smart responded, "It translated pretty well a few years ago in San Antonio."

Smart replaced Rick Barnes, who was fired last week after 17 seasons at Texas. Barnes' teams played in the NCAA tournament 16 of those 17 seasons, but after reaching the Sweet 16 or beyond five times between 2002 and 2008 -- including the 2003 Final Four and two Elite Eight appearances -- the Longhorns have not returned despite some rosters that included NBA-bound talent.

Kevin Durant, one of those NBA talents to come out of Texas during Barnes' tenure, welcomed Smart to the fold Friday.

Texas has eight returning players. A ninth player, 6-foot-11 freshman Myles Turner, has announced he will enter the NBA draft. Sophomore point guard Isaiah Taylor is considering the same move, according to teammate Prince Ibeh and Jai Lucas, a member of Barnes' staff.

By leaving before May 1, Smart owes VCU a $500,000 buyout. His contract also contains a provision that if he became a head coach at another institution, that school would have to compensate VCU with a home-and-home series or pay VCU $250,000. Patterson said Texas would fulfill those obligations.

ESPN Stats & Information and The Associated Press contributed to this report.