Marquette Courting VCU's Shaka Smart; Wake Forest Targeting Xavier's Chris Mack

Marquette trying to get Smart. Wake targeting Xavier's Chris Mack.

Social media caught fire yesterday with rumors that VCU's Shaka Smart would be named the next Marquette men's basketball coach. But Monday came and went without any announcement. In fact, VCU athletic director and Boston College alum Ed McLaughlin told the the Associated Press on Monday night that he had not heard about schools contacting Smart. Smart has reportedly promised to let McLaughlin know if any schools reach out to him.

Smart is one of the more sought-after young head coaches in the game. The former Florida assistant has guided the Rams to a 137-46 (.749) mark in five seasons, including four straight NCAA Tournament appearances and a Final Four in 2010-11. Virginia Commonwealth fell to Stephen F. Austin in the second round of this year's NCAA Tournament.

Geography may be one of the maine factors should the Golden Eagles be able to successfully lure away the 36-year-old coach. Smart was born in Wisconsin and was a three-year starter at Oregon High School near Madison. Also have to think that if Smart's ultimate goal is to take over one of college basketball's elite coaching posts, he'd be better positioned to do so with another successful run at a mid-major with a strong basketball history as opposed to, say, competing directly against Duke and North Carolina at Boston College or Wake Forest.

I'm also not sure what's left for Smart to accomplish at VCU. Should the Rams fail to make the NCAA Tournament next season, Smart's stock may very well take a hit. Moving to Marquette -- even if conference realignment has rendered a move from the A-10 to the Big East as a lateral one (at best) -- affords Smart more time to build a winner in Milwaukee while fattening his paychecks and resetting expectations. Should he opt to stay at VCU, he may very well become a victim of his own success.

Former UCLA and Pitt head coach Ben Howland is also rumored to be in the mix for the Marquette opening, though reportedly was asking for more money than the school was willing to offer.

Marquette is trying to move quickly to secure a new coach. The vibe coming out of Milwaukee is the longest the school waits, the harder it will be to attract a quality candidate.

But the longer Marquette waits to replace Williams, the harder it will be to attract a top candidate. At the moment, Marquette, Wake Forest and Boston College are the only jobs of consequence that are available.

Marquette's main competition is Wake Forest because it offers the chance to coach in the Atlantic Coast Conference. One of the reasons Williams left Marquette is because he did not think the remade Big East has much of a future as a strong basketball conference.

Speaking of Wake Forest, CBSSports.com's Gary Parrish is reporting that Xavier's Chris Mack has emerged as a legit candidate for the vacant Demon Deacons position.

Wake Forest and Xavier have some history dating back to the Demon Deacons' hire of then-Xavier head coach Skip Prosser. Prosser died of a heart attack at the age of 56 in 2007. Two years later, the two programs agreed to a 10-year basketball series known as the Skip Prosser Classic, honoring the late Xavier and Wake Forest coach.

Mack, 44, completed his fifth season with the Muskateers. The Cleveland, Ohio native and Xavier alum has compiled a 111-57 (.661) record, leading the program through its transition from the Atlantic 10 to the Big East.

Much like the Amaker-to-BC stories, I think Mack floating his name serves to calm the Demon Deacon fan base a bit leery of the program taking another coach out of left field (a la Jeff Bzdelik). Plus, like BC, if Wake Forest's hiring floor is a 44-year-old whose been to the Sweet Sixteen with ties to the program, they're in pretty good shape. I have a feeling both BC and Wake will go with other, more experienced hires. In other words, calm down, folks.

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