by Carrie LeCrom, Ph.D.
I’m not normally one to get worked up over the media. I understand that they have a job to do, and often times that means taking a risk and making some waves. I also understand that a lot of what they write is their opinion, and I very much respect people’s opinions, even when they are different than mine. In fact, I think that one of the things that makes this world so interesting and engaging is that we all have different opinions and can share them freely. I thought I would share.
An article came out this week in the Richmond Times Dispatch attempting to link VCU’s early departure in the NCAA Tournament and the significant resources the university has dedicated to the men’s basketball program. Longtime RTD columnist Paul Woody stated “The return has not equaled the investment in terms of success in the NCAA tournament.” This article came less than 36 hours following VCU’s heartbreaking and unexpected loss to Stephen F. Austin in their first game in this year’s NCAA Men’s Basketball Tournament. The author’s point was that, for the amount that Coach Smart is being paid, not only directly but also in terms of VCU’s investment in the program as a whole, the team should be winning a few more games in the NCAA tournament.
First, let me state that the loss was devastating and I’m sure no one is more disappointed in the result than Coach Smart himself. He expects more. But, this is not about one loss. It’s about the countless wins that have come in the five years that Coach Smart has been at VCU. For those, there could be no better investment of VCU resources. Let’s just start with the wins on the court. In his first year at VCU he went 27-9, ending the season with a CBI Championship. Coach Smart’s team followed that up with the historic Final Four run in 2011, knocking off national powerhouses and making VCU a household name. He’s won no less than 26 games in each of his five seasons and became just the second coach to lead a school from the Commonwealth of Virginia into the NCAA Tournament for four straight years. This year’s wins came in a conference where five other teams also made the NCAA tournament. That’s a pretty stellar tenure thus far if you ask me. On top of that, HAVOC is now a brand in and of itself; a style of basketball teams across the country are trying to emulate and one that can’t be mentioned without VCU. We celebrated our 50th straight men’s basketball sellout at the end of this season, and anyone who has been to a game knows that the atmosphere in the Siegel Center on game nights is second to none. Every one of our games was nationally or regionally televised this year, which certainly wasn’t the case before Coach Smart arrived. Talk about a return on investment VCU couldn’t pay for that kind of exposure on a national stage.
Full disclosure for those who did not read the RTD article – many of the above factors were mentioned in the article (though in my opinion, were not given the respect they deserved). But, what wasn’t mentioned in the article, and the part that really prompted me to write this, is the return on investment that VCU is receiving from the things Coach Smart is doing off the court. I’m not sure there’s a way to measure that return on investment and, to be honest, I’m not sure VCU would want to because I have a feeling they’d be the ones to come up short in the equation.
Good coaches aren’t always good people. I’d like to say that they are, but there are too many stories in the national media on a weekly basis that show us otherwise. For VCU, they may have found someone who is a better person than coach, and that’s saying a lot given how good a coach he is. He cares about people, he’s always trying to become a better leader, he’s appreciative of all he’s earned and been given, and he never seems to run out of time and energy to share his talents with others. For an academic institution, whose mission is student success, a better teacher does not exist. I, for one, plan to learn as much from this coach/teacher/leader as I can while he is at VCU, which I hope is a very, very long time.
Dr. Carrie LeCrom is the Executive Director of the Center for Sport Leadership. She can be reached by email at firstname.lastname@example.org and follow her on Twitter: @cwlecrom