Illinois can throw money at Shaka Smart, but is that enough?

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If Illinois is to make a push for VCU coach Shaka Smart to replace Bruce Weber – he’s apparently the one Illinoi fans want – the cost would manageable.

Smart signed a new deal with the school after last year’s Final Four run that runs through 2019. According to USA Today, he made $1.15 million last season, and another $125,000 coming in bonus money related to making the NCAA tourney and winning a game. Throw in a clothing allowance, and Smart’s compensation this season is about $1.3 million.

If Smart leaves early, VCU is owed $800,000. That buyout clause shrinks to $700,000 if he leaves after April 30, according to the paper.

(Other cool contract nuggets include the new school required to schedule VCU or pay another $250,000.)

So, what would Illinois need to do? The Chicago Sun-Times reports that Illinois expects to pay about $2 million a season for its ideal coach (Smart certainly qualifies),  which would meet the $2 million threshold for the first season if the buyout clause is included.

But would Smart want the Illinois job?

He reportedly passed on every big opening last season, which included Maryland and N.C. State. Illinois’ recruiting base is comparable to both of those and it has a fervent fan base as well. It’s a notch below Ohio State, Michigan State, Michigan and Indiana in the Big Ten hierarchy (not to mention dealing with a solid program in Wisconsin), but Smart is a Midwest native (born in Wisconsin) and his wife earned he Master’s at Northwestern.

Not sure I’d take the Illinois job if I’m Smart – VCU only loses one player from this year’s team – when his program is rolling. And for Illinois? Hard to say that’s a slam-dunk job when you compare it to what he has now and where it stands in the Big Ten.

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