Good Luck to Shaka Smart in Gambier!
Later this morning, the already-strong connection between Idea City (i.e., Austin) and the tiny bastion of liberal arts learning known as Kenyon College (my alma mater) grows even more sturdy as Shaka Smart delivers the commencement address for the Class of 2017.
When not bestowing advice to scores of graduating seniors, Smart holds the position of head basketball coach at the University of Texas. Although, to be fair, Saturday’s speech in Ohio won’t be his first such effort — in 2016, he served very capably in a similar role for the UT History Department.
History was also his major at Kenyon, where he graduated in 1999. The school’s all-time leader in assists, Smart cut his teeth as an assistant at Akron, Clemson and Florida before becoming the head man at Virginia Commonwealth in 2009. He was hired in Austin in the spring of 2015 to replace Rick Barnes. Having a Division III player at the top of a big-time college program is not as uncommon as you might think. Tom Herman, the current leader of the Longhorn football program, comes from the same lineage — he played at Division III Cal Lutheran in Thousand Oaks. Meanwhile, the state’s most skilled professional basketball coach and most outspoken political pundit (Gregg Popovich of the San Antonio Spurs) got his start in the business at another west coast D-3 school, Pitzer-Pamona.
Will Shaka talk about this week’s recruiting coup? Probably not. Will his Kenyon commencement address match the brilliance of David Foster Wallace in 2005? Probably not either. But Smart is as amazing as he is inspirational — I can’t wait to watch what he has to say.
Hugh Forrest tries to write at least four paragraphs per day on Medium. These posts often (but not always) cover technology-related trends. When not attempting to wordsmith or meditating, he serves as Chief Programming Officer at SXSW in Austin.