All eyes were on the clock in the Frank Erwin Gym as Texas Javan Felix prepared to toss up the shot which would decide the outcome of the Texas-North Carolina game, Saturday, December 12, 2015, which was televised to a national audience, according to Fox Sports. Texas Coach Shaka Smart looked young enough to be one of his players as he joined in the celebration with his Longhorns as the ball swished through the hoop giving the Horns the first signature win of Smart’s career by an 84-82 score. Or did it? Maybe the celebration was premature as the referees huddled with the timekeeper at the scorer’s bench. The only question seemed to be whether or not the ball was released from the hands of Felix before time expired. Jubilation turned to concern as television viewers watched re-plays of that last shot in juxtaposition to the winding down on the clock. It appeared to most that the ball did leave the hand of Felix before the clock zeroed out. However, one person expressed concern over the fact it appeared the three lights on the goal had gone out before the shot was triggered.
In the final analysis, the referees upheld the basket following their committee meeting with the timekeeper which threatened like most committee get-togethers to last forever. But Texas fans were in a forgiving mood for the time delay since the basket was ruled good and the Horns record climbed to a respectable 6-3.
Smart, who likes to employ an exciting havoc, uptempo style of play, is already proving to be a great hire for the Texas basketball program. He’s already recruited two prized freshmen during the short time since he led Virginia Commonwealth to the Final Four last year. This victory over a powerhouse team like North Carolina will help the Longhorns considerably when it comes time to seeding in March Madness.
The final sequence in this contest began when Isaiah Taylor, who scored 18 points, missed a shot from three-point range which bounced off the rim to Felix who was open for the final shot. There were some complaints by Tar Heel fans that the man who was supposed to be guarding Felix was shoved out of the way. The film does show Marcus Paige a great distance from Felix who showed the poise this Texas team will need to compete for a Final Four position.
Is this team good enough to win a national championship in Smart’s first year? Good signs for the team’s future were that freshmen Eric Davis tallied 16 points and Kerwin Roach also played well. These young players will only get better as they gain more experience throughout the season.
Smart said after the game he wants his players to play without hesitation. He noted earlier in the season there had been some “avoidance problems,” according to the Daily Texan newspaper.
The young Longhorns may have been weary after traveling a long and winding road from China to the Bahamas and finally back to the friendly confines of the Frank Erwin Center Saturday night. Smart at one point expressed some of his players weren’t confident enough in their play, but that certainly wasn’t the case Saturday night as the Steers could be headed for a historic season for its first year coach.
Since Smart may be ready to emerge as one of the greatest coaches ever, it’s a good time to look at who he is. Shaka Dingani Smart was born April 8, 1977 and was named after the famous Zulu warrior. He graduated magna cum laude from Kenkyon with a history degree. He developed a love for quotations while at Kenyon. He began writing down quotes into a digital document that is now over 110 pages long.
He is married to Maya Payne, a professional writer and an alumna of Harvard University and Northwestern University. They have a daughter Zora Sanae Smart who was born September 25, 2011, according to Wikipedia.
Smart has described his “havoc” defensive philosophy as, “We are going to wreak havoc on our opponeent’s psyche and their plan of attack.” Heavy use of the full court press is a key to his strategy.
The use of the full court press all over the court is reminiscent of what the legendary John Wooden at UCLA did en route to winning 10 national championships. It’s too early to know if Smart can match the Wizard of Westwood’s extraordinary record. But a victory over the Tar Heels is certainly a great way to start.