New UF assistant is the “Smart” move

University of Florida men’s basketball coach Billy Donovan moved quickly to fill the vacancy in his coaching staff, adding Shaka Smart of Clemson as assistant coach on Monday.

Smart replaces Lewis Preston who left Florida after two years to join the coaching staff at Penn State.

“We’re very excited to have Shaka as part of our program,” Donovan said. “There are many people who I trust and respect in the coaching community that have had nothing but great things to say about Shaka, his work ethic, and his knowledge of the game.”

Widely regarded as one of the top young assistants in the nation, the 31-year-old Smart comes to Florida after spending the last two years at Clemson where he helped the Tigers to 49 wins over the past two years. Clemson reached the postseason in each of his two years, and advanced to the ACC title game this past season as well as the NCAA Tournament.

Prior to his tenure at Clemson, Smart was a three-year assistant at Akron, helping the Zips to a 23-10 record in 2005-06, their highest victory total since becoming a Division-I program in 1980-81. The Zips went 14-4 in league play that year and advanced to the Second Round of the postseason NIT.

Smart’s stay at Clemson was also his second run with head coach Oliver Purnell. Smart was the Director of Basketball Operations for Purnell at Dayton for two years, as the Flyers posted a 45-17 record in those two seasons.

He joined Purnell’s staff after getting his first assistant job directly out of college, spending two years at California University of Pennsylvania, where he helped his squad to a 40-16 mark.

Smart played his college basketball at Kenyon College and graduated Magna cum laude in 1999 with a degree in history. A four-year starter and three-year captain, he holds the Kenyon assist record for a season (184) and a career (542). As a senior, he was an All-North Coast Conference selection and was the NCAC Scholar Athlete of the Year. He was one of 20 students selected for the 1999 USA Today All-USA Academic team and received a NCAA postgraduate scholarship. He later earned his master’s degree in social science from California (Pa.).

Originally hailing from Madison, WI, Smart married the former Maya Payne on May 20, 2006.