411OnTheForty: Smart may have to replace second assistant coach

18 Aug By
Men's basketball head coach Shaka Smart is facing the possibility of replacing one or two members of his coaching staff (photo courtesy of texassports.com).

Texas men's basketball head coach Shaka Smart may have another vacancy on his coaching staff sooner than he expected.

Assistant coach Jai Lucas has received ample praise for the job he has done, including on the recruiting trail, for the past four years at Texas, where he has helped bring in several ESPN Top 100 recruits, including Mo Bamba, Jaxson Hayes, and most recently, Greg Brown III. He has been doing such a good job, in fact, that premier programs across the country have begun to take notice.

It was reported Tuesday by a variety of outlets and confirmed by a UT spokesperson that Lucas has been strongly considered for a position on Kentucky's staff, either in an operations capacity or perhaps as an off-court assistant to UK head coach John Calipari. It is unclear how close Lucas is to leaving the Forty Acres, but it would be understandable that a position with an eight-time national champion would be appealing for many candidates. As of Tuesday afternoon, though, Lucas was still in Austin, at UT's preseason workouts in the Cooley Pavilion.

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Lucas played under Rick Barnes for two years in Austin, helping the Longhorns reach the NCAA Tournament in each of those two seasons, while scoring 169 career points.

He began his coaching career at Texas as a special assistant to Barnes for two seasons (2013-15) before a promotion to Director of Basketball Operations under Smart for one year, and finally, to assistant coach in 2016.

Smart already is scouring the coaching ranks for a successor to former assistant Luke Yaklich, who took the head coaching position at Illinois-Chicago March 23.

Riley Zayas is a high school sophomore and freelance journalist from Round Rock, Texas. He began his journalism career as a Sports Illustrated Kids reporter and has since become a regular contributor to Horns Illustrated, covering Texas Longhorn sports. His work also includes Fellowship of Christian Athletes publications, his personal blog 360 Sports, College Baseball Nation and Sports Spectrum, a national christian sports website. Twitter: @ZayasRiley