Since April 2, 2015, when he took over as the men’s basketball head coach at the University of Texas, Shaka Smart has relied on an assortment of principles that make up the foundation of his coaching philosophy. At the top of that list has been the Longhorns’ “culture.”
If the Longhorns enjoy significant postseason success, whether that is marked in a victory over Oklahoma State to win the Phillips 66 Big 12 Championship or a run of any length in the NCAA tournament, that concept of culture might be the primary reason why.
The 2021 Phillips 66 Big 12 Championship, like what seems like just about everything else over the last year and a half, has been unusual, to say the least. In the Longhorns’ case, a tough win over Texas Tech set up a semifinal matchup with Kansas, until the Jayhawks withdrew from the tournament because of a positive Covid test, sending the Horns through to Saturday’s championship game against Oklahoma State, which beat Baylor.
Smart, and coaches across the country, have talked all season about the unexpected challenges brought on by the Coronavirus pandemic. Schedules were altered, games postponed and/or cancelled, players opted out of the season while others were required to quarantine because of failed Covid tests. Throughout it all, Smart, amplified the theme of the Longhorns doing things “the right way,” following protocols and being there for each other.
That approach got tested in UT’s first-round win over Texas Tech.