How Shaka Smart turned Marquette into a basketball powerhouse in two short years

Credit: Marquette Basketball

By Christina Lorey

November 3, 2023

Head Coach Shaka Smart is about to begin his third season leading Marquette and 15th overall, and the 44-year-old Madison native has already netted an impressive scorecard of his own.

Smart owns an overall record of 291-155 (.652) and has guided nine teams to the NCAA tournament. At VCU, he posted a record of 163-56 (.744) and took the team from the First Four to the Final Four in 2011. At Texas, he was 109-86 (.559), with three NCAA Tournament appearances, and one NIT title in 2019.

MORE: No. 5 Marquette still has plenty of motivation even after losing ‘underdog’ status

During his career, Shaka has coached:

-10 NBA players
– 28 all-conference student-athletes
– 7 specialty award winners (player of the year, sixth man, etc.)

And he heads into the 2023-24 season as the reigning men’s AP coach of the year. But the players and coaches who work under him say they aren’t impressed by Smart’s trophies–only his character.

“We had one argument last year between a player and a coach,” Marquette assistant Dre Haynes told CBS Sports. “One. The culture is here now.”

The Golden Eagles refer to Smart as the “Fearless Leader,” and say he brings positivity into every room he enters. His winning attitude also helps. In just two years, Marquette has gone from ninth in the Big East to league champions and a No. 2 seed in the 2023 Tournament.

“This is only Phase 1 of what might be a perfect pairing that lasts a decade or more,” CBS Sports commentators concluded.

What’s Next?

This year, the rosters of both the Golden Eagles and the Wisconsin Badgers have been shaken up, and ESPN’s Bracketology analysts have been following every change.

Which team has the best chance of being ranked #1 in the 2024 Tournament? And which team’s on on the bubble?

Check out these way-too-early predictions for the 2023-24 season.


  • Christina Lorey

    Christina is an Edward R. Murrow-winning journalist and former producer, reporter, and anchor for TV stations in Madison and Moline. When she’s not writing or asking questions, you can find her volunteering with Girls on the Run, the Pancreatic Cancer Action Network, and various mental health organizations.



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