VCU men’s basketball head coach Shaka Smart will tell you coaches are very superstitious. But he’ll also tell you that’s not the term they use.
“We call them ‘routine oriented’ rather than superstitious,” Smart said. “Some of them end up disproven and some of them work out.”
Smart has a routine of his own he’s practiced over the past three seasons. In a BracketBusters game at Wichita State in February of 2011, Smart donned a light-blue dress shirt complemented by a blue and orange striped tie.
VCU won in the waning moments of that game, but the shirt-tie combination wasn’t retired. Later that season the Rams knocked off No. 1-seeded Kansas in the Elite Eight to advance to the Final Four. Smart didn’t realize it, but he was sporting the same shirt and tie in the win over the Jayhawks.
That can be chalked up to luck or coincidence, but when VCU was about to face Wichita State in the second round of last year’s NCAA Tournament, a staff member pointed out to Smart while watching game film that he had worn the same shirt and tie against Wichita State and Kansas a year earlier.
Like clockwork, the Rams beat out the Shockers in the final seconds of that game as well.
So last Monday, night before VCU was set to host Wichita State in the return game from the away BracketBusters match, assistant coach Will Wade texted Smart and reminded him to wear the light-blue shirt with the blue and orange tie.
“I had completely forgotten about it,” Smart said. “So I brought it out and wore it.”
But the outfit’s magic ran out as Wichita State edged in the Rams in the latest nail-biter between the two schools.
His influences come from coaching at Dayton and Clemson under Oliver Purnell, who Smart said was very big on superstitions.
“Coaches are very superstitious,” Smart said. “Because the reality is we care so much about what we’re doing and we put so much into what we’re doing that we don’t want anything even the smallest little detail to potentially take away from it.”
For now, Smart’s lucky shirt-tie combination has been retired from superstitious value. If VCU and Wichita State meet again, he won’t think too much on what he pulls out of the closet.
“Luck is a funny thing. I think there’s sometimes things that are on your side and things that are not on your side,” Smart said. “But the reality is after the game, you focus on what are the things that you control that you can do better.”