Reports indicate athletic director Mike Thomas offered to pay Smart somewhere between $2.5 million and $3 million per year, which would have more than doubled Smart's salary at VCU. When a man turns down that kind of coin, hey, he just doesn't want the job.
That's fine, and Illinois needs to move on. The problem for Thomas is he seemed to put too many eggs in the Smart basket. Nobody really knows who the Plan B and Plan C options are. Alabama coach Anthony Grant has said he is not interested. Other speculation has involved Florida State coach Leonard Hamilton, Marquette coach Buzz Williams, Arizona coach Sean Miller and a cast of thousands more.
Who is the front-runner now? Damn if I know.
Here are a few things I do know:
1. Smart wasn't worth that kind of dough anyway. That's Tom Izzo money, and Shaka Smart is not Tom Izzo.
2. The University of Illinois took a major public relations hit by swinging and missing on its top candidate.
3. The pressure is intensifying on Thomas to come up with a good hire.
Remember, the UI is paying Bruce Weber almost $4 million to not coach over the next three years. That means the next hire had better be somebody better than Weber, or else Thomas is going to find his neck on the chopping block very early in his tenure.