The 34-year-old coach has Virginia Commonwealth back in the NCAA tournament after leading the Rams to the Final Four last year.
What's the difference between your expectations at VCU and those of someone like John Calipari or Mike Krzyzewski?
SHAKA SMART: Those guys probably expect to win every game. [And] by the middle of January they know they're in the NCAA tournament. For us there's a smaller margin for error. Every second of every game is so critical because if you slip up, it can cost you dearly.
Who has more pressure, the powerhouse programs or the mid-majors?
SS: There's more pressure on us in January and February. Once you get into March and the tournament begins, the pressure really shifts off teams like ours and is put on the favorites. That's why our team was able to play so loose last year. Nobody expected us to do anything.
How have expectations changed after you made last year's Final Four?
SS: I don't think we're going to sneak up on anyone. People have more of an awareness, and more of them might pick us. We'll be the underdog if you go by the seeds, [but] that really doesn't matter once the ball goes up. Our guys have done a really good job of being in the moment.
You must have had interest from other schools after last year's tournament. Why did you stay at VCU?