The Washington Times - April 3, 2011, 05:46PM

HOUSTON — The season hasn’t been over for 24 hours, but questions about the future of Virginia Commonwealth University coach Shaka Smart hang over the school.

Already one report today linked Smart to openings at Missouri and N.C. State. That’s not surprising, considering the 33-year-old Smart is 56-20 in two seasons at VCU. He’s energetic, media-friendly, engaging, recruited two well-regarded classes, has worked with some of the game’s top coaches and isn’t known to play outside the NCAA’s labyrinthine rules.

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Plus Jeff Capel and Anthony Grant, who preceded Smart at VCU, both left for upper-division jobs.

So, with Smart the hottest name on the coaching circuit, you’d figure he’d cash in on VCU’s Final Four run. But a peek into Smart’s shows he doesn’t always take the obvious path.

Out of high school, Harvard accepted Smart. So did Yale and Brown. Instead, Smart attended Kenyon College in Gambier, Ohio.

The East Coast schools were too fast-paced for Smart, raised in Madison, Wisconsin. And Bill Brown, Kenyon’s basketball coach, forged a special relationship with his new point guard.

“(He’s) definitely the closest I’ve had to a father figure in my life,” Smart said. “Going to Kenyon was an easy decision because of the relationship he and I had established.”

Whether staying at VCU presents a similarly easy — and nontraditional — decision remains to be seen.