UCLA coaching rumors: Program to pursue Shaka Smart and Jay Wright, according to reports

Jonathan Daniel

After UCLA fired Ben Howland Sunday, the coaching rumor mill is now starting to churn. Shaka Smart and Jay Wright were among the first names thrown out there.

The UCLA basketball program will be looking to hire VCU head coach Shaka Smart, according to ESPN's Andy Katz. Katz also mentions that Florida's Billy Donovan isn't a realistic option for the Bruins. In addition to Smart, SI's Pete Thamel believes the program will pursue Jay Wright, currently coaching at Villanova.

The program fired Ben Howland on Sunday after getting blown out by Minnesota in the second round of the NCAA Tournament. He coached the team since 2003 and led them to consecutive Final Four appearances, but they haven't made the Sweet 16 since 2009.

Smart has been a hot coaching name since leading his Rams to a Final Four appearance in 2011. His team was eliminated by Michigan in the round of 32 on Saturday. He signed an eight-year extension after his Final Four run and doesn't seem like the type to chase money, despite UCLA's glowing tradition. But expect his name to continue being tossed around for every big name program in the near future.

Wright has been coaching Villanova since 2001, leading the team to a Final Four appearance in 2009 and several runs in the Sweet 16. He's another name unlikely to leave his current position.

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