Texas has been considered by most to be one of the biggest winners of the offseason after successfully luring oft-pursued but never landed head coach Shaka Smart to Austin. Now, with a little more than six months to go before the first game of the 2015-16 season, the Longhorns are dealing with their first loss under Smart.
The University of Texas has withdrawn its applications to the with the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office to trademark the phrases "HORNS HAVOC" and "HOUSE OF HAVOC." "Havoc," of course, is the nickname that has been given in recent years to the style of defense played by the Virginia Commonwealth basketball team, formerly coached by Smart.
The biggest hurdle for Texas in this pursuit was the fact that VCU has a trademark on the word "Havoc" with the State Corporation Commission of Virginia. New Rams head coach Will Wade has also stated multiple times that he plans on maintaining the style of play popularized by Smart. Wade, who was an assistant at VCU from 2009-13, used the same defensive model as the Rams during his time as the head coach of Tennessee-Chattanooga, but called it "Chaos."
While Texas fell short in its first major offseason pursuit of the Smart era, the news doesn't mean that the Longhorns will be totally prevented from using "Havoc" in their marketing, although how much the school chooses to do so will be interesting.
As silly as all this means, it's becoming a relatively commonplace situation when a coach leaves a program where he had previously established a fairly well-known brand. Two years ago, Andy Enfield took previously unheard of Florida Gulf Coast to the Sweet 16 and in the process established a "Dunk City" brand for the program. When Enfield jumped at the chance to coach USC shortly after, the Trojans began using the hashtag #DunkCityUSC on their official website and Twitter feed. Once FGCU protested, USC agreed to drop the slogan.
Perhaps the larger issue at play in the "Havoc" debate is how much Smart is actually going to use the style at Texas, a place where the talent should always be bigger, better and more abundant than it was at VCU. Pressing and playing up-tempo for 40 minutes is a viable option when the task is attempting to bridge a talent gap, but how successful it'll be when squaring off against some of the best guards in the country night in, night out in the Big 12 is yet to be seen.
VCU fans know this firsthand. Everyone knows the Rams made an improbable run to the Final Four in 2011, but the glow of that run has been dimmed a little bit by the fact that the program hasn't been back to the tournament's second weekend since, and going up against elite guards has often been at the heart of those early exits. There's also some concern about the style's effectiveness in conference play, when there's far more familiarity between opponents. It's a concern backed heavily by the fact that Smart, despite all his success, has still never won a regular season conference championship.
When all is said and done, it's likely the war over "Havoc" is something we look back and laugh at in five years, and for more reasons than just its inherent silliness.