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  • Milwaukee Journal Sentinel

    Marquette basketball coach Shaka Smart has heartfelt message after Michael Lovell's death

    By Ben Steele, Milwaukee Journal Sentinel,


    Marquette men's basketball coach Shaka Smart had a unique bond with school president Michael Lovell.

    Lovell hired Smart in 2021 , saying at the introductory press conference that he was highly impressed because the coach "really develops deep relationships with people."

    The men worked closely together as Smart rebuilt the program over the last three seasons, cutting down nets together as Big East Conference regular-season and tournament champions in March 2023. But their relationship transcended basketball, as Lovell and Smart shared leadership ideas and a love of philosophical books like Viktor Frankl's "Man's Search for Meaning."

    “I've worked for six college presidents, and he stands apart in a lot of ways,” Smart said after the Golden Eagles won the conference tournament at Madison Square Garden in New York . “His compassion, his character level, his integrity.

    “A lot of those guys are cyborgs, man, they're not real people. He's a real person."

    After Lovell's death at 57 earlier this week, Smart released a heartfelt statement on Thursday morning.

    "I've been struggling with what to say because if there were ever a person who transcended description, it was you.

    "I don't know how you did it, but you made everyone you touched better, without exception. You somehow balanced compassion and kindness with the relentless pursuit of excellence — and you did so with such grace and presence. The only thing that exceeded your energy was your will. You taught us all that we are capable of more.

    "And now there's a crater-sized void in our world. Because of you and your inspiration, we are going to work together, bit by bit, to fill that void. We are going to continue your work. We are going to honor your legacy by how we choose to act, interact and respond.

    "You were truly one-of-a-kind, which is why our most powerful emotion must be gratitude. Thank you for uplifting us, for loving us, for showing us the way, and now, for watching over us. We will forever be connected. We are Marquette."

    More: Marquette athletics community pays tribute to President Michael Lovell

    This article originally appeared on Milwaukee Journal Sentinel: Marquette basketball coach Shaka Smart has heartfelt message after Michael Lovell's death

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