Men's Basketball

PHOTO HISTORY: The Chris Beard years of Texas basketball

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Posted January 16th, 2018

When Chris Beard left UNLV after just a few weeks as the Running Rebels’ head coach about two years ago to take the same job at Texas Tech, he dropped the same Bear Bryant quote  when he left Texas A&M for Alabama football a half-a-century ago.

“He said, ‘When momma calls, you’ve gotta go home.’ Texas Tech is my momma and I’m home. I’m so glad to be here.”

Beard’s coaching credentials were certainly raised in Lubbock under Bobby Knight from 2001-2008. But his actual diploma, and first taste of working in Division I basketball, came at the University of Texas.

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The second-year Tech coach, who brings his No. 8-ranked Red Raiders  to Austin on Wednesday, attended Texas from 1991-1995 and worked as a student assistant under coach Tom Penders. During his time on campus, Texas went 83-44 and went to three NCAA Tournaments.

So this week’s photo is from the last game of that 1994-95 season, the last one when Beard was on campus:

Texas players Terrence Rencher and Tommy Penders, both seniors, hug one another under the basket after their season came to a end by losing to Maryland 82-68 in the 1995 NCAA tournament. (Ralph Barrera/ American-Statesman)

Terrence Rencher was one of the better players Penders ever coached at Texas. He was the leading scorer of this Longhorn team, narrowly edging out fellow senior Roderick Anderson as both averaged 20 points per game (Rencher was at 20.8, Anderson 20.3). This team also featured arguably the best player Penders ever coached at Texas, Reggie Freeman. The sophomore averaged 14.7 points that season.

Also in the photo is Tommy Penders, the coach’s son.

What’s interesting about this photo and Chris Beard?

What’s really important about this season is that it’s the last Southwest Conference basketball championship team at the University of Texas. The Longhorns went 11-3 in conference play. However, the Longhorns didn’t win the league outright. They tied it.

With Texas Tech!

The teams split their two games that season with the home teams winning contests. But Texas would top Tech in one of the best SWC tournament championship games ever, winning 107-104 in overtime.

Kirk Bohls wrote of the game: “The championship game also drove home one more undeniable point. This SWC title game was so good, so fun and so memorable, is it really necessary to have another next year?”

Texas would only play two more games that season. The Longhorns received an 11 seed, which seems baffling in retrospect for a team that went 11-3 and won its conference tournament, and beat six-seed Oregon 90-73 in the opening game.

The next game the Longhorns’ season came to an end with a 82-68 loss to a Joe Smith-led Maryland squad that would reach the Sweet 16.

Beard graduated with a degree in kinesiology and later that year become an assistant coach at Incarnate Word for a season, then at Abilene Christian a year later, then at North Texas the year after that.

Beard was a coach at 10 different stops, not counting UNLV, before finally returning to “momma” in 2016.

 

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