Listen to Austin 360 Radio

Bohls: New coach Chris Beard is bringing swagger back to Texas basketball

  • Chris Del Conte introduces Chris Beard as "greatest basketball coach in America."
  • Beard ain't interested in rebuilding, wants to win immediately.
  • Beard checked off every box, thanked those who went before, and even called Shaka Smart.

Chris Beard is in a hurry.

Make no mistake about that.

"These are my guys," the new Texas basketball coach said in his introductory press conference Friday. "This won't be, 'Well, (wait till) Coach gets his own guys in here.' That's not how we roll. We're going to win. We're going to win the right way, and we're going to win with urgency."

And that’s great news.

In fact, it’s manna for a starving fan base, and Beard said the “hunger” of that Longhorn Nation is something that compelled him to leave Texas Tech.

Chris Beard's Texas Tech basketball team made NCAA Tournament runs in 2018 (Elite Eight) and 2019 (championship game), and this year it won its first-round game before barely losing to Arkansas. The coach brings a ton of swagger to the Texas program.

When Chris Del Conte came to terms on a contract reported at seven years and $35 million over a McDonald’s takeout of an Egg McMuffin and hot coffee for him and iced tea for Beard, and they haggled for more than three hours in a private room at the Comfort Inn in Plainview on Thursday, he got himself someone he called “the greatest basketball coach in America.”

Chris Beard's salary at Texas:How will it compare to the highest-paid NCAA basketball coaches?

That might take some biased debate to get there, but just the fact that the 48-year-old Texan made Texas Tech nationally relevant in five short years should easily put Beard in the national conversation. I’d said top 10 without qualification.

Plus Beard has that undeniable swagger. Undoubtedly.

You know how you know. Just ask him what his expectations are.

After a highly successful five-year run at Texas Tech that included the 2019 NCAA Tournament championship game, Chris Beard aims to transform Texas into a national power, too. "We're going to win. We're going to win the right way, and we're going to win with urgency," he said in his introductory press conference.

Now, he didn’t say he was the best, but Beard sure sounds like a guy who will not be outworked, who will not make excuses, who embraces high expectations, who already has bluntly called on the student body to show up for games.

“We've got to make the Frank Erwin Center this year the toughest place to play in college basketball,” he said. 

Yeah, good luck with that one. 

Beard’s got Tom Penders’ confidence and Rick Barnes’ down-home style. He’s got Shaka Smart’s emphasis on defense and then some, and he’s got Bob Knight’s motion offense with some NBA-style ball screen incorporated. He’s got Scott Drew’s recruiting mantra of “getting old and staying old,” a prerequisite for winning in college hoops these days. Texas is already open for business in the transfer portal, which might have to change its name to the Texas Portal.

Cedric Golden:Chris Del Conte delivered a slam dunk of a hire in Chris Beard

He’s also a guy who said Friday that he loves pressure, eats it for breakfast, lunch and dinner and probably a midnight snack, who thrives on it. He said he tells his three daughters that message every day. 

"I love the word pressure," he said. "Pressure is a good word."

Beard’s not backing off from the challenge of winning big and winning immediately at a school that hasn’t won a single NCAA Tournament game since 2014 and hasn’t been to a Sweet 16 since 2008.

Texas Tech coach Chris Beard, left, and Texas' Shaka Smart chat before the start of their game on Feb. 8, 2020, at the Erwin Center. Beard is replacing Smart at Texas, and the new coach said he spoke with Smart on the telephone Friday morning.

He mentioned the oft-quoted Longhorns phrase that the University of Texas tradition “will not be entrusted to the weak or the timid.” The first time I came across that slogan was in the Longhorns' baseball locker room at Disch-Falk Field. Cliff Gustafson had framed it on a wall.

By my count, Beard mentioned the national championship game at least four times, but I might have missed one or two. “The Monday night game,” he called it.

A Really Big Monday, to play off the label of one national network for its weekly offering of Big 12 games.

Beard’s going to get grad transfers and undergrad transfers, just as Scott Drew is doing with great success up the road. Texas started this season with nine players ranked in the national top 60. NINE. Drew had one. Davion Mitchell was 59th. Guess who’s in the Final Four?

Yeah, coaching matters.

Beard checked every box there was to check Friday.

He thanked the right people, praised his new bosses.

He alluded to the coaching wisdom he drew from everyone from Penders to Knight, both of whom he worked for. Why, he even gave a shoutout to Smart for laying “the foundation” of what he is inheriting and said they’ve already spoken. 

Heck, he even referred to Bob Weltlich, the Knight wannabe who ended up recruiting cheerleaders on his Texas roster, made the players adhere to the strictest of discipline and engage in “duck walks” on the court, and alienated the entire Texas fan base, what there was left of it, for Penders to reenergize.

Beard even dropped Eddie Reese’s name and the runaway success that the just-retired swimming coach had with 15 national championships. OK, Chris, we’re not expecting you to match that and win 15. Fourteen will do just fine.

Beard made it clear he definitely wanted to be in Austin. He inked a deal that apparently didn’t even give him a pay raise from his last job. That shows you his decision was not about the money, but about being at a higher-profile school with a national brand. Not sure that makes any difference to Red Raider fans who see him as a mercenary, but Beard surely could have chased more bucks at other places.

Says here he thought he could sustain the success he had in Lubbock more easily in Austin. More doors would be opened to him at Texas, and he's right.

Beard said he loves the challenge of proving people wrong and doing it “quickly.”

Now, he did have to pause when he asked for help on fiancée Randi’s birthday. But he made his point when he said his own birthday is in February, then added that’s not his favorite month of the year.

“I like March,” Beard said. “It’s my favorite month of the year. Nothing's better than March.”

Unless it’s April. You know, Monday night, and all.