Golden: New Texas men's coach Chris Beard is here to win now (and unify with the past)
- New Texas basketball coach Chris Beard is looking to unify the past and the present.
- The Horns will face former coach Rick Barnes and Tennessee on Jan. 29.
Chris Beard is bringing the love to his new gig.
The Texas men's basketball coach is a big fan of culture, and that doesn’t just apply to the team he's assembling in his first season.
He’s all about uniting the past and the present, from former players like Sonny Alvarado, who was at a recent practice, to his predecessors in his same position to former coaches who will be part of the upcoming season. It's a philosophy that served him well at Texas Tech, which rose to national prominence under his watch.
Beard is also putting the word out to Texas exes, former student managers and who knows, the cafeteria lady from 1974 to become a part of this thing. Come one, come all.
In Wednesday’s media availability, he encouraged reporters to inform anyone who was a part of the program in the past to show up to practice, to his office, wherever.
“We have a gift package for them,” Beard said.
We’re living in interesting times on the Forty Acres. Tom Herman and Shaka Smart turned out to not be the answers in football and basketball and now the two highest-profile sports on campus are doing yet another reset with Steve Sarkisian and Beard.
With the countdown underway to the Nov. 13 opener at Gonzaga, Beard is trying to develop chemistry with his 4-7-2 grouping, the four returning players, seven new transfers and a pair of freshmen. That doesn't happen overnight, so it's basically an all-day sucker he's juggling with the obvious expectations that haven’t changed around here.
He steps in for Smart, who did not win an NCAA Tournament game in his six seasons and suffered national embarrassment when the Horns, coming off the program’s first Big 12 Tournament title under him, were summarily knocked out of the Big Dance by Abilene Christian.
His departure for Marquette was a great career move because Marquette obviously wanted him while Longhorns fans had run out of patience. But Beard has never passed up a chance to show respect to Smart and program legends like Abe Lemons, Tom Penders and Rick Barnes.
By the way, the Horns will honor the late Lemons by hosting the four-team Abe Lemons Classic at the Erwin Center from Nov. 17-24. And Barnes will also get his flowers when he brings his Tennessee team to town for the Big 12-SEC Challenge on Jan. 29.
Beard isn’t exactly geeked about having to coach against Barnes, a coach he truly respects, in his first year. The two spent some time on the road this year and have also run into one another in Austin.
Barnes will be back after spending 17 seasons here that produced 91 weeks inside the Associated Press' top 10, 16 trips to the NCAA Tournament and a Final Four appearance in 2003.
“He’s all about helping us and his former players.” Beard said. “It’s been really one of the rewarding parts about being back these first few short months is the relationships coming back. And coach Barnes is the top of that list.”
A certain sign of the respect he has for the work Barnes put in here were the hirings of former Barnes assistant coaches Rodney Terry and Chris Ogden, who also were present Wednesday.
Outside of a possible matchup in the NCAAs, a game or two against their former boss isn’t a huge concern when compared with what has to happen in Big 12 play, but there will come a day when matchups with Tennessee will take on much more importance for Beard and Co.
Yes, the SEC elephant was present in the room Wednesday and the news that the Horns will be leaving the Big 12 some time between 2022 and the summer of 2025 was something Beard says he hasn’t spent a lot of time on. Maybe a few seconds, he said.
He prefers to keep things on returning players Andrew Jones, Courtney Ramey, Brock Cunningham and Jase Febres, seven transfers and two freshmen than something that isn’t happening this year.
“I think this year’s Texas team has a chance to be special and I think spending any time on anything other than that would not be doing what I told Courtney Ramey, and (Andrew) Jones, (Jase) Febres and Brock (Cunningham) what I said I was going to do, and that’s that we’re here and we’re doing this this year and we’re doing everything we can.”
The move east with historical rival Oklahoma has been discussed mostly in gridiron terms, but other sports are going to be affected when the Big 12’s most prestigious programs depart.
Beard isn’t talking about any sort of rebuild. In today’s game, talent is readily available in the portal and with him landing some of the top available transfers in the country — including Minnesota guard Marcus Carr and Utah forward Timmy Allen — it’s a sure sign that the recruiting landscape is changing.
Beard is hands-on and passionate about a winning culture that he believes will happen in Austin, sooner rather than later.