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Texas Flight: Red Raiders coach Beard hired by Texas

Carlos Silva Jr.
Lubbock Avalanche-Journal

Texas Tech came calling. 

And Chris Beard picked up the phone once again.  

This time, he had a different answer — no contract extension this time. 

After five seasons, Beard elected Thursday to jump from the Red Raiders and switched to the familiar burnt orange of his alma mater, the University of Texas.

This time, though, he won't be a student assistant under Tom Penders — he'll get to sit at the front of the bench inside a brand-new arena scheduled to open in the spring of 2022.

Chris Beard, Texas Tech men's basketball coach

"I'm thrilled and excited to be coming back to Austin and back to the Longhorn family," Beard said in a UT press release. "I can't express how excited I am for this opportunity and the journey that lies ahead.

The sentiment was about a change back in Lubbock.

"Today is not a setback, today is a change in direction," Texas Tech athletic director Kirby Hocutt said Thursday during a Zoom press conference.

Beard would become the 25th coach in Longhorns' history, replacing Shaka Smart who took the same position with Marquette on March 26. The announcement ends more than a week of speculation about UT and Texas Tech making pitches and courting Beard – Tech to keep the popular coach, Texas to lure him away.

"It's been a whirlwind of a day," Beard said in a press release. "It's a difficult and emotional day in a lot of ways as I leave Texas Tech, a place where I'm very appreciative of not only my five years as a head coach but also my 10 years as an assistant. I owe so much to Texas Tech University.

"From the players and their families to the administration, students, alumni, season-ticket holders and the entire Red Raider Nation, we were able to build something incredibly special and unique. ... Thank you, you have provided memories that will last a lifetime."

Texas Tech's Chris Beard leaves the court after being ejected during the final seconds of the second half of a Big 12 Conference game Feb. 9 against West Virginia.

Beard took Tech to the championship game of the NCAA Tournament in 2019, losing to Virginia in overtime.

Now, Beard will look to take the Longhorns to a higher level

The Longhorns have made the NCAA Tournament 27 times in the past 33 seasons, but reached the Final Four only once in that span. And Smart jumped to Marquette after Texas' first-round flameout this year against No. 14 seed Abilene Christian University. In Smart's six seasons at UT, the Longhorns advanced to three NCAA Tournaments and all ended in one-and-done fashion. 

In total, Smart was 109-86 in six seasons and 51-56 in Big 12 play — while the Longhorns did not finish above third in the standings and did not come close to winning a Big 12 championship until last season. Smart was also 24-40 against ranked opponents. 

Beard's career track is a bit different, as inherited a Texas Tech program coming off five losing seasons in the six years prior to his arrival. Once on campus, he helped guide the Red Raiders to five straight winning seasons and an overall record of 112-55, including a 9-3 mark in NCAA Tournament contests — consisting of back-to-back Elite Eights, and a spot in the championship game in 2019. 

The Red Raiders advanced to the Elite Eight for the first time in program history in 2018 and returned the following season with a trip to the national title contest following a school-best 31-7 record.

The 2019 Associated Press National Coach of the Year will be tasked with trying to replicate the same success as former coach and current Tennessee head man Rick Barnes, who led the Longhorns to 16 NCAA Tournament appearances and one Final Four in his 17 seasons in Austin. 

The possibility is there. Beard has shown he's more than capable to take teams to the NCAA Tournament and make deep runs. 

But then-No. 10 Arkansas bumped out Tech 68-66 in the round of 32 this year.

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Texas Tech Red Raiders head coach Chris Beard during the second round of the 2021 NCAA Tournament on Sunday, March 21, 2021, at Hinkle Fieldhouse in Indianapolis, Ind.

The second-round exit was the shortest stint a Beard-led team has had in the postseason since 2016. That year, his Arkansas-Little Rock team upset Purdue before falling to Iowa State in the second round. 

The Arkansas loss, and Smart's decision to get closer to his childhood roots, allowed Beard the opportunity to also move closer to a place he once considered home. He earned a bachelor's degree from UT in 1995 while being a student assistant.

The Irving native started his coaching career as a graduate assistant at Incarnate Ward and moved on to a pair of assistant coaching stints at Abilene Christian and North Texas. He worked under the guidance of Danny Kasper at UIW, Shanon Hays at ACU and Vic Trilli at UNT. 

He found his way to Fort Scott Community College before moving on to Seminole State Junior College. After a decade as an assistant coach at Texas Tech under Bob Knight and Pat Knight, Beard led the South Carolina Warriors of the American Basketball Association before spending one season at Division III McMurry University and two seasons at Division II Angelo State — guiding the Rams to the third round of the NCAA Tournament in 2016.

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