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Guns drawn, Horns up: Texas steals coach Chris Beard away from Texas Tech

Texas ex battled his way up through the ranks, led Texas Tech to 2019 national championship game

Kirby Hocutt simply couldn’t hide his frustration Thursday. Same goes for just about everyone else in Red Raider Nation. They’d all reached a boiling point.

Texas Tech men’s basketball coach Chris Beard had indeed left the Red Raiders for rival Texas, his alma mater.

Texas is planning a Zoom press conference at 10 a.m. Friday to formally introduce Beard.

“I’m thrilled and excited to be coming back to Austin and back to the Longhorn family,” Beard said in a statement. “I can’t express how excited I am for this opportunity and the journey that lies ahead.”

Watch live analysis:Texas stole Chris Beard away from Texas Tech, where are the Longhorns headed?

Hocutt said he could tell something "had been weighing on” his basketball coach. The two spoke around 10:30 p.m. Wednesday, and “I could tell he had a decision to be made.”

Around 10 a.m. Thursday, Beard informed his boss he was leaving.

“He shared with me today he was ready for another challenge,” Hocutt said, trying to temper his words while saying there was “no opportunity” for a counteroffer. This was even after Tech floated the idea of a "lifetime contract" to Beard last fall. 

“We’re going to fight, to use the term that Coach Beard uses every day,” Hocutt said. “You get into the fight. We’ve been in the fight for five years, and the fight’s not over. And you have somebody that then walks away to go to an in-conference school, an in-state school? Absolutely, that frustrates you. Heck, yeah, it does. 

“If we’re honest and loyal and sincere about getting into the fight, and you’re in the fight every day, frustration would be a kind word to summarize it,” Hocutt said.

The Longhorns were in heaven. It once seemed unthinkable, but Texas athletic director Chris Del Conte really did it. In one fell swoop, Texas put a hole in its Big 12 rival, hiring a coach who reached the Elite Eight in 2018 and the national championship game in 2019 and reenergized basketball on the South Plains.

Chris Beard:5 things to know about the Longhorns' new basketball coach

The challenge in Austin is formidable. Texas hasn’t won a single NCAA Tournament game since 2014. The team next season is a total unknown. Only two of 11 players are considered locks to return. The new Moody Center and new practice facility won’t be open until 2022. And at the end of the day, Texas is and forever will be a football school.

Beard will be paid handsomely for his decision, although he might pay dearly in the standings when “that team” comes to Lubbock, Hocutt said.

No contract details were immediately known, but Beard earned about $5 million annually at Tech. Del Conte will have to pay $4 million directly to Tech and Hocutt, according to the terms of Beard’s buyout. Money has not stopped Del Conte from hiring whomever he wants thus far on his watch.

News:After six uneven seasons at Texas, Shaka Smart headed to Marquette

“Love it,” Texas ex T.J. Ford tweeted.

Everything about Beard is full throttle, from his wild-eyed defensive intensity to his love of country music and Whataburger. Part of the reason for Tech's success was his direct appeals to Tech students on social media videos dubbed “Fireside Chats.” His popularity practically made Beard the unofficial mayor of Lubbock.

As of 4 p.m. Thursday, Texas officials had not made any formal announcement about Beard’s hiring. Yet his name was already listed as the head basketball coach in the online school directory. Tech officials had Beard’s bio on the Red Raiders’ website pulled down by midmorning.

The Longhorns made it official by 4:30 p.m.

“We’ve all seen what he’s done in building Texas Tech into a national force, recognize his wealth of knowledge and experience, and his track record at every place he’s been is extraordinary,” Del Conte said in a statement.

‘This is a basketball-crazy place’:Shaka Smart excited for fresh start at Marquette

Chris Beard, left, is taking over the Texas program after Shaka Smart, right, moved on to Marquette. The Longhorns haven't won an NCAA Tournament game since 2014. Beard's Texas Tech teams made the Elite Eight in 2018 and the NCAA championship game in 2019.

UT-Arlington head coach Chris Ogden told the Statesman that he would leave his post to come back to UT. Ogden was a team captain on the 2003 Final Four team with Ford under coach Rick Barnes. He also worked under Beard at Tech.

Hocutt said “everybody on the (Tech) staff” was offered a job at UT. By early afternoon, most of the assistant coaches’ bios were also taken off Tech’s website.

Beard was probably Del Conte’s top choice from the start, although the athletic director did talk to Texas ex Royal Ivey, now an NBA assistant.

“I'm forever thankful for the opportunity that was afforded to me,” Ivey tweeted Thursday. “To the young men, @TexasMBB embrace your journey, love your journey, enjoy your journey. You never lose in your journey, you always learn from the journey. Once a horn always a horn #HookEm.”

Beard knows full well what he’s getting into. He was a student assistant under UT coach Tom Penders in the early 1990s. Beard earned a kinesiology degree at UT in 1995 and received his master’s degree at Abilene Christian in 1998.

Beard has truly worked his way up through the coaching profession. He was a graduate assistant at Incarnate Word and had assistant jobs at Abilene Christian and North Texas. He got his first head coaching job at Fort Scott Community College in 1999 and spent a year at Seminole State.

Texas Tech coach Chris Beard talks to Texas guard Matt Coleman III after their game in Austin in February 2020. The roster that Beard will inherit at Texas will be vastly different from the one that won this year's Big 12 Tournament.

Beard’s career really took flight in 2001 when Bob Knight hired him as an assistant at Tech. Beard was a sponge, soaking up everything he could from one of the game’s legends. He stayed on when Pat Knight took over for his father, but he had to find a new landing spot after the 2010-11 season.

Beard ended up with a head coaching role in the American Basketball Association, a semipro league. He was 31-2 with the South Carolina Warriors, making long bus trips and eating fast food. He then went back to the college ranks, logging a year at McMurry University and two at Angelo State and then landing at Little Rock.

Beard got the UNLV job in April 2016 but bolted for Texas Tech just a week later. The abrupt move was a better one for him personally; it was a higher-profile team in a better league, and Lubbock was closer to his three daughters.

“It’s like when Bear Bryant left Texas A&M for Alabama,” Beard said at his Tech introductory news conference. “He said, ‘When momma calls, you’ve got to go home.’ Texas Tech is my momma, and I’m home. I'm so glad to be here.”

At Tech, Beard gave then-UT coach Shaka Smart and the Longhorns all kinds of problems. The Horns were 5-8 against Beard’s Red Raiders the past five seasons. After every game, win or lose, Beard was always complimentary of Smart and his program.

In total, Beard was 112-55 in just five seasons. It was long rumored that Texas would scoop him up. Hocutt even reworked Beard’s contract in 2019 to include the stiff buyout payment should “another school in Texas” come to hire Beard away. It was a contract designed to scare Texas off.

Instead, Del Conte just bided his time, as a $6 million buyout dropped to $5 million and then $4 million on Thursday. Texas pulled the trigger.

“Red Raider Nation, the best and most passionate fan base in the country, today is not a setback,” Hocutt said. “Today is a change in direction.”

It’s a big change of direction at Texas, too.

Contact Brian Davis by phone or text at 512-445-3957. Email bdavis@statesman.com or @BDavisAAS.

Former Texas Tech coach Chris Beard was 8-5 against Texas during his five seasons in Lubbock.