(7 minute read)
Is Chris Beard College Basketball’s next big thing in Coaching?
In the pantheon of college basketball tradition and pedigree often define your success. Blue blood schools attract the upper echelon of coaches with high pedigrees and boom a college juggernaut is born. To this day only 8 Division I Universities have claimed more than 3 NCAA titles and if I lower the bar to just 2 championships the number of teams only rises to 15.
Despite all of this, there’s a school who no one considers a “blue blood” and a little-known coach defying the laws of the Basketball gods. The new boogeymen of college basketball are none other than 2019 AP Coach of the Year Chris Beard and the Texas Tech University Red Raiders. Since 2017 Beard and the Matadors of Lubbock have compiled and overall record of 76 wins and 30 losses, while going 47-6 at home in United Supermarkets Arena. Beard also managed to bring home the 2018-19 Big 12 Conference title, but see how Beard and his accomplishments stacks up against traditional CBB powerhouses since he’s been at Texas Tech.
Now in today’s college basketball world, high-powered marriages of blue blood schools and coaches are still running things for the most part. When mentioning college basketball greatness, it would be hard not to mention The Duke Blue Devils and Coach Mike Krzyzewski or John Calipari and his Kentucky Wildcats, whom also happen to be the top two highest paid coaches in the country. Kentucky pays Calipari a whopping $8.16 million a year and the Blue Devils pay Coach K a hefty 7.25 Million a year to man the helm of the Duke ship and they’ve earned it. For Beard’s recent efforts Texas Tech showed they were no slouch either. In order to lockdown their new general they gave Beard a contract extension worth $4.5 million a year, making him the 4thhighest paid coach in the country.
Since 2017 Coach K (86-20) and Calipari (81-24) are 2 of only a few coaches with higher records than Beard in that same span of time. Duke and Kentucky have also racked up impressive tournament records since 2017 with Duke going 6-2 and Kentucky going 5-2 respectively. Beard has managed to outshine his coaching counterparts in postseason play leading Texas Tech to an 8-2 record in the NCAA tournament in that same span of time. For the most part a lot of people had never heard of Beard or his team until the worlds wakeup call when it was the Red Raiders suiting up for the 2019 National Championship Game.
To understand how Beard got to where he is today and why he has even the big-name schools on their toes you have to know where he’s been and who he is. Chris Beard is a true diamond in the rough. Were talking about a man who has been coaching for 20 years and has never had a losing season as a head coach, coached for a national championship, and has produced multiple NBA first rounders all without a single 5-star recruit. I’m not kidding, as a head coach dating all the way back to 1999 Chris Beard has never coached a team under .500 and just signed his first ever 5-star recruit in 2020, which breeds the question “If Chris Beard gets this much from his players, how has he been hidden all this time?” Beard has been somewhat of a journeyman for most of his career collecting basketball wisdom maybe that’s the answer.
Chris was given his first chance at Fort Scott Community College in 1999 where he went 19-12 before making a stop at Seminole State Junior College where he went an impressive 25-6. In 2001 he took an opportunity at the very place that would become his home, Texas Tech however; this time Beard would be an associate coach under the great Bob Knight until 2011. This time under Knight is most likely where he developed his hard-nosed, defensive based attack. From his days at Texas Tech he did some time in the American Basketball Association with the South Carolina Warriors where again he shined. He ended his time in the ABA with a 29-2 before making it back to college basketball. Chris would station at a few smaller schools before making another Division I splash. In 2015-2016 The University of Arkansas- Little Rock in the Sun Belt Conference gave him a call. Beard shattered expectations leading Little Rock to a 30-5 record, a Sun Belt title and even upset 5th Seed Purdue in the 2016 NCAA tournament. This is all Texas Tech needed to see before they knew they needed him.
Beard has amassed these accolades by getting the most out of the players most people pass on, more specifically on the defensive end of the floor. Chris Beard is a basketball genius when it comes to defense most specifically. Over the last 3 seasons Beard’s teams have held opposing teams to just 39% from the field, 30% from the 3pt line, forced an average of 15 turnovers a game, ripping 6 steals per game and blocking 3.1 shots per game.
The stern “no-middle” defense that Beard has devised is a mix of great on-ball defense, help -side zones and screen-switches. This defensive scheme is the basis of how he gets under team’s skin. The scheme mixed with Beard’s cunning and hardnose attitude that his players embody on the floor make for tough outings for opposing teams.
Don’t believe me? Ask Coach K and Calipari who both played against Beard in 2019 and 2020 seasons. While both opposing coaches managed to escape close games with wins their teams were also held below their season averages in almost all major offensive statistics. d below their season averages in almost all major offensive statistics. After playing Beard in Madison Square Garden Coach K gave Beard his flowers by calling him “The real deal…” Calipari took his team down to Lubbock to challenge Texas Tech’s 54 game non-conference home game streak dating all the way back to 2013. After a hard-fought overtime battle and a 2pt difference in score the Wildcats made it out with a win. After the game Calipari expressed how much his team would cherish that win due to how hard it was to obtain.
Chris Beard has put the basketball world on notice, and it seems no matter who you are he and his team better be on your radar if they make their way onto your schedule. Chris Beard has made multiple NCAA tournament runs, made it all the way to overtime of the National Championship game, won a conference title and sent players to the NBA in just a short time in the spotlight. It looks like this non “blue-blood” school and their upstart coach are prepped to continue to make waves and defy college basketball precedents.