Chris Beard’s Second Act
Texas Tech’s Head Coach is the Real Cinderella Story
His name wasn’t on the playbill. He was a man in the background, maneuvering stage props, or chiming in a one-liner. When you grabbed your seat, you didn’t think twice about Chris Beard, but that's changing in the second act.
The man shouldn’t be here. Not on this stage, and certainly not this weekend. After his first 24 seasons of coaching with 13 different programs – never a head coach at the Division I level – the 42-year-old Beard didn’t embrace his role with the supporting cast. He still fantasized about Final Fours and championships. The first half of his coaching career was already written, and nowhere did it foreshadow or allude to a second act like this.
Four years ago, coaches like Krzyzewski and Calipari were in the Final Four. Beard was home on the couch in San Angelo, Texas, contemplating an offer at the end of his season with Division II Angelo State. This was his intermission.
He accepted that offer and became the head coach at Arkansas Little Rock in 2015; his first head coaching role at the Division I level, ever. That was four years ago… And Beard would waste no time making the most of his opportunity.
Beard’s only season with ALR was a performance for the ages – 30 wins, conference champions, an NCAA Tournament berth, and a first-round upset over 5-seed Purdue. That was all he needed to prove he was deserving of a lead role.
The offers came pouring in. After just one season, Beard was set to become the head coach at UNLV. That was until Texas Tech had an opening after Tubby Smith left. Lubbock was the only place Beard had spent more than four years of his first-act assistant life, and it felt like home.
He inherited a Big 12 program with low expectations. The father-son duo of Bobby and Pat Knight spent a decade at Texas Tech, but nothing came of it. The Red Raiders hadn’t produced a first-round draft pick in 20 years. They were coming off five losing records in the last six seasons.
Beard’s team adopted an insatiable defensive mentality that led to a winning record in his first year. In year two, they went 27-10, reached the Elite Eight, and sent Zhaire Smith to the draft as a first-round pick. In turn, Beard’s role as the lead man garnered praise across the country.
Then, it happened: the one thing that can infuse an underdog and create bracket anarchy… Typecasting. Everyone thought Beard’s tourney run was a fluke. They credited it to Smith’s talent. The loss of All-American Keenan Evans didn't help. Surely a man with only three years of DI experience couldn’t bounce back from losing that talent, and Tech was predicted to finish at the bottom of the Big 12 this year.
Yet, here we are, on the brink of college basketball’s final weekend, and Chris Beard is front and center.
“His sense of urgency and focus is there 365 days a year. He’s so driven to coach on that Monday night in April. That’s all he talks about.” – Texas Tech Athletic Director, Kirby Hocutt
Regardless of Texas Tech’s result this weekend, their head coach has built one of the best defensive programs in college basketball history. Statistically, their the best team in defensive points per possession in the 21st century.
At 46 years old, Beard’s second act is only just beginning. Four years in Division I with three tourney trips, two 30-win seasons, and a winning percentage of .750... he might just turn the Red Raiders into one of the bluebloods.