It once seemed unthinkable, but the Longhorns have done it. Texas has lured Chris Beard away from Texas Tech.
The school announced Beard as its next men’s basketball coach Thursday.
The hiring is a coup for Texas athletic director Chris Del Conte, who needed a splashy hire to stave off growing fan apathy and disappointment about the Longhorns’ basketball inconsistency.
“When we began discussing potential candidates to lead our Men’s Basketball program, Chris Beard’s name kept coming up,” Del Conte said in a statement. “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.”
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 Texas Tech’s success was his direct appeals to the school’s students on social media videos dubbed “Fireside Chat with Chris Beard.” His popularity practically made Beard the unofficial mayor of Lubbock.
The move likely wasn’t cheap. Beard was earning about $5 million annually at Texas Tech on a deal that ran through the 2024-25 season. Texas would owe a $4 million buyout payment since Beard is leaving for another school within the state, according to his contract. That figure was $5 million but dropped to $4 million on April 1, which is Thursday.
Contract details were not immediately known.
Texas has not won an NCAA Tournament game since 2014. Beard took the Red Raiders to the Elite Eight in 2018 and reached the national championship game in 2019. In five seasons at Tech, he’s 112-55. He was also 30-5 in one season at Arkansas-Little Rock during the 2015-16 season.
“I’m thrilled and excited to be coming back to Austin and back to the Longhorn family,” Beard said in a statement.
“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.”
Beard, 48, replaces Shaka Smart, who left after six seasons for Marquette.
Beard knows full well what he’s getting into. The Texas ex was a student assistant under Texas coach Tom Penders in the early 1990s. He earned a kinesiology degree at the school in 1995 and later 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.
Beard’s career really took flight in 2001 when Bob Knight hired him as an assistant at Texas Tech. Beard was a sponge, soaking up everything he could from one of the game’s legends. Beard 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 semi-pro league. Beard was 31-2 with the South Carolina Warriors. He then went back to the college ranks. He logged a year at McMurry University, two at Angelo State and then landed at Little Rock.
Beard was hired by UNLV 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, 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 Texas Tech introductory news conference. “He said, ‘When momma calls, you’ve gotta go home.’ Texas Tech is my momma, and I’m home. I’m so glad to be here.”
With the Red Raiders, Beard gave Smart and the Longhorns all kinds of problems. Texas went 5-8 against Beard the last five seasons. After every game, win or lose, Beard was always complimentary of Smart and his program.
Now, Beard gets to wear the burnt orange himself. However, it’s unclear who will be playing for him.
Anywhere from seven to eight players from the current 11-man roster may leave for various reasons. Beard must rebuild through the NCAA transfer portal, something relied on at Texas Tech. When the Red Raiders played in this year’s tournament just one regular remained from the team that was in that 2019 title game.