AUSTIN, Texas — It once seemed unthinkable, but the Longhorns have done it. Texas has lured Chris Beard away from Texas Tech.
A high-ranking UT source told the American-Statesman on Thursday that a deal has been reached. A Tech school official also confirmed the news to the Lubbock Avalanche-Journal.
Red Raider Nation will be in total meltdown mode upon learning that Beard, Tech’s beloved men’s basketball coach, is leaving the Hub City to become the new coach at Texas, his alma mater.
It’s a coup for Texas athletic director Chris Del Conte, who needed a splashy hire to stave off growing fan apathy and disappointment about the Horns’ inconsistency.
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 Chat with Chris Beard.” His popularity practically made Beard the unofficial mayor of Lubbock.
Del Conte may have to pay through the nose, though. Beard was earning about $5 million annually at Tech on a deal that ran through the 2024-25 season. UT would owe Tech 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 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.
Beard, 48, replaces Shaka Smart, who left UT after six seasons for Marquette.
Beard knows full well what he’s getting into. The Texas ex was a student assistant under UT coach Tom Penders in the early 1990s. He earned a kinesiology degree at UT 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 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, making long bus trips and eating fast food. 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 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, 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 gotta go home.’ Texas Tech is my momma, and I’m home. I'm so glad to be here.”
At Tech, Beard gave Smart and the Longhorns all kinds of problems. The Horns were 5-8 against Beard’s Red Raiders 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 he did regularly at Tech.