Texas Tech Basketball Is Bigger Than Chris Beard
I was honestly struggling with what to say about Chris Beard leaving. Not because I'm in my feelings or upset. I just couldn't wrap my head around Beard actually going to the Texas Longhorns. It looked more and more likely with each passing day of the past week, but there was a huge offer out from Texas Tech AD Kirby Hocutt, and Beard called Texas Tech his home.
I relate to all the Texas Tech fans out there who are pissed off at Chris Beard. I grew up a Texas Tech fan, I went through the bad seasons. I'm not as old or as seasoned as other Red Raider fans, but even at 31 years young I've seen my fair share of coaches run through the program.
Since I was born, Texas Tech has been coached by Myers, Dickey, Knight, the other Knight, Gillespie, Walker, Smith and Beard. Even in that relatively short time, I experienced incredible highs and bitter lows that are expected when you follow sports and give too much of yourself to them.
When Tubby Smith left so suddenly, it was a bit of a jolt, but understandable. Smith, for everything he did for the program, never really fit in. The Hall of Fame coach was more known for falling on his motorcycle nationally than still being at the top of his game.
Quicker than Texas Tech fans could react to Smith leaving, another coach entered the picture. A Texas Longhorn graduate who had spurned the 40 acres and defected to the dusty oasis of West Texas. He might have started his coaching career under Tom Penders as a grad assistant, but he was molded by Bob Knight for a decade while at Texas Tech.
At Chris Beard's welcome press conference at Texas Tech, he famously said, "It's like when Bear Bryant left Texas A&M for Alabama, 'When momma calls, you've gotta go home.' Texas Tech is my momma, and I'm home. I'm so glad to be here."
To continue the analogy, I guess the Texas Longhorns are his daddy?
At some point in the last season, maybe in the last week, Beard stopped feeling like Lubbock was home. I don't blame him for going to Texas; the recruiting has been objectively better, and they're a Nike school. The rest of the merits between the two cities and programs can be argued. Beard's opinion is obviously that Texas is the better job for the advancement of his career.
It's becoming increasingly clear that Chris Beard is what's most important to Chris Beard.
When Shaka Smart left the Texas job for Marquette, I wrote this:
Bottom line, if Beard leaves Texas Tech for Austin, it's because he thinks there is a better opportunity to win National Championships in Austin. That's all Chris Beard cares about. He doesn't care about Whataburger or Taco Villa. He wants to win. Yes, Beard has values and family ties but he's made enough money in the last several years to see his family from anywhere in the country.
Again, if Beard does leave, it's because he's decided that it's easier to win a National Championship somewhere else. To me, that doesn't sound like the Chris Beard I've seen in Lubbock in the last five seasons.
I obviously didn't have as firm of a grip on Beard's decision as I thought I did, but I do feel like I nailed the thought process. To me, Texas Tech is the better program. To Beard? Hook 'Em, I guess.
To be fair, I don't know Chris Beard personally. I've only gotten to know him in press conferences and fireside chats. There are, however, a few guys who spoke out today that know Chris Beard much better than I do.
Justin Gray was already at Texas Tech when Beard showed up, but was quick to credit the program building during his time from a loser to an Elite Eight appearance. The climb started during Smith, but the peak for Gray happened under Beard.
Matt Mooney came in following the Elite Eight season and had a stellar season on the Texas Tech National Championship participant team. He thanks Beard and is grateful, but ends his thought with Lubbock and Mark Adams -- a coach who is seemingly still a Red Raider, for now.
Going back even further is Toddrick Gotcher, who was recruited to Texas Tech by assistant coach Chris Beard. Gotcher, more than anyone, knows the pain of losing coaches more than anyone, stretching five seasons of tumultuous Red Raider basketball. Sure, he mentions Beard, but is quick to return to the effect it will have on the Texas Tech program.
Nobody in the Chris Beard era personified Beard's principles more than Norense Odiase. He wasn't the best or flashiest, but he outworked everybody.
In 2019, Kansas hammered Texas Tech in Lawrence and people were jumping off the ship. It was officially a losing streak, and postgame, Norense let his team know how he felt. "We can't come out like this," Odiase said. "We might as well pack it up now if we're playing like that. We can never ever come out like that again."
Just two days later in a game against West Virginia, there was a play under the basket where Odiase fought for a ball after the whistle. He and a Mountaineer defender locked eyes on the baseline, standing toe-to-toe with an entire arena watching them. The play wasn't going anymore and the clock had stopped, but Odiase made a decision before the game to not lose a single second of that game.
He ripped the ball out of the WVU player's arms, and the Mountaineers folded like a house of cards. After that play, Texas Tech outscored West Virginia by 34 points. That single play made an entire team click and started a nine-game Big 12 winning streak that led to a Big 12 title and a run to the National Championship game.
Odiase wasn't the star of the 2019 Red Raiders team, but he was the heart.
Today, he said what every Red Raider fan needed to hear:
"Our identity was never in a person/ program!" Odiase tweeted. "Our identity was who we’ve always been in LBK Tough, Gritty Mf’ers who were always picked last to begin with!" He continued: "Embrace that new chip on your shoulder LBK! We’ll trade it in for that Championship real soon."
That's a Chris Beard phrase: 'never lose your chip.' Chris Beard has been the face of Texas Tech basketball for the last five seasons and is responsible for the deepest two tournament runs the program has attained so far.
Kirby Hocutt has promised that the same level of resources will be there for the next coach coming to Lubbock, but it won't be that man who's responsible for Texas Tech's success. Just like Chris Beard doesn't own the success of the last five seasons.
That success is owned by all the tough gritty mofos who are still in West Texas today. It's owned by the ex-players. It's owned by the alums and by the fans. It's owned by Kirby Hocutt and the athletic department. By Texas Tech President Dr. Lawrence Schovanec and the university. It's owned by the Double T.
Texas Tech basketball is bigger than Chris Beard.