On January 18, the hometown Texas Tech crowd was on their feet as the Red Raiders held a sizable lead over Iowa State. The atmosphere in the sold-out stadium was electric, intensifying by the minute. Lubbock fans responded to every basket and blocked the shot with a deafening roar.
But the moment that blew the roof off the place wasn’t a high-flying dunk or a deep 3-pointer. This is when the score for the Kansas State vs. Texas game was announced during a short break.
Texas Tech and Texas have a long history of fierce competition, but the fervor behind this year’s rivalry is stronger than usual. On Tuesday, the Longhorns are expected to enter the United Supermarkets Arena against what could be the most hostile crowd of the season. The reason? New Texas coach Chris Beard.
Beard spent 15 years coaching the Red Raiders before taking up his current role at his alma mater. He served his first 10 years as an assistant coach at Tech under coaching legend Bob Knight before leaving briefly to explore several head coaching options. When he returned five years later as head coach, he was welcomed with open arms by the Tech faithful.
Just as he did in Texas, Beard quickly assimilated into the Lubbock student body. It has increased attendance year on year by the thousands almost every year and has backed up its promises with stellar performances. During his tenure, Tech became the first university in Texas to reach the NCAA basketball national championship since Houston’s “Phi Slama Jama” team in 1983.
“I was there for 15 years and gave it my all,” Beard said. “I haven’t taken a day off, mentally or physically. I think our success together is real. It’s well documented. »
Still, Beard will walk into the United Supermarkets Arena with the wrath of the Red Raider fanbase aimed strictly at him. Not to an earlier multi-sport rivalry on FM radio or a major conference game against a ranked opponent, but to a beloved former head coach.
Texas Tech donor Lee Lewis told the Dallas Morning News that Beard played a big role in transforming Lubbock into a basketball town. When he left, Lee said fans felt betrayed for dropping out of the program — for conference rival Texas — after rallying the community around him.
Last Saturday against Tennessee, Beard saw the opposite scenario unfold. Beneath Beard’s quest for “unite texas familyfans at the Frank Erwin Center greeted former Texas basketball coach Rick Barnes with a loud ovation. The Texas players wore “thank you Coach Barnes” shirts during the warm-up and a video tribute played on the jumbotron before the game.
But Barnes left Texas on different terms, being let go after a long career that included 16 trips to the NCAA Tournament and a Final Four appearance. He was followed by Shaka Smart, who failed to live up to expectations after six seasons and posted only a 109-86 record with zero NCAA Tournament wins.
Beard left Texas Tech voluntarily, just two years away from an NCAA championship berth. He made the decision with little warning, accepting Texas athletic director Chris Del Conte’s offer after a three-and-a-half-hour McDonald’s breakfast in Del Conte’s hotel room.
“Chris has done so much for this community, for this program,” Texas Tech athletic director Kirby Hocutt said Jan. 18. “If he had gone to another university, he would be celebrated. But there are some things you can’t do, and one of them is you can’t leave Texas Tech for Texas.
Despite the breakup, Beard had nothing but good things to say about the Red Raiders. He hailed senior forward Bryson Williams as a must-have NBA talent, wished his former assistant Mark Adams, now the head coach of Texas Tech, well, and said he had nothing but respect and love for the fanbase and faculty.
That said, Beard understands why fans who once loved him are now lining up – some even are. camp outside the stadium – to send him their resentment.
“Change happens in life, in sport,” Beard said. “I worked very hard there (and have) no regrets at all. I chose to come back to my alma mater and try this challenge. We all have the right to make choices, and that’s what I did.