Texas hires Chris Beard away from Texas Tech to be new men’s basketball coach

LUBBOCK, Texas —  The University of Texas has hired Chris Beard away from instate rival Texas Tech to lead the Longhorns basketball program. Beard was officially announced as the new men’s basketball head coach on Thursday.

Beard, a UT-Austin alum, led the Texas Tech program to the 2019 NCAA Championship Game and the 2018 Elite Eight. He spent five seasons in Lubbock.

He is a 25-year veteran of collegiate coaching and will be introduced at a Friday press conference on the UT campus.

“I’m thrilled and excited to be coming back to Austin and back to the Longhorn family,” Beard said. “I can’t express how excited I am for this opportunity and the journey that lies ahead. I want to thank President Hartzell and Athletics Director Chris Del Conte for their trust. It’s time to get to work. Our top priority will be embracing our players as soon as we get to campus, and I look forward to starting this journey together towards our championship goals.”

Beard, 48, will replace Shaka Smart, who left after six seasons for Marquette after failing to lead the Longhorns past the first round of the tournament in three appearance. Smart left Texas with two years left on a contract that was set to pay him more than $7 million.

Texas Tech officials were notified of Beard’s decision on Thursday morning. “Talked to him about 10:30 last night, made a final decision today. something I could tell had been weighing on him (last night), and settled this morning,” Texas Texas Athletic Director Kirby Hocutt said. “Frustrating? Absolutely. Disappointing? Absolutely.”

“It’s been a whirlwind of a day,” Beard said in a university press release. “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. From the players and their families to the administration, students, alumni, season-ticket holders and the entire Red Raider Nation, we were able to build something incredibly special and unique.”

Beard was a Longhorns student assistant under coach Tom Penders. He will be expected to produce consistent postseason success the Longhorns never achieved under Smart, who had led VCU to the Final Four in 2011 and was one of the hot names in coaching when Texas hired him.

Beard was 112-55 in five seasons with the Red Raiders. He was named The Associated Press coach of the year in 2019 as he guided Texas Tech to a 31-7 finish and lost to Virginia in the national championship game. The Red Raiders made it to the second round of this season’s tournament.

The Longhorns last made the Final Four in 2003 but made tournament appearances 16 times under Rick Barnes from 1999 to 2015 and reached the regional finals in 2006 and 2008. Texas hasn’t made it out of the first weekend of the tournament since then.

Texas entered this season’s tournament as a No. 3 seed with a veteran team, but lost in the first round to No. 14 Abilene Christian, which had been playing Division I basketball for less than a decade.

Beard’s coached one season at Arkansas-Little Rock, leading the program to a 30-5 finish and to the second round of the tournament in 2016.

He then accepted the head coaching job at UNLV, before leaving less a month later for Texas Tech, citing a desire to return to the program where he’d spent several years as an assistant under Bob Knight.

In 11 seasons as a collegiate head coach, Beard has compiled a 252-103 (.710) overall record and advanced to four NCAA Tournaments.

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