BOSTON – Naismith Memorial Basketball Hall of Fame inductee and one-time Sixers coach Larry Brown took the first of his dozen-plus head coaching jobs at Davidson College in 1969. Setting up the first step in his journey as the ultimate vagabond, the then-28-year-old Brown quit after three months without coaching a practice.
Texas Tech coach Chris Beard is 45 years old and isn’t likely to follow Brown’s yellow-brick-road journey through professional and collegiate basketball, but the Red Raiders coach does have one Brown-like entry on his resume.
On March 27, 2016, Beard left Arkansas-Little Rock after one season and accepted the job at the University of Nevada Las Vegas.
A couple of weeks later, the Texas Tech job opened up, and on April 15, 2016, Beard, citing his 10 years as an assistant at Tech and the fact that he grew up in Irving, Texas, bolted from UNLV after 19 days.
After paying UNLV a $1 million buyout, Beard quoted legendary Alabama football coach Paul “Bear” Bryant, who once left Texas A&M: “When momma calls, you gotta go home.”
Beard added, “Texas Tech is my momma, and I’m home.”
Not only did Beard go home; he redecorated the Red Raiders program and has it in the Elite Eight for the first time.
The enormity of the moment showed Friday, after Texas Tech beat Purdue, 78-65, to advance to the East Regional Final against top-seeded Villanova on Sunday at the TD Garden.
“We’ve got great basketball tradition at Texas Tech,” Beard said. “I’ve only coached these guys for two years. To me, we just made the — what’s it called? The Great Eight?”
Red Raiders senior guard and scoring leader Keenan Evans immediately corrected his coach by saying, “Elite.”
In most places, what Beard did to UNLV would be considered bad form, but not in Lubbock, Texas, where the players had just been bailed on by Tubby Smith, who left for Memphis after taking Tech to the NCAAs for the first time since 2005.
Those players appreciated a coach who made a commitment to them.
“Just as soon as the job opened up, he was basically there the next day,” Evans said. “Came in, had a one-on-one conversation with everybody.
“What stood out to me is one of the first things he said is, ‘I want to win, and we’re going to win if you stay. You get your core group of guys to stay, and I’m going to bring in help.’ And he did that. He stayed, and he did basically what he said he was going to do. And that’s what stood out to me.”
Tech finished 18-14 in Beard’s first season.
This season, the Red Raiders finished second to Kansas in the Big 12, got an at-large berth in the NCAA tournament, and beat Creighton, Florida, and Purdue to make program history.
“Just from the second year here, and look where we are right now,” Evans said. “Go from not making the tournament at all to the Elite Eight. So, it just shows that this is only the beginning.
“The young guys, they have no ceilings. I’m excited for them in the future, and I’m excited for Coach, especially what recruits he’ll bring in, and just knowing that this is basically setting a foundation, and this is only going to go up from here.”