Mac Engel

Red Raiders finally have the winner they want

Between Mike Leach, Tommy Tuberville, Bob Knight, Pat Knight, Billy Gillispie, Coach Bro and Tubby Smith, Texas Tech’s recent history with high profile coaches is a wee bit of a wreck.

As much as the Red Raiders have screwed up the hirings and firings of their football and men’s basketball coaches, it can be said at last that they nailed one.

Chris Beard landing in Lubbock can’t make up for all of those other failed additions and subtractions, but he’s the guy the school thought it was hiring when it bagged Gillispie — a Texan who understands and likes Lubbock, and is not praying for the phone to ring with a new job offer.

(Although ... Beard is a Texas grad’ and you never know if new UT athletic director Chris Del Conte would make that call, should Shaka Smart not work out).

As evidenced by the Red Raiders’ embarrassing treatment of TCU on Saturday in Fort Worth, they are the best team in the state and good enough for an extended run in the NCAA Tournament.

They are also good enough to win the Big 12, and end Kansas’ 13-year run of owning the conference.

After Tech easily defeated TCU in Fort Worth, 83-71, I asked Red Raiders senior guard Keenan Evans if he and his teammates can start thinking about winning the conference title now.

Awwwww, s---,” Beard said.

“It’s something we been thinking about since this summer,” Evans said.

No one else was.

The Red Raiders were picked to finish seventh in the Big 12 preseason coaches’ poll. How this team was picked to finish seventh is another reason to either junk, or ignore, that preseason poll.

We are on the back half of the conference schedule, and Tech is tied for first in the Big 12.

Sorry it’s not football, but considering the recent history at Tech, start a GoFundMe page for the Beard statue.

The football program under Kliff Kingsbury remains a maddening cow pasture of mediocre that makes the Techies wish for the days of The Pirate. But The Beard is a beast.

Tech has not won a conference football title since 1994; it hasn’t won a conference basketball title since 1996.

Credit Beard’s predecessor, Tubby Smith, for bringing some of this talent to Tech, but the Red Raiders are not this good under Tubby.

What Tech did to a decent TCU team was emasculating, and the game was never close. The game wasn’t close when the score was 0-0.

“I didn’t see this coming,” TCU coach Jamie Dixon said. “I don’t think I’ve ever been down 24 at the half, at home.”

TCU’s defense took the “Be a gracious host” bit too far.

The Red Raiders, who improved to 19-4, are not going to get worse. Buy the Red Raiders. They rebound. They defend. They score. Chris Beard can coach.

If it wasn’t for Oklahoma’s Trae Young, Tech’s Evans would be leading the conference in scoring.

Losing senior forward Zach Smith to a foot injury is the only reason to think that Tech won’t make the Final Four.

The state of Texas should field several NCAA Tournament teams, and Tech is leaving no doubt it is the best within our borders. The Red Raiders are currently ranked 10th in the nation, and that’s going up on Monday when the new poll is released.

The last time Tech had a team this good was James Dickey’s crew that advanced to the Sweet 16 with Jason Sasser, Darvin Ham and Tony Battie. Those Red Raiders were stacked with seniors, and were the last Texas Tech team to win a conference title when they finished 30-2.

The difference, of course, was Dickey could never sustain that type of success whereas Beard is primed to do just that.

Despite its location in a Power Five conference, Tech’s location in West Texas routinely has been problematic for previous coaches. Not everyone was Spike Dykes.

Bob Knight used to routinely complain how hard it was to attract talent out to West Texas. Tuberville never fit in Lubbock, because he never wanted to be there, he just wanted a job.

Beard, who was raised in Irving, was a long time assistant under Bob Knight and understands all the elements/challenges of his school, and coaching basketball in Texas.

He views Tech as a destination, and he’s turning into it into a desired spot for basketball players.

“I’d like to think we’re humble people but at the same time we’re confident,” he said. “I don’t think we’re better than anybody in college basketball, but I don’t think anybody is better than us. I wanted to be relevant. I expected [to win] here. It’s humility and it’s not arrogance. I expect to win.

“Texas Tech is a great place and they deserve a great program.”

It’s not football, but Beard is building a great program, and for the first time in a long time Texas Tech isn’t a wreck when it comes to a high-profile head coach.

Mac Engel: @macengelprof

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