Mac Engel

The hiring of Bobby Knight finally paid off for Texas Tech in the emerging Chris Beard

To think Texas Tech had its best coach since Mike Leach on its bench and it let Chris Beard leave because it was too afraid to stand up to the biggest hypocrite bully college basketball will ever know.

Beard has the Red Raiders in the Final Four, which is what Tech thought Bobby Knight would do when it hired the former Indiana coach in 2001.

It is Chris Beard, not Bob Knight, who is proving a Texas basketball team can win on a national level.

While Tech celebrates its Final Four coach, remember it went through three more coaches before it offered its former assistant this job. The only reason Beard is at Tech is because his predecessor, Tubby Smith, left for Memphis in 2016.

While Tech celebrates its Final Four coach, remember Beard was on staff in the spring of 2008 when Bob Knight quit so he could name another assistant on the bench, Pat Knight, the acting head coach.

Today, Beard is one of the best coaches in the game, who has done something few ever do: Put a Texas team in the Final Four. In the modern era, the only men to do this are Don Haskins, Guy Lewis and Rick Barnes (for hoops junkies, H.C. Gilstrap led Texas to the Final Four in ‘43, and Jack Gray did it in ‘47).

Today, Pat Knight is a scout for the Indiana Pacers.

That Beard wound up back in Lubbock to coach this program is a demonstration of his affinity for West Texas, and why everyone associated with the school should thank God he doesn’t hold a grudge, unlike his mentor, Knight.

THE BEST PARTS OF BOB KNIGHT

Shortly after Bob Knight was hired by Tech he added his son, Pat, to his staff. Then Bob looked for an assistant coach who knew Texas. The name that repeatedly came up was Chris Beard.

By that point, he had served as a student manager for Tom Penders at Texas; Beard had worked for a year at Incarnate Word, and then joined Danny Kaspar’s staff at Abilene Christian; then Beard worked for Vic Trilli at North Texas before leaving to be a head coach on the juco level.

“So he becomes the head coach at Fort Scott Community College in Kansas where the basketball team shared an arena with the rodeo team,” said Beard’s future assistant, Cinco Boone, who is now the head coach at Angelo State. “They can smell the hay and the manure during practice.”

Then Beard arrived in Lubbock to work under Knight. Beard took the best parts of Knight, and none of the defining self-righteous anger associated with one of the most polarizing men in modern sport.

Pat Knight can never be faulted for being handed the Texas Tech job; he simply benefited from a dad trying to make up for so much when his son was younger. I have wondered if Pat actually wanted this job, or took it because his father arranged it, or because he was not sure what else to do.

In six-plus seasons at Tech, and Lamar, Pat Knight was 79-123.

BEARD IS THE KING OF WEST TEXAS

By all accounts, Pat Knight is a nice, decent guy, but despite his last name was simply not made to be a coach of a big program. Beard was.

After Tech fired Pat Knight in the spring of ‘11, Beard was out of a job.

“Then he goes to the ABA, just to stay relevant and keep his name alive,” Boone said.

After Beard left Pat Knight’s staff, which today sounds insulting, he was the head coach of an ABA team, McMurry, Angelo State, and Arkansas-Little Rock; Beard climbed the way a coach is supposed to, rather than simply rely on the can’t-beat plan of nepotism.

Like so many people who survived Knight, Beard is a better coach because of the experience. He’s also nothing like Bob Knight.

Whereas Bob Knight loathed anyone who dares disagree with him, Beard clearly understands the world in which he coaches. Knight could not help but fight the world. Beard just deals with it.

“No one understands his players better than he does,” Boone said. “I am talking about the cell-phone, social media world. The guy has a way of getting on their level to understand them. ... And I truly believes he loves West Texas and Lubbock.”

Watching Texas Tech today it looks like some of Knight’s best teams at Indiana; without the best talent, Tech wins thanks to a relentless defense, constant motion, and is a team in the conventional sense.

Texas Tech now has the winner it wanted, it just came from a Beard rather than a Knight.

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