April 14, 2016 - 9:51 pm
Four months later, four months after they sent this entire escapade into motion by firing a coach midseason when nobody fires a coach, four months after a process that was viewed nationally as disjointed and unbecoming to those running it, UNLV officials can wake up today with this truth: The past 24 hours is not their fault.
You are about to enter another dimension, all right, not only of sight and sound, but of mind and very large athletic department budgets and, in the curious case of Chris Beard, a massive pull at heartstrings.
It is a journey into a wondrous land of imagination and negotiation, of dominoes falling in the most astonishing and unforeseen ways.
Next stop, the Twilight Zone that is college basketball coaching searches.
Beard is the new/old/in/out/committed/departing UNLV coach who was in talks Thursday night with Texas Tech officials to become that school’s new coach, ones that were followed by several news reports in Texas and Las Vegas that he had indeed accepted the position.
Not so fast.
“Late this afternoon, I was contacted by the athletics director at Texas Tech seeking permission to speak with Coach Beard about its men’s basketball head coaching vacancy,” UNLV athletic director Tina Kunzer-Murphy said in a statement. “This evening, Coach Beard met with officials from Texas Tech. We were made aware of the meeting before it took place. I have since met with Coach Beard, and we have agreed to have this resolved by tomorrow.”
Most believe he will take the Texas Tech job.
Why wouldn’t he?
Why shouldn’t he?
No one could have seen this coming. Nobody.
Beard immediately arrived on Texas Tech’s radar once Tubby Smith bolted from the Red Raiders for Memphis on Thursday morning and a $15.45 million deal over five years, a position that opened when Josh Pastner parlayed the past two seasons of no NCAA Tournament berths into a contract worth more than $11 million over six years at Georgia Tech, which is actually less than he was making with the Tigers.
Yeah. I know. Crazy.
Pastner to Smith to Beard? Come on.
Texas Tech is Beard’s dream job, a place he spent 10 years as an assistant coach, a town in Lubbock where he has countless friends and supporters, many of them very powerful, who want him to take the job.
Texas Tech is a much better team than UNLV today.
In a much, much, much (times 100) better conference in the Big 12.
A job that would pay a lot more money and unquestionably not include some bizarre two-hour confirmation meeting with regents.
To that end, if UNLV must yet again hire a coach, can we extend the public comments portion of the meeting to 10 minutes each just for kicks and giggles?
Most important, Texas Tech is home for Beard.
His three daughters, his life, his world, live in the state. Two were born in Lubbock.
He has no loyalty to UNLV. He has been in Las Vegas for, like, five seconds. This is the business, and it can be brutal for those schools left stranded and in need of another coach believing it just landed one for the long term. It’s not pretty, it’s not clean, it’s not fair in many instances. But you understand it when taking jobs in college sports.
Some said Beard was undecided on taking the job after meeting with Texas Tech. Maybe he stays. Maybe this is resolved in a way that UNLV isn’t holding a news conference next week for its fourth coach since Jan. 10.
Either way, things aren’t great at UNLV. Players were upset with Kunzer-Murphy that their voices and opinions weren’t heard as loudly as they desired during the search and that they weren’t, as promised, the first to learn who would be hired as coach. They felt disrespected, and now many have departed the program.
Now, this with Texas Tech and Beard.
If he leaves, it makes sense given his deep ties to Texas Tech and what would be a chance to be closer to his children. No one should deny the man such an opportunity. If he stays, the Rebels can move forward under his guidance and hope he can rebuild the program as they believed when hiring him.
Much of how the search clumsily moved along to this point falls on Kunzer-Murphy and president Len Jessup. Perception is reality, and this entire process was perceived in a negative light across the country.
But the past 24 hours isn’t anyone’s fault. It’s the business. It’s how college athletics often works. It’s another dimension, one of sight and sound and very large athletic department budgets and, in the case of Beard, a massive pull at heartstrings.
He has an opportunity to go home. Maybe he will. Maybe he won’t.
Either way, Thursday gave us a firsthand and detailed glimpse of what is the Twilight Zone that is college basketball coaching searches.
Ed Graney can be reached at email@example.com or 702-383-4618. He can be a heard on “Seat and Ed” on Fox Sports 1340 from 2 p.m. to 4 p.m. Monday through Friday. On Twitter: @edgraney