LUBBOCK, Texas — From the familiar feel of West Texas winds to being closer to his three daughters, Texas Tech basketball coach Chris Beard says returning to the school he considers home was too great to resist.
“It’s like when Bear Bryant left Texas A&M for Alabama,” Beard said Saturday at a campus news conference. “He said, ‘When momma calls, you’ve gotta go home.’ Texas Tech is my momma and I’m home. I’m so glad to be here.”
Beard bolted for Texas Tech a week after signing a five-year contract with UNLV. He called leaving Las Vegas a “difficult situation” but said, “I walked away with the utmost respect for the character and class of that university.”
Beard coached Arkansas-Little Rock last season to a school-record 30 wins in his first year as a Division I head coach. He drew national praise, with the 12th-seeded Trojans upsetting Purdue in the first round of the NCAA Tournament.
That success propelled him to UNLV. But Texas Tech called when Tubby Smith left to coach Memphis, and it was a call he had to answer. He said that even the windy flight into Lubbock, which unnerved one of his assistants, was a sign this was the right choice.
“That’s just a little breeze. That’s God taking us where we’re supposed to be, and that’s Lubbock, Texas,” Beard said.
Beard was a Texas Tech assistant from 2001-2011 and several of those years were spent working under Bob Knight. Beard said they spoke a few days ago.
“He made it really, really clear his view of Las Vegas versus Lubbock. Coach loves Lubbock,” Beard said.
Beard choked up briefly when he noted he’ll be closer to his daughters who joined him at the news conference. Two of them were born in Lubbock.
Beard has a 171-50 coaching record and inherits a team that was 19-13 last season under Smith. The Red Raiders lost to Butler in the opening round of the NCAA Tournament.
“This is not a rebuild,” Beard said. “These guys were in the NCAA Tournament. Our job is to take this to the next level.”