The Texas Tech basketball team has had a wild two weeks and during that time, three Red Raiders have seen their stock rise thanks to improved play.
What a difference a week can make in the world of college basketball. At this time last week, the Red Raiders were fresh off their third straight loss after falling to DePaul and people around the nation were polishing up their articles about how this year’s team overrated and that last year’s national title run was an anomaly.
Six days later, the Red Raiders were once again the toast of the college basketball world after taking down No. 1 Louisville 70-57. The fact that the win came at the Jimmy V Classic, one of the marquee early-season events on the college hoops calendar was an added boost to the program because taking down the top team in the nation is even more noteworthy when it happens at Madison Square Garden in the heart of the media capital of the world.
Not that he needed a boost of his own, but Chris Beard once again finds himself as the darling of the coaching industry following another win that few people outside of the Red Raider program though was possible. Missing his best player, Jahmi’us Ramsey, and having to contend with a veteran Louisville team that returned almost all of last year’s key pieces, Beard seemingly willed his team of freshmen, transfers, and walk-ons to the program’s first-ever win over a No. 1 team.
After the game, the head coach was quick to praise his team in a way that made it feel like he noticed all the talk about the disappointment of Tech’s 3-game losing streak to Iowa, Creighton, and DePaul.
“We started the season I think ranked in the top 25,” Beard said. “We played on a Monday night a few months ago in April. We’re a good program and we’re worthy. We’ve got good players. We work really hard. We respect everybody but we don’t fear anyone. We’ve just been in some close games. We’ve had our share of adversity– one of our best players has been out three and a half games now so next man up.”
Partly issued a reminder of how strong the program he’s built is and partly affirming the work his players have put in thus far, those comments were quintessential Chris Beard. Still maintaining an air of humility while also refusing to give in to the opinions and premature narratives from a knee-jerk fan base and media throng, Beard was again at his best when all eyes were on his program.
He remains the William Wallace of West Texas. A man who could convince anyone on the Caprock from eight to eighty to run through a haboob for him and with each huge win, his grip on the hearts of Red Raider fans around the nation only grows more secure.
Thus, the inevitable and tiresome of discussion about his long-term future at Tech resurfaced. Not even one full day after the win on Tuesday night, Stadium ran a piece in which AD Kirby Hocutt essentially had to defend the quality of his basketball program in response to the idea that Texas, where Beard was once a graduate assistant, might be able to lure the nation’s hottest coach to Austin.
“We have a better job [than Texas],” Hocutt said in the piece. “No doubt in my mind.
“We played on Monday night,” he added. “We were 12 seconds away from raising the trophy.”
Of course, Texas Tech fans are tired of the insinuation that little old Lubbock and dusty West Texas, an area that most of the national media still believe is lit only by wax candles and hand-held kerosene lanterns, is beneath a top coach like Beard. When such burgeoning realms of civilization as Lawrence, Kansas, or Durham, Nort Carolina, or Lexington, Kentucky come calling, how could any sane coach stay in Lubbock where they turn the traffic lights off overnight and the only traffic gridlocks are found in church parking lots on Sunday mornings? And if Beard has the opportunity to relocate to Austin, the cradle of the forward-thinking and progressive world…
On the other hand, it is the highest compliment to the coach and the program he’s built. Red Raider basketball has become the envy of almost every program in the nation and jealousy is the most sincere form of flattery.
We would all agree it is better to try to explain to the rest of the nation why Beard would want to stay in Lubbock than try to explain why any quality football coach would want to come. But really, we can’t concern ourselves with the noise coming from those who don’t understand the bond between this community and its head basketball coach.
In the end, we just have to be thankful that the Red Raiders have seen their stock soar over the last three years to the point that the rest of the country is trying to figure out how to either recreate that success on their own campus or lure the architect away.
While Beard’s stock has been on the rise for the last three years, a phenomenon shows no signs of stopping, there are some players who are starting to see their stock head north as well. In recent weeks, these three Red Raiders have changed the way we view them and what they could bring to this year’s Texas Tech basketball team.