Chris Beard might just be the most interesting coach in the basketball world.
Consider: Who else can say they accepted two Division I head coaching jobs in less than a month?
Soon after becoming a hot commodity while leading 12th-seeded Little Rock to an upset of fifth seed Purdue in last year’s NCAA tournament, Beard accepted the job as UNLV’s head coach.
But then – when Texas Tech’s top position opened less than a month later – he was on the move again, accepting the head coaching position with the Red Raiders, whom he had been an assistant coach with under legendary coach Bobby Knight.
As Texas Tech gets set to the play in the Big 12 tournament this week, Grand Strand fans should be rooting for the Red Raiders.
Why, you might ask?
Some will remember – while others won’t – that Beard has ties to our area. In yet another strange line on his resume, the man found himself in Myrtle Beach in 2011, when he was the inaugural coach of the South Carolina Warriors, an ABA team that had much success before disbanding after just two seasons.
So as you gear up to watch some conference tournament basketball this week, here are five teams you should be rooting for:
Beard was a bit of a big fish in a small bowl when he arrived in Myrtle Beach to coach the Warriors.
Having developed connections while previously coaching at a Power 5 program, Beard was able to lure a ton of talent to play for the upstart ABA squad.
He brought in several former Division I players, including the likes of Jo Harris and Jack Leasure from Coastal Carolina, and many of them went on to receive lucrative overseas deals, which was one of Beard’s goals for his guys.
Despite having players come and go throughout, the Warriors finished their inaugural season undefeated and made it all the way to the finals, where they lost 2-0 in a best-of-three series to the Jacksonville Giants.
Beard would only coach one season here, leaving thereafter to become the head coach at McMurry University in Texas.
However, while in Myrtle Beach he proved two things. One, he could recruit players. Two, he could flat out coach.
“He’s one of the best coaches I have ever played for,” Harris, who recently retired from international basketball, said Sunday. “He has the ability to motivate, push and challenge all his players while letting you know he loves you and your family.”
Meanwhile, as Beard’s resume suggests, the man certainly marches to the beat of his own drum.
“There is no limits he would not go to for his players. If you don’t know him you would think this guy is crazy, but after spending five minutes with him you would know there is a method to his madness,” Harris said. “I couldn’t be happier for him to be back at home at Texas Tech; he definitely earned it.”
Some of the methods Beard used while in Myrtle Beach are surely similar to those he’s using now in Lubbock. The ABA is a league known for teams coming and going and only in few markets have its squads had long-term success.
However, Beard approached the opportunity here just as he would with any team, often citing strategies he learned from Knight during postgame interviews. Kellen Brand, a former South Carolina Warrior who played collegiately at Appalachian State, is another who witnessed Beard’s abilities firsthand.
“[He’s] easily one of the hardest and passionate coaches I've ever had,” said Brand, who had been playing overseas in recent years but now is working in the ER and preparing to become a firefighter in North Carolina. “He prepared as though every game was a championship game. That was the reason why we had so much success. He was prepared and scouted every team we had to play.”
Beard will be doing plenty of that this week as the Red Raiders start an uphill battle toward an NCAA tournament berth. Texas Tech finished 18-13 overall and 6-12 in conference play, meaning it will likely have to win the tournament to get into the Big Dance. The seventh-seeded Red Raiders open tournament play against No. 10 seed Texas at 9 p.m. Wednesday (ESPNU) in Kansas City, Mo.
However, Beard’s been in the underdog role before and the results speak for themselves.
A message for Big 12 teams this week: Fear the Beard.
Longtime Socastee High School head coach Dan D’Antoni is in his third year as head coach at his alma mater, Marshall, and he is still seeking his first NCAA tournament berth.
The Thundering Herd have some work to do this week if they want to go dancing.
Marshall finished 17-14 and 10-8 in Conference USA play. Therefore, the Thundering Herd will be a No. 6 seed as they begin the conference tournament against 11th-seeded Florida Atlantic at 9 p.m. Wednesday in Birmingham, Ala.
D’Antoni – a local legend who has done a lot for this area – will have plenty of folks on the Grand Strand rooting him on this week. Count yours truly – one of his former players – among those adopting the Herd this week.
Tre’Darius McCallum’s road to Division I basketball took a side route as he played a couple years at Indian Hills Community College in Iowa before getting his chance at DePaul.
The guy many referred to as “Baby Durant” while playing at St. James High and in pickup games in area gyms has been effective in his first season in Chicago. The 6-foot-7 junior is averaging 9.6 points, 6.6 rebounds and nearly a block per game for the Blue Demons.
However, his squad has an uphill battle as it enters the Big East tournament this week. At 9-22 overall and 2-16 in conference play, DePaul surely will have to win the tournament to go dancing. The 10th-seeded Blue Demons begin their quest against seventh-seeded Xavier at 9:30 p.m. Wednesday (FS1) in New York.
Nonetheless, many around the area will be tuning in to root on McCallum and Co. this week. Count me in.
Coastal Carolina men
The Coastal Carolina men have had their ups and downs in their debut season in the Sun Belt Conference. In a league that has plenty of parity, the Chanticleers finished the regular season 15-16 overall and 10-8 in conference play to earn the eighth seed.
A tournament title will certainly be a necessity if CCU wants to get back to the Big Dance. The Chants open against ninth-seeded South Alabama at 11:30 a.m. Wednesday in New Orleans.
This is one team we don’t have to adopt as the Chants are the Grand Strand’s team.
Coastal Carolina women
Like their HTC Center coinhabitants, the CCU women have found themselves in the middle of the Sun Belt pack.
The Chants finished 13-15 overall and 8-10 in conference play to earn the No. 8 seed for the tournament. They open the postseason against ninth-seeded Appalachian State at 12:30 p.m. Tuesday in New Orleans.
Once again, go Chants!
The Coastal Carolina men’s basketball team opens the Sun Belt Conference tournament on Wednesday with an 11:30 a.m. contest against South Alabama in New Orleans. Should the Chants make a run to the title game, they would play at 2 p.m. Sunday (ESPN2). … The CCU women’s basketball team opens the Sun Belt Conference tournament on Tuesday with a 12:30 p.m. game against Appalachian State in New Orleans. Should the Chants make a run to the title game, they would play at 7 p.m. Sunday (ESPN3). … CCU’s baseball team hosts Wake Forest at 4 p.m. Wednesday before hosting Illinois for a three-game set Friday through Sunday. Game times are 4 p.m., 2 p.m. and 1 p.m., respectively. … The CCU women’s lacrosse team plays at UC Davis at 2 p.m. Monday, at Fresno State at 5 p.m. Wednesday and vs. Vanderbilt at 1 p.m. Sunday. … Coastal Carolina’s women’s golf team plays in the Bay Area Intercollegiate on Monday and Tuesday in California. … The CCU men’s golf team plays in the Cleveland Golf Palmetto Collegiate on Monday and Tuesday in Aiken. The Chants then host the General Hackler Championship on Saturday and Sunday at The Dunes Golf & Beach Club. … The Coastal softball team hosts Virginia Tech at 6 p.m. Tuesday, Northern Kentucky at 1 p.m. Wednesday and Robert Morris at 2 p.m. Thursday before playing a three-game series against Texas Tech Saturday and Sunday. Times for Saturday’s doubleheader are 1 p.m. and 3 p.m., while Sunday’s game is scheduled for noon. … The CCU women’s tennis team hosts Richmond at 10 a.m. Tuesday and Ashland at a time TBA Thursday. … The Coastal men’s tennis team hosts Creighton at a time TBA Tuesday and James Madison at 7 p.m. Friday. 12th-seeded Clemson begins ACC tournament play against 13th-seeded N.C. State at noon Tuesday (ESPN2). Should the Tigers advance to the title game, they would play at 9 p.m. Saturday. … South Carolina begins the SEC tournament with a quarterfinal match against an opponent TBD around 2:30 p.m. Friday (SEC). Should the Gamecocks advance to the title game, they would play at noon Sunday (ESPN). … The World Baseball Classic begins Monday in the United States, Japan, South Korea and Mexico. … The NASCAR Monster Energy circuit heads to Las Vegas Motor Speedway for the Kobalt 400 at 3:30 p.m. Sunday. … The PGA Tour heads to Palm Harbor, Fla., for the Valspar Championship on Thursday through Sunday. … In men’s and women’s tennis, the ATP & WTA BNP Paribas Open begins Monday in Indian Wells, Calif.