Ole Miss has named Chris Beard as its new men’s basketball coach, replacing Kermit Davis, who was fired on Feb. 24.
This is an absolute grand slam of a hire by Ole Miss Athletic Director Keith Carter, who also brought Lane Kiffin to Oxford less than a month after taking over as his alma mater’s AD.
Beard took Texas Tech to the finals of the 2019 NCAA Tournament, but the Red Raiders lost to Virginia in overtime. He has taken three different programs to the NCAA Tournament since 2016.
Many consider Beard to be one of the nation’s top-five coaches, including this scribe.
He was available after being fired by his alma mater, Texas, about nine weeks ago on Jan. 5. Beard had been on indefinite suspension without pay since his arrest on Dec. 12 of 2022. Beard was booked on a third-degree felony assault charge against a family member for impeding breath circulation.
According to the police report from the Travis County Sheriff’s Department, Beard’s fiancee Randi Trew told officers he “choked me, bit me, bruises all over my leg, throwing me around, and going nuts.”
Trew walked back those allegations when she released a statement on Dec. 23, denying that Beard choked her and claimed that she “initiated a physical struggle.” The charges were dropped on Feb. 15 when Travis County District Attorney Jose Garza announced that he could not get a conviction based on the case evidence and Drew’s desire not to prosecute.
After the charges were dropped, Beard released a statement: “I am pleased with the announcement that the charges against me have been dismissed. While I always had faith and confidence in the truth and this outcome, it has been extremely challenging to wait patiently and not publicly respond. I’m sorry and deeply remorseful to my family, friends, all my players and staff both most recent and past, and everyone at my alma mater The University of Texas.”
Beard still hasn’t faced the press since his arrest. Whether he’ll address the incident, the arrest and his dismissal at Texas during his opening presser remains to be seen, but the questions about that night will undoubtedly be asked.
The 50-year-old Beard began his career as a grad assistant at Texas from 1991-95. After one year as a grad assistant at Incarnate Word, he spent one season as an assistant at Abilene Christian. Then after two seasons on Vic Trilli’s staff at North Texas, Beard took his first head-coaching gig at Fort Scott Community College.
He lasted one season at Fort Scott, guiding it to a 19-12 record that was its first winning season in eight years. Beard left after that lone campaign and moved to Seminole St. Junior College as HC for one season. He led Seminole St. JC to a 25-6 record and finished the year ranked 14th in the nation.
Next, Beard joined the staff of legendary HC Bobby Knight at Texas Tech. He remained with the Red Raiders throughout Knight’s tenure that ended in 2008 and through Pat Knight’s reign in Lubbock that was terminated in 2011.
After one year as HC of the South Carolina Warriors, an ABA semi-pro team in Myrtle Beach that he led to a 29-2 record, Beard became HC at McMurry, a Division-II school (at that time) in Abilene. Following one season at McMurry, Beard spent two seasons as HC at Angelo St., where he compiled a 47-15 record.
On April 8 of 2015, he was hired by Arkansas-Little Rock. In his lone season with the Trojans, Beard led them to a 30-5 record, winning the Sun Belt Conference Tournament and regular-season championship. As a No. 12 seed in the NCAA Tournament, Arkansas-Little Rock beat Purdue 85-83 in double overtime as an 8.5-point underdog. The Trojans lost 78-61 to Iowa St. in the Round of 32 as 5.5-point ‘dogs.
Beard was named the Sun Belt’s Coach of the Year. He parlayed that success into landing the UNLV gig eight days after losing to the Cyclones. But when Tubby Smith left Texas Tech to take the Memphis job two weeks later, Beard bolted on the Rebels to return to Texas Tech.
He went 18-14 in his first year with the Red Raiders, but they advanced to the Elite Eight in Year 2. Beard’s second team in 2017-18 finished 27-10 overall. Year 3 ended with a 31-7 record and the OT loss to the Cavaliers.
In 2019-20, Texas Tech finished 18-13 and was on the NCAA Tournament bubble going into the Big 12 Tournament. That bubble status was rendered irrelevant when the 2020 NCAA Tournament was cancelled due to the global pandemic. The Red Raiders were a No. 6 seed in the 2021 NCAA Tournament, beating Utah St. 65-53 in the opening round. They lost a 68-66 decision to Arkansas in the Round of 32.
Ten days later, Beard became the 25th head coach at the University of Texas. It seemed as if Beard would live out the rest of his coaching days with the Longhorns, who went 22-12 in Year 1 and defeated Va. Tech in the first round of the 2021 NCAA Tournament.
Texas entered this season ranked and was off to a 7-1 start before Beard’s arrest. Without Beard, the Longhorns won the Big 12 Tournament with a win over Kansas in the finals this past Saturday night. They’re 26-8, going 19-7 under interim HC Rodney Terry, and seeded second in the Midwest Region.
Most books have Texas installed as a 13.5-point favorite for Thursday’s opening-round game vs. Colgate at Wells Fargo Arena in Des Moines, IA.
Beard has a 237-98 career record for a 70.7 winning percentage. He has a 10-4 career record in the NCAA Tournament.
Ole Miss hasn’t been to the NCAA Tournament since Davis’s first season in 2019. The Rebels have made only one Sweet 16 appearance in program history back in 2001 under Rod Barnes.
I suspect that Beard will have Ole Miss back in the Sweet 16 for the first time in 20-plus years in the not-too-distant future. In fact, given his track record of success, Beard will likely take Ole Miss basketball to unprecedented heights, and a national championship certainly isn’t out of the question at some point during his reign in Oxford.
Meanwhile, Carter’s stock as an AD continues to soar. If he can get Kiffin to start using some common sense on fourth down and not remain married to his “live by analytics, die by analytics” mantra, the Rebels might soon be able to claim the best football-basketball coaching combo in the country.