Texas Tech Coach Chris Beard has led the Red Raiders to eight wins in the NCAA Tournament, which is just as many as the rest of the coaches in Texas Tech history combined. Don’t forget, he’s been with the Red Raiders for just three seasons and his predecessors include national championship-winning coaches Bob Knight and Tubby Smith.
You can make the case that Beard’s first four seasons as an NCAA Division I head coach, which includes one season at Little Rock and the last three in Lubbock, is one of the five most impressive four-year starts to a Division I coaching career – at least in the NCAA Tournament era – especially considering the schools where he has worked.
Beard has won nearly 75 percent of his games as a head coach, including a pair of 30-win seasons and three NCAA Tournament appearances, which culminated in a national runner-up finish this year.
Here’s how Beard’s already-impressive resume stacks up to other notable four-year starts for NCAA Division I head coaches.
Stevens only spent six seasons as a DI head coach at Butler before he was hired by the Boston Celtics. The Bulldogs spent his first five years in the Horizon League before jumping to the A-10 for the 2013 season.
So Butler was still a lovable mid-major, not yet a member of the Big East, when Stevens took the Bulldogs to the national championship game in back-to-back years in 2010 and 2011.
He had a 117-25 record (82.3%) in his first four seasons with four NCAA Tournament appearances and an 11-4 record in the tournament. Stevens, 42, could have been an all-time great college basketball coach and he would likely have get the best job available if he ever returns to the college game.
Even though Stevens didn’t win a title in his first four seasons, he probably had the best four-year start to a Division I head coaching career that didn’t include a national championship, at least in the modern era.
If we’re strict about defining the lens of this story as the first four years of a head coaching career, then we can’t include Fisher’s six-game run in the 1989 NCAA Tournament, when he was on the sideline for Michigan’s national title run.
Another reason that Fisher’s case is tough to evaluate is because the Wolverines’ back-to-back national runners-up finishes in 1992 and 1993 – during Year 3 and Year 4 of Fisher’s DI head coaching career, similar to Brad Stevens – were later vacated.
Technically, his official record in the first four seasons in which he was a head coach is 61-31 (66.3%) with two NCAA Tournament appearances and a 5-1 record in the tournament, when taking into account the vacated games from the 1992 Final Four and Michigan’s vacated 1993 season.
If we include vacated games (because yes, they happened, even if they’re not officially recognized) but not the ’89 title, Fisher’s record in his first four years as a head coach becomes 93-37 (71.5%) with three NCAA Tournament appearances and an 11-3 tournament record.
That’s just as much NCAA Tournament success as Stevens but with one less NCAA Tournament appearance and slightly less than four fewer wins per season, on average.
Depending on when you count Fisher’s head coaching career as starting (the 1989 NCAA Tournament or the start of the 1989-90 season) and whether or not you consider Michigan’s since-vacated wins, he arguably had one of the greatest starts in the first four years of a DI head coaching career.
Ollie won the national championship in his second year as UConn’s head coach in 2014, so even though the Huskies missed the NCAA Tournament in Year 5 and Year 6 of his tenure, which ended after the 2018 season, he undoubtedly had one of the greatest four-year starts to a DI head coaching tenure.
He was 97-44 (68.7%) in his first four years at UConn, which included two NCAA Tournament appearances (the Huskies were ineligible for the postseason in 2013) and a 7-1 tournament record.
Ollie’s detractors could argue that he won with Jim Calhoun’s players, including seniors Shabazz Napier, Niels Giffey and Tyler Olander, who helped the Huskies win the national title in 2011, but the fact of the matter is Ollie was still the head coach of a No. 7 seed that won the championship in Year 2.
That certainly counts for something.
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Whether you want to examine Beard’s first four years by his win total, winning percentage, number of NCAA Tournament appearances or NCAA Tournament wins, his resume is incredibly impressive for every criteria and stacks up favorably to just about any other coach in the history of the sport.
Here are some other current and former NCAA DI head coaches with impressive four-year starts to their head coaching careers, listed in descending order of the number of NCAA Tournament wins in their first four seasons.
|Coach||Year 1||Year 2||Year 3||Year 4||Total Record||Win %||Tournament Appearances||Tournament Record|
*Fisher was Michigan’s interim coach during the 1989 NCAA Tournament, when the Wolverines won the national championship. Michigan’s two games in the 1992 Final Four and its entire 1993 season was vacated.
Larry Brown, who was a head coach in the ABA for seven years before becoming UCLA’s head coach, would’ve made the list above if not for the Bruins’ five wins and national runner-up finish in the 1980 NCAA Tournament being vacated. Including games later vacated, his record in his first four seasons as a college head coach was 90-35 (72%) with four NCAA Tournament appearances and an 8-4 tournament record.
Now the question is what does Beard have for a (second) encore?
Texas Tech lost five of its top six scorers from its Elite Eight team in 2018 and he reloaded with a couple grad transfers to surround future NBA Draft lottery pick Jarrett Culver. The Red Raiders will likely lose four of their top five scorers, plus another starter, from their co-Big 12 regular season title-winning team that played for a national title this year.
Texas Tech is No. 18 in Stadium’s Preseason Top 25 for the 2019-2020 season and it wouldn’t be a surprise for the school to offer Beard a hefty contract extension to ward off potential suitors.
For a Division I head coach with four seasons under his belt, his resume is as impressive as just about any coach in the history of the sport.