The off-court issue involving Chris Beard has been well documented, first and foremost, and the timing of his hiring is less than ideal.
There’s been plenty of critics including coaches and administrators who might be a little worried about competition in the SEC and fans who just want to express whatever outrage at the situation.
All that aside for this post. Flipping over to the basketball side of things, Chris Beard is a really, really good coach and recruiter - very much possible the most talented coach Ole Miss basketball has ever had.
Beard has never, not once, had a losing season as a collegiate head coach. From his start at McMurry to his recent stint at Texas, he has amassed a career record of 237-98 (70.7%). Obviously, if he wants a decade long streak of never having a losing record to continue, he will have his work cut out for him in Oxford.
The question comes down to who he can bring in and/or retain year one on the job. Can he keep Matthew Murrell and one of Daeshun Ruffin or Amaree Abram? With Brakefield unable to play right away elsewhere, could Beard convince him to stay as well? The status of Malique Ewin is also important, but the good news is the reported retention of four star All-Arkansas Rashaud Marshall.
The good news is Beard is one hell of a recruiter. The transfer portal will fill up here soon and I imagine with the departure of at least seven players, he will reload no problem.
Some potential targets include Jamison Battle from Minnesota, Kowacie Reeves from Florida, Tray Jackson from Seton Hall, Chuck Harris from Butler and Robert Jennings from Texas Tech.
Recruiting is half the battle though, and former head coach Kermit Davis was able to put together some of the best recruiting classes in program history. However, coaches making those pieces work together on the floor has to happen after that.
Here’s a look at what Beard has done in the first year at each of his stops:
- McMurry 19-10 (20-9 previous year)
- Angelo State 19-9 (7-19)
- Little Rock 30-5 (13-18)
- Texas Tech 18-14 (19-13) followed Tubby Smith
- Texas 22-12 (19-8) followed Shaka Smart
So in five previous stops, Beard inherited a losing program twice and had immediate turnaround. All he did at Texas Tech was go to an Elite 8 in year two followed by finishing as the runner ups in the NCAA Tournament in year three. His first year at Tech is also the only year his team did not make the NCAA Tournament during his Division-I coaching career.
So what does he do that makes his teams successful on the floor? For starters, Beard is a Bob Knight disciple, spending a decade with him and Pat Knight at Texas Tech before becoming a head coach.
Beard runs a motion offense that is predicated on off-ball movement. There is not a heavy reliance upon guard dominant play as his offense instead creates open looks with several off-ball screens. The more screens set, the higher the chance for a breakdown in communication by the defense.
Ole Miss fans just saw the departure of a coach that hung his hat on the defensive end of the floor, and everyone wants to see high scoring games because they’re more fun. But Beard’s Texas Tech team that made a run at the National Championship put up the best defensive rating KenPom had seen up until that point.
The difference? It’s not the same ole 1-3-1 morphing into a 2-3 that we have seen even through the Andy Kennedy days. No, no siree. This is a defense that is not too different of a style than that of Coach Yo on the women’s side. They are going to get after you and put you in hell for forty minutes.
The premise of a Beard defense is protecting the middle of the floor. Offensively, when a player gets to the middle of the floor, the probability of a defensive breakdown increases significantly. It forces players into help, potentially leaving an open kick out or a back door cut. Keeping the ball to a side of the floor can really shut down an offense.
It does not matter who is on the roster next season, the Rebels will defend and if Coach Beard can retain Murrell and bring in another guy or two that can create their own shot, Ole Miss could return to 20 win seasons rather quickly.