Texas Tech players say they're going to try to "lock down" Michigan State. Matt Charboneau, The Detroit News
Minneapolis – Whenever Michigan State is on the national stage, its coach is usually the most popular figure among those covering the event.
From the Champions Classic to the Big Ten tournament to the Final Four, Tom Izzo’s engaging personality draws plenty of cameras and microphones, all looking for the next interesting story and buzz-worthy quote from the man in his 24th season leading the Spartans.
At this year’s Final Four, Izzo has a challenger.
That person is Texas Tech head coach Chris Beard. In addition to leading the top defensive team in the nation to the program’s first Final Four and earning Associated Press Coach of the Year honors on Thursday, he’s also had quite the coaching journey, one that has produced its share of stories.
From late-night movies to cramming into hotel rooms with eight other coaches, Beard, 46, has been at every level. He’s coached in junior college, Division II and the ABA before landing his first shot at a Division I head coaching job at Arkansas Little Rock in 2015, which led to taking over at Texas Tech 2016.
As he and the Red Raiders continued to get ready for Saturday’s 8:49 p.m. tip-off with Michigan State, Beard shared a few of his more memorable moments.
While talking about his history with assistant Mark Adams, which included going to late-night movies together, he recalled the time the only late showing was of the movie “Sex and the City.” Beard wasn’t sure about two guys sitting together at that movie.
Adams convinced him it was no big deal, so that’s what they did.
“I'm actually not against ‘Sex and the City,’ I thought it was a great show,” Beard said. “Is it HBO? My oldest daughter watched it -- Carrie and Big. My oldest daughter goes to Columbia University now, which is in the city, so we see some of the things. So I'm not against ‘Sex and the City.’ I'm just against going to the 10:35 movie with another friend of mine and watching ‘Sex and the City.’”
Before becoming a head coach, Beard spent his share of time as an assistant, including at Texas Tech under Bob Knight. The Final Four is annually the site of the coaching convention, which means a chance for assistants around the country to network.
Many of those assistants have yet to land a big contract, which means lots of sharing of hotel rooms.
“When I was an assistant and you come to the Final Four and you don't have a room, and you just beg one of your buddies that's in Division I to crash on their floor,” Beard said. “I've been in a lot of rooms where it's two guys in each bed without the comforters because you got two more people on the floor with the comforters, and then one maybe in the bathroom bathtub with the pillows. We put eight deep before in a Marriott Courtyard, I promise you.
“The problem is in the mornings with the towel situation because I'm not really a big believer -- I guess I'll share a bar of soap if you wash it really good, but I'm not sharing a towel with any other man, you know. But we used to come to the Final Fours and bring our own towels, true story.”
Beard, of course, has moved beyond those days. He’s been named the Big 12 Coach of the Year two straight seasons, and after getting the Red Raiders to the Elite Eight last season, they’re now on the verge of reaching the national championship game.
But Beard hasn’t forgotten what it took to get here and wanted to send that message to other young coaches out there following a similar path.
“I tell the guys to never forget where they come from and be you, and certainly a part of my journey that's being documented now, and I'm proud of it,” Beard said. “I wouldn't trade my coaching path for anything. Whether it be the junior college or ABA or small college. Very, very blessed to be here and feel like I represent a lot of people on this stage that have coached at schools that are really good coaches that have coached great players and never had the chance under these lights.
“For that young coach out there like me that sat in the open practices for 22 years and dreamed about being there, don't give up. Keep at it. This game's bigger than any of us. This game isn't about your predecessors. It's basketball, man. If you keep doing it, it will give you a chance at some point.”
At U.S. Bank Stadium, Minneapolis
►Virginia (33-3) vs. Auburn (30-9), 6:09 p.m. (CBS)
►Michigan State (32-6) vs. Texas Tech (30-6), 8:49 p.m. (CBS)
►Championship, 9 p.m. (CBS)