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It was 14 years ago, in Bob Knight's third season as the head coach of the Texas Tech Red Raiders, when the team bolted to a 3-0 record in the Big 12.

On the bench helping coach that team was an unknown guy by the name of Chris Beard.

Fast forward to this basketball season and Beard is now the head coach of the Red Raiders. His career was launched in 2015-2016 after one season leading the the University of Arkansas at Little Rock Trojans to a 30-5 record, including a victory over No. 5 seed Purdue in the NCAA Tournament.

Today, the Red Raiders are 14-1 and ranked No. 8 in the latest Associated Press poll.

Last week, they rolled into Allen Fieldhouse in Lawrence, Kan., and rolled out an 85-73 winner over Kansas.

In less than three seasons, Beard has gone from practically unknown to the hottest name in college basketball.

That he even got the UALR job was a little odd. Dozens of people applied, but new Athletic Director Chasse Conque had decided to use Eddie Fogler to head his search for a new coach.

Fogler was a successful basketball coach at Vanderbilt and South Carolina before he simply refused to play the recruiting games during summer basketball anymore.

He did a little TV, then started his own consulting firm to help schools find a basketball coach.

Fogler turned out to be a bargain at $15,000 as the Trojans had their first sellouts since the Jack Stephens Center opened before winning that opening round game in the NCAA Tournament.

Anyone who watched that game knew Beard has an uncanny feel for the game.

Purdue had a 65-52 lead with 3:33 to play. It appeared over. The altitude of Denver, the Mile High City, seemed to favor the bigger, stronger Boilermakers, but that was when Beard slid off his chair, took a knee as close to the court as he could get, and took control of the tempo and the game.

The next time Purdue scored was with 35 seconds to play for a 68-64 lead.

Lis Soshi's three-pointer made it 68-67, and after the Boilermakers added two free throws, Josh Hagins tied it with a long three-pointer to send it to the first overtime, which ended at 75-75.

In the second overtime, Beard ran the defenses and put the ball in Hagins' hands. The senior scored six points in the second overtime and UALR won 85-83.

Almost before the exhausted Trojans were on the bus back to their hotel, UALR was working to sweeten Beard's compensation.

UALR got the ante up to $400,000 per year, but UNLV offered him almost a million and the native Texan was headed to Glitter Gulch, only to find out the Running Rebels had far more problems than he had been told. When the Red Raiders called less than a week later, it was a no-brainer for Beard.

He was going home. The pay was a little less, but it was a more stable program and his three daughters were just a two-hour drive from Lubbock.

Last season, he led the Red Raiders to an 18-14 mark, but they knocked off West Virginia on the road to send notice Texas Tech was coming back.

This season the Red Raiders won the Hall of Fame Tip Off Classic, drumming Maine before beating Boston College and Northwestern, who was ranked No. 20 at the time.

Beard's only loss was to Seton Hall in Madison Square Garden.

Since opening conference play he has beaten No. 18 Baylor 77-53, Kansas and Kansas State 74-58.

Tonight, the Red Raiders travel to Norman, Okla., to take on the No. 9 Sooners.

The schedule doesn't get much easier, but a guy who launched his career at UALR is the hottest name in college basketball right now.

Sports on 01/09/2018

Print Headline: Beard catapulted his rising star at UALR

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