If reports that Shaka Smart is leaving Texas are true, then the Texas Tech basketball program may have to fend off Texas to keep Chris Beard.
It is being reported by multiple sources that Marquette is about to hire Texas’ Shaka Smart to be their head basketball coach. If true, that’s a significant development for Texas Tech basketball fans because it leaves UT with an opening to fill and we all know who will be their top choice.
Chris Beard’s rise in the college basketball coaching world has directly coincided with Smart’s fall. In fact, just about the moment that Beard started to have success in Lubbock is when people in Austin began to start grumbling about Smart’s lack of progress. Thus, it has felt like every offseason has been fraught with rumors of Beard leaving Tech to return to his alma mater.
Now, we could be on the cusp of finding out just where Beard’s heart lies.
Of course, Texas Tech AD Kirby Hocutt saw this possibility coming as well. As part of the 6-year, $27.4 million contract extension Beard received after the 2019 season, a stipulation was put in place that Beard’s buyout would be doubled from $3 million to $6 million should he leave for any school in the Big 12 or the state of Texas. Essentially, this was meant to be a deterrent to the Longhorns and Jayhawks, the only two programs in the conference Beard might entertain at this point.
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Now, $6 million is nothing to the people down on the 40 Acres. UT has the largest athletic budget in the known universe and they would shell out whatever was needed to bring Beard into the fold, especially since it appears they will not have to buy out Smart’s hefty contract.
Thus, this decision would ultimately come down to whether Beard feels he can do more in Austin than he can in Lubbock. I would argue that he can’t.
After all, he’s already taken the Red Raiders to within one possession of winning a national title. What’s more, his program is now housed in one of the finest state-of-the-art practice facilities in America.
Essentially, Texas Tech has done everything it can, short of naming the United Supermarkets Arena after him, to keep Beard happy in Lubbock. He’s built a program that will be an annual top-15 program as long as he’s in charge and he’s proven that he can get that program to the game’s grandest stage.
But he’s likely to have a choice to make this offseason and that could be the toughest decision of his professional career. We all knew this day was likely to arrive at some point. Now, it appears that it might be on the very near horizon.