AUSTIN, Texas — Texas men's basketball head coach Chris Beard made something very clear Friday morning at his introductory press conference.
The expectations at Texas do not scare him in the slightest.
Having coached against Texas as the head coach at Texas Tech for the last five seasons, and being a former student assistant under Tom Penders on the Forty Acres, Beard is well aware of the immense pressure found in Austin. But instead of running from it, he plans to embrace it.
"The expectations don't scare me," Beard said. "It's why I'm here. I'm so proud to be back. I've gotten a lot of calls over the last couple of days and the thing that kept coming up was the expectations, those standards, the urgency of what's going on there, the timeliness. 'Got to get it done quickly. Do you understand?
"Let me be clear, I understand the standards at the University of Texas. I understand where our men's basketball program is ... and is going to be and deserves to be. The expectations don't scare me. Don't let it get twisted: the expectations are why I'm here."
Beard laid out his "master plan" for getting the men's basketball program, coming off its first Big 12 championship, to the point where it competes for national championships. The Marietta, Ga., native called Texas "a Monday night program" and noted two key areas that he wants to see improved in order to get Texas men's basketball to that level consistently.
"We've got to unite the Texas basketball family," Beard said. "When Texas basketball is united, it is powerful. We've got to embrace the past players, the past coaches. We've got to get everybody back under the same umbrella, all striving for the same things.
"The second thing is, college basketball is about the players. The players are No. 1, No. 2, No. 3 ... and I can keep going. This thing is all about players, so as we unite the fanbase, the former players, everybody here to make this engine and machine the most powerful in college basketball again. It's all about the players as we ignite that."
Having come from a well-paying job at Texas Tech, Beard noted that taking the position at Texas was not about the money, as many coaching hires are. Instead, he is focused on winning. Texas gave him that opportunity.
"I don't coach for money. I coach to win," Beard said. "I want to win championships. I want our players to win. To me, that's graduation, that's life. [Leaving Tech] was one of the most difficult decisions of my life, for what we built at Texas Tech. I have nothing but respect for that place. But to me, I live my life with a philosophy of no regrets. To have a chance to coach at the University of Texas, where this challenge and opportunity and the power of this institution and fan base and history and tradition ... To me, special is Monday night."
Beard spoke multiple times about recruiting, and noted that the NCAA transfer portal could be used to help build UT's roster next season. While he emphasized the important of bringing in experience, he also indicated Texas could begin pursuing more "one and done" players, as the program will embrace young talent.
"I do think there's a relationship between experience and winning," Beard said. "I think that we've executed that as well as anybody in college basketball. This league, the Big 12, I'm very familiar with, obviously, so we're going to try to stay old, but we're also going to embrace the talent [of] the young players.
"I'm a proud coach of several of the recent 'one-and-dones'. Some of the best players to play at the University of Texas were guys that made it to the NBA quickly. Yes, we're going to stay old, but we're not afraid to put five T.J. Fords out there. I don't care if they're 16 years old."
Part of that mentality stems from Beard's experience coaching small college basketball, known for high roster turnover. He served as head coach at Fort Scott Community College from 2000-01 and at Seminole State Junior College from 2001-02. He also spent a year at Div. III McMurry University during the 2012-13 season.
"I think specifically it always has kind of been in my comfort zone with rosters turning over starting with my background in small college basketball and junior college basketball," Beard said. "It's been what I've used to. So when college basketball has changed, grad transfer rules a few years ago, most recently the [transfer] portal, it's never been out of my comfort zone."
While it can be easy with a new coaching staff to look towards the future, Beard was clear in that the current team is his top priority. Technically, under a Oct. 14, 2020 ruling by the NCAA, all winter sport athletes were granted an additional year of eligibility, so Texas' entire roster could return. Kai Jones and Greg Brown have both been talked about as candidates to declare for the 2021 NBA Draft, but nothing has been announced publicly.
"The most important thing are the guys on this roster right now," Beard said. "I look forward to developing a relationship, listening a lot more than I talk and just trying to figure out where everybody is right now."
As a head coach, he is 9-3 in the NCAA Tournament. At Texas Tech, Beard led the Red Raiders on an improbable run to the 2019 national championship game, a run that included victories over Michigan, Michigan State and Gonzaga, before falling to Virginia 85-77 in overtime.
"One of the main reasons I'm here is the hunger of this fan base," Beard said. "Nobody can match my hunger. I love being around people that have high expectations, I love challenges, and I like proving people wrong, quickly."