Texas Tech's Beard's Success Still Echoes at Angelo State
MINNEAPOLIS, MN -- When the Texas Tech Red Raiders square off with the Virginia Cavaliers Monday night for the NCAA Division I basketball championship, there will be a West Texas feel to it.
Not solely for the thousands of Lubbock residents making the 1,100-mile trek, but because current Angelo State Rams head coach Cinco Boone, along with hundreds of Angelo State alums, will be on hand to watch former ASU coach and Associated Press Coach of the Year Chris Beard and the Red Raiders try to wrangle the school’s first ever basketball championship.
Friday night, the day before Texas Tech knocked off Michigan State in the semifinals, Boone and his coaching staff attended an Angelo State party in the Twin Cities. Roughly 200 people from ASU were in attendance, Boone said.
“I told [assistant] coach [David] Lewis this was gonna be one of the most memorable Final Fours ever,” Boone said while navigating downtown Minneapolis. “It was really special that we had an Angelo State party and Chris Beard is playing here, now in the national championship game. I’ve never been to Minneapolis, so this is something I’ll remember for the rest of my life.”
Boone served as Beard’s associate head coach at ASU from 2013-15 when the Rams made a Sweet 16 run and at McMurry during the 2012-13 season. Beard is a product of the coaching tree of legendary coach Bob Knight.
That stint at McMurry came after learning from Danny Kaspar at Stephen F. Austin State University, who Beard worked under at the University of Incarnate Word in 1995.
Boone got a crash course in Beard’s drive for success when the two were at McMurry. A story on ESPN outlined recruiting trips that were spent in the truck rather than a cozy hotel room.
“That just shows you he’s all about business,” Boone said. “It doesn’t matter how big your budget is. It doesn’t matter what kind of a job you’re in -- JUCO, Division I, II or III or NAIA. Whatever job he has, he’s going to give those student-athletes everything that he’s got. And he’s willing to beat the bushes in recruiting to get as good a player as he can get and the right type of player that fits him and his style. Whenever they’re on campus, it’s non-stop taking care of them, helping them, making them better players.”
Boone recalled a photo he was shown that he felt showed the true depth of Beard’s work as a coach. It showed a comparison of all the Final Four teams and their Top-100 recruits. While Auburn, Michigan State and Virginia had multiple, Tech had one, freshman Khavon Moore who has been sidelined with an injury for most of the season.
“That toughness and grit and the hard work and determination is how he’s gotten to this point in his career,” Boone added. “That’s also how this team he’s got right now is gonna win a national championship tonight.”
When Beard left for the University of Arkansas-Little Rock and Boone was promoted to head coach in 2015, Boone, who boasts an incredible resume prior to his time with Beard, felt well-prepared for his first head coaching gig at the NCAA level.
“I felt like we really figured out Division II together in general, because he had never been at that level either [prior to McMurry],” Boone said, later joking that he’s still trying to figure out the Division II level. “I’ve had a lot of really good coaching influences. I worked for Greg Young at [Jacksonville College] in East Texas -- he’s now the associate head coach at UT-Arlington. The head coach at UT-Arlington now is Chris Ogden, who was on Beard’s staff last year at Tech … I also worked at Hardin-Simmons for a guy named Dylan Howard, he’s a Division I head coach at Alabama A&M. So, to have all those influences and all those people and the success they had and to team up with Beard, who has a past with the Knight family and who’s in the Knight coaching tree, is just unreal.”
Boone, who has led ASU to two of their three NCAA tournaments in the last six years and helped on the third, still had to lean on his mentor during his first year at the helm.
“It was crazy in a lot of ways, because I had been a head coach in junior college before, but at a place where I wouldn’t really consider there any pressure,” Boone said. “After I get named the coach, I’m trying to follow up a Sweet 16 and fill Chris Beard’s shoes. That was a pretty hard year.”
Boone admitted he was to blame for most of that pressure he felt early on at Angelo State.
“There were a lot of phone conversations with Beard in terms of how do you defend that and how do you replicate or go further than me and him did together,” he added. “We talked all the time and he gave a lot of great advice.”
Now, daily basketball conversations between the two have tapered off in frequency, but have picked up in substance.
“It’s no longer that kind of conversation. It’s more of ‘What do you think about this in scheduling,’ ‘How are you going to defend the ball screen against Baylor, do you think it’ll work when we play Tarleton,” Boone said. “It’s turned into more basketball. He’s a real close friend … For three years we did everything together from lunch to eating supper every night. He was at our house nearly every night.”
Beard fits Texas Tech like Mike Leach did on the football field or his mentor Bob Knight did. But why? Boone says, despite his Metroplex roots, Beard understands West Texas.
“He wasn’t raised in West Texas, but he represents everything I think West Texas people stand for,” Boone said. “In terms of just hard work, grit, toughness, you know? [He has] great morals, is a very genuine guy. Not an arrogant guy, not a fake guy, but a very much real guy, a genuine guy.”