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Texas Tech coach Chris Beard in driver’s seat as Red Raiders eye trip to Final Four

Head coach Chris Beard of the Texas Tech

Head coach Chris Beard of the Texas Tech Red Raiders reacts against the Purdue Boilermakers during the second half in the 2018 NCAA Tournament East Regional at TD Garden on March 23, 2018 in Boston. Credit: Getty Images / Elsa

BOSTON — On his long and eventful journey in coaching, Chris Beard of Texas Tech always has been driven. That is indisputable, even if at least on one level, it is not technically true. At times in his career, he was doing the driving.

In his earlier stops, it was his responsibility to get behind the wheel and make sure he and his team got where they were supposed to go. He mentioned that the other day, when people with all of the teams in the NCAA Tournament East Regional games here told various stories about the difficulties of reaching the Northeast during a nor’easter.

“From my point of view, I’m just glad I’m not driving a 15-passenger van that doesn’t have a heater, that has a gas leak and only an AM radio,” he said. “AM radio is not bad. Great talk radio on AM.”

Mostly, he and the job have remained the same, whether he was at the head of the bench for Fort Scott Community College in Kansas or, as he was doing on Saturday, preparing Texas Tech to face top-seeded Villanova with a chance to reach the Final Four. Beard is a communicator who preaches defense and lifts programs.

“Just the love of basketball is who I am in my core,” he said after practice for the 2:20 p.m. Sunday game, adding that he has made it a point to recruit players who share his passion.

Star guard Keenan Evans chose to stay after previous coach Tubby Smith left and Beard replaced him. “One of the first things he said is, ‘I want to win and we’re going to win if you stay. I’m going to bring in help,’ ” Evans said. “And he did that. That’s what stood out to me.”

Beard began loving the game as a kid in Irving, Texas, playing outdoor games at Complands Park and indoor games at the Northwest Recreation facility. “Guys would wait all day to play. If you win, you stay on. If you lose, you go home,” he said.

And that is how Beard views the opportunity against Villanova. He knows the Wildcats can spread the floor and fill the basket. He said Villanova coach Jay Wright effectively invited the current form of wide-open college basketball. Beard’s Red Raiders will counter with defense. “It’s our culture. First thing we do in recruiting is see if guys play defense or have the ability athletically to play at our level,” he said.

He has witnessed basketball at many levels, including 10 years as an assistant coach at Texas Tech under Bob Knight and Knight’s son, Pat (he effusively praises both). Beard has seen plenty as head coach at Seminole State, a junior college in Oklahoma, and Angelo State in San Angelo, Texas and McMurry University in Abilene.

“Fort Scott Community College: Arnold Arena, our home arena, was a rodeo barn,” he said. “It was a metal building with a wall right down the middle and had one single door. Half of it was the rodeo arena, where we had a national championship rodeo team, and the other half was the basketball court. That’s certainly a pretty cool place.”

On Sunday afternoon, he will be coaching in the Boston Celtics’ home arena, under the banners honoring the sport’s most storied legacy. Beard will still be Beard.

“I have the same feelings now that I had at Fort Scott, when we were trying to beat Coffeyville or at Angelo State when we were trying to beat Tarleton,” he said. “It’s all the same to me. It’s all basketball at the core.”

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