What's next for Texas basketball after the Chris Beard era?
Austin, Texas - Now that the Chris Beard era is over for Texas men's basketball, what's next for the Longhorns' hoops program that had finally found its competitive footing?
While Texas basketball (17-3 overall) is still ranked in the AP Top 25 and second in the Big 12 weeks after Beard's inevitable firing following his December 2022 arrest on felony domestic abuse charges, it's clear that something is missing amongst the team.
When Beard took the seven-year head coaching position at the University of Texas (UT) in April 2021 with an annual salary of $5 million, Longhorns fans were ecstatic.
After six seasons under the direction of former head coach Shaka Smart, Texas men's basketball needed structure and the ability to adjust when the original game plan was no longer working out, which Smart never seemed to be able to construct on the court.
Thankfully, Beard was able to deliver just what the Longhorns lacked with palpable discipline and an ability to switch up the attack plan when needed to ensure the team wasn't giving away points on defense and missing potential scoring drives on offense.
Though Texas basketball only won three more games overall during Beard's first season in 2021-22 compared to Smart's last in 2020-21, Texas basketball just looked and felt different.
Ahead of the 2022-23 season and Beard's second year as head coach, the Longhorns checked in at the No. 12 spot in the AP Top 25 rankings. Not only that, but the Longhorns had a new home court with the 2022 opening of the Moody Center, which truly gave Texas basketball the feeling of a home-court advantage they never had in their former home at the Frank Erwin Center.
Things were going great for Texas hoops. That is until they weren't.
Beard's departure creates trouble for Texas hoops
Texas was looking sharp at the start of the 2022-23 season until Beard was arrested on felony domestic assault charges on December 12, 2022, leading to his unpaid suspension pending an investigation. Ultimately, Beard was fired on January 5, and assistant coach Rodney Terry was promoted to interim head coach for the time being.
While it's clear the players love and respect Terry, he seems to lack the ability to adjust mid-game when things aren't going Texas' way. The Longhorns currently sit at No. 10 in the AP rankings, but the team doesn't look as cohesive as it did under Beard's leadership. After all, two of their three losses came after Beard's departure.
Though firing him was undoubtedly the move, Beard's absence is apparent to anyone who watched a Texas men's basketball game in the wake of his arrest and ultimately, his permanent removal from UT athletics altogether.
The team seems to lack a certain spark they once had and the drive to win by all means necessary, and it showed during their 116-103 blowout loss to Kansas State on January 3 at home and their January 17 loss to Iowa State on the road.
In these particular matchups, key players like guard Marcus Carr, forward Christian Bishop, and the dominant defensive force that is Brock Cunningham appeared unfocused, missing shots and blocks they typically can make in their sleep.
When looking forward to what's next for Texas basketball following the abrupt conclusion of the Chris Beard era, there are a few things that anyone who gets the job needs to be able to do.
Who may be a good fit as Texas basketball's next head coach?
While the blame for Texas' lack of focus can't be placed on interim head coach Terry's shoulders – as it's not his fault the squad's leader AKA Beard was arrested on serious charges that led to his firing – being able to get players' heads back into a highly competitive mindset mid-game is certainly the responsibility of a head coach.
Though it's far too early to tell who will land the job, it's never too early to speculate.
Potential Candidates for the Texas Longhorns basketball coaching position may include former Texas player and current Brooklyn Nets assistant coach Royal Ivey.
When Smart initially announced he was dipping out of Texas to take a job at Marquette in 2021, former Texas Longhorn and basketball star Kevin Durant gave Ivey his stamp of approval for the head coaching job at Texas,
Alabama's current head coach Nate Oats is also a potential fit for the Longhorns' basketball squad. The head coach position at Texas is considered to be a top-10 job. Given that Oats has managed to get his SEC squad into the No. 4 spot in the AP Top 25 rankings, it's clear he's up for the competitive challenge of taking on this hungry Texas team.
Because of what he means to the org, Texas' interim coach Terry should also be included in the head coaching hire conversation. Though it's clear something is missing from the coaching staff in Beard's absence, that may be fixed by hiring a strategic mind to assist Terry in reigniting the team's spark.
For the time being, the Longhorns, led by Terry, must continue to battle it out on the court and secure wins if they hope to make a successful run in this year's NCAA tournament.
Who knows – if Terry ends up defying the odds once March Madness begins, he may end up forcing UT's hand in naming him Texas basketball's next head coach.
Cover photo: Collage: IMAGO / USA TODAY Network