Less than a year ago, Little Rock Trojans‘ head coach Chris Beard had no head coaching experience at the Division I level. Fast forward to now, and he’s on the verge of turning one year of success into a multi-year deal at one of the Mountain West’s power schools.
Beard was signed as the next head coach of the Trojans back on April 8th, 2015. The Trojans underwent a roster overhaul after finishing the 2014-15 season with a 13-18 record overall, and 8-12 in Sun Belt play.
The quick rise of Beard to a multi-year deal is something to marvel at. It’s his intensity that has allowed him to be successful at every level so far, and he will look to bring that to the Mountain West, as he is expected to sign a 5-year deal to become the next bench boss of the UNLV Runnin’ Rebels.
Before his brief time with the Trojans, Beard left his mark as he climbed through the ranks. He was an assistant coach for 10 years, most notably under the great Bobby Knight with the Texas Tech Red Raiders before landing his first head coaching spot.
Beard was the head coach of the Angelo State Rams (Division II) for the previous six years. He amassed a record of 141-45 over those six seasons, including a record of 47-15 in the last two.
In 2014-15, Beard was named the National Association of Basketball Coaches (NABC) South Central Region and Lone Star Conference Coach of the Year. He guided the Rams to a program-record 28 wins on the season, a perfect 17-0 record on their home floor, and a national ranking of #19 at season’s end.
With his recent success in his back pocket, Beard wasted little time making an impact with Little Rock. The team had a bit of a roster overhaul, adding impact transfers like Jermaine Ruttley and Daniel Green, to complement returning stars Roger Woods and Josh Hagins. Both Woods and Hagins were integral pieces to the team’s run through the season, as was forward Lis Shoshi.
Little Rock finished the year with a dazzling 30-5 record overall, and a 17-3 record in Sun Belt action. They took home both the conference regular season and tournament titles, punching their ticket to the NCAA Tournament. Beard’s intensity was on full display in their tournament opener, as the Trojans knocked off the Purdue Boilermakers in double-overtime, 85-83.
It was expected that Beard would be a top commodity come season’s end, and once the Rebels found out that Mick Cronin would be returning to the Cincinnati Bearcats, they turned their attention in another direction. Interviews with Beard and Marvin Menzies, of the New Mexico State Aggies, led to the pair being the front-runners.
As reported by ESPN’s Jeff Goodman, it’s expected that Beard is the man for UNLV, and it’s anticipated that he will sign a five-year deal to coach the Runnin’ Rebels.
UNLV and former head coach Dave Rice parted ways after the team started conference play with an 0-3 record. The Rebels were expected to contend for the conference title this past season, but never lived up to their full potential.
With Beard leading the way, one should expect a turnaround for UNLV next season. He is a no-nonsense guy who holds his players accountable for their actions. This could be the move that gets the Runnin’ Rebels back into contention for the conference title, and back into the field of 68 come March.