Photo: Red Raider Basketball, @TexasTechMBB
All seemed quiet on the Razorback front in its search for its new head basketball coach going into the Final Four weekend, but no doubt the still waters on the surface doesn’t tell us anything about the action taking place beneath.
The supposition and speculation is that Arkansas is going to try and make Texas Tech head coach Chris Beard, who has the Red Raiders still dancing in the national semifinals and whom the Associated Press named its National Coach of the Year Thursday, an offer he can’t refuse.
Or at least make Beard say “No” before moving on with its search for Mike Anderson’s replacement.
Evidently, Beard is willing to listen or at least his agent is telling Arkansas he is, or Arkansas would have moved on by now?
At least that’s the rumored speculation. In truth, all of that could be false and UA athletics director Hunter Yurachek could be courting another prospect(s) at this very moment.
However, if the Beard rumors are so, it’s a bold move by Yurachek, the UA Board of Trustees, and the Razor-boosters who are working to make a huge deal happen.
If Arkansas’ pitch to Beard connects, the result will be viewed as a Ruthian home run throughout the world of college basketball.
Should Arkansas hire Beard away, some national pundits will use it as the opportunity to criticize Beard for a lack of loyalty to the Red Raiders players whom he recruited to play in Lubbock, Texas and the program that made him a nationally known name in the world of college sports.
There’s always one or more hypocrites ready to offer such an opinion when a big college deal is made, acting as if they wouldn’t jump jobs if some entity offered to double their own salaries.
Doubling Beard’s already $3 million salary is probably where the UA would have to start negotiating to make a move by Beard a realistic possibility.
If the Razorbacks whiff like they did with Auburn’s Gus Malzahn in 2017’s football head coaching search and have to move on to Plan B, some will say there will be egg on the program’s face. Maybe, but at least there won’t be any regrets for not trying.
Remember how long Alabama had to wait and how much it had to pay to lure Nick Saban from the Miami Dolphins. I don’t think there is a Crimson Tide fan who would say that it wasn’t worth it.
Now, don’t get me wrong. I’m not predicting Chris Beard is or will be the Nick Saban of college basketball. However, Beard is the hottest name in the game at this moment, and he would be a monumental hire by Arkansas.
Folks need to remember this is a swing for the fence. Texas Tech almost can’t afford to not match whatever the Razorbacks’ offer, and as with whenever a job change is in hand, it’s always easier to stay than to go, especially if the decision makers at the current job want the coach to stay.
Whenever someone swings for the fence and misses, there are repercussions.
Evidently Arkansas had an opportunity to hire Houston’s Kelvin Sampson earlier this week, but that boat has sailed now that Sampson has signed a new contract with Houston.
The rumor is that getting Sampson to jump from Houston was going to be so costly that the UA decision makers felt why not just try for their top choice of Beard instead of settling on their second choice in Sampson?
If all of that is true, there is no way to know how many other possible candidates for the Arkansas job also have moved on as well. But, it’s also impossible to know what possibilities have opened for Arkansas, if the Razorbacks aren’t able to lure Beard away.
We probably will never know.
It’s ironic, too, that if Arkansas wants Beard, Razorbackers probably need to root against his Red Raiders in Saturday’s national semifinal against Michigan State at 7:30 p.m. on CBS.
If the Red Raiders make Monday’s championship game — win or lose — it would push Arkansas’ search even further down the road and more importantly tether Beard even tighter to the Texas Tech program. Emotions will no doubt enter into decisions on all sides of this.
Now, remember all of the above is just rumor and speculation. None of it is hard fact that anyone would confirm with their name behind it.
No doubt, Arkansas has and continues to make contact with other prospects through their agents. Arkansas should have feelers out to several coaches at this point.
If Beard does turn down an Arkansas offer, neither side is going to go in to any detail about what did or didn’t happen immediately. Over time, the true story behind these coaching searches generally seeps out.
If Arkansas does make a hard play to hire Beard, I like the move whether they get him or not.
Making a move to hire the hottest coach in the land shows the passion that remains for Razorback basketball among the UA’s most powerful administrators and wealthiest boosters. It shows their dedication to and their intent for the program.
My hope, though, is that just as much preparation is going into Plan B and C this weekend because unfortunately Texas Tech will likely make it too hard for Beard to leave Lubbock no matter what Arkansas offers.