A transcendent win for Texas Tech

Sometimes, sports are transcendent. On occasion, what happens on the scoreboard is bigger than what transpires between the lines. Such was the case on Tuesday night in Lubbock as the Texas Tech basketball team took down Chris Beard and the Texas Longhorns 77-64.

Sure, the win was important when it comes to the Big 12 race as Tech moved to 17-5 overall and 6-3 in conference play to jump one game ahead of the Longhorns in the league standings.  And yes, putting this Quad-1 win on the resume will only strengthen the Red Raiders’ NCAA Tournament resume come Selection Sunday in March.

But this win was about more than that.  It was about a basketball program that many had written off when the season began, a head coach that few outside of West Texas believed in, and a university that constantly has to scrap and claw for every ounce of respect and success it earns showing the nation that what is happening on the South Plains is worth taking notice of and showing respect to.

Texas Tech needed to beat Chris Beard in front of the home faithful more than it needed to do almost anything else this season outside of qualifying for the NCAA Tournament.  That’s because this basketball program and this university needed to show everyone that it was bigger than one man.  And that needed to happen in the 806 so that the fan base could have its cathartic moment, an important step in the healing process.

With all apologies to Tim Tadlock, over the past five years, the face of Texas Tech University had become Chris Beard.  He had led the Red Raiders to heights never before seen by a Texas Tech revenue-generating sport and he was arguably the most prominent coach in Texas regardless of the sport.

So when he abruptly jumped ship to take the job in Austin last Apri 1, it did a number on Texas Tech and its fans.  Losing your most beloved coach to your most hated rival, one that you have owned on the hardwood in recent years, by the way, was most than just a tough pill to swallow.  It was a blow to the very core of our collective pride.  There’s no shame in admitting that.

No one wants to be spurned by someone that you had come to admire and trust, especially in such a public manner.  And to make matters worse, when Beared turned heel, everyone outside of those who bleed scarlet and black simply assumed that the Red Raiders were going to fall right back into the irrelevance that the program experienced prior to Tubby Smith’s arrival in 2013.

Came out tonight and put on a show!

Speaking of Smith, his surprise jump to take the Memphis job in 2016 after leading Texas Tech to the NCAA Tournament further exacerbated the wounded pride Texas Tech felt when Beard got on the plane for Austin given that it meant that the previous two head basketball coaches had left the university for what they obviously felt were better opportunities.  In other words, twice in a span of five years, Texas Tech was told by high-profile figures that it wasn’t good enough.

But the truth is that Texas Tech is a special place – a place that has become part of the DNA of a group of alums and students that comprise one of the most passionate, loyal, and unique fan bases in the nation.  And that didn’t change when Chris Beard left.  Because Texas Tech always was and still is bigger than Beard.

It turns out, that all Texas Tech needed was a native son step in and manage the crisis and to remind everyone that the Golden Age of Tech hoops was not over.  Enter a soft-spoken sexagenarian (get your mind out of the gutter, that term refers to someone in their 60’s) from Brownfield who most on the national scene assumed wasn’t suited to be a head coach in the cut-throat world of big-time college hoops.  He was too old to relate to recruits, too passive to motivate players, and just too nice to compete on the big stage, or so they thought.

As such, Mark Adams had to show the country, and in a way, show Chris Beard himself, that Texas Tech is fine without Beard.  He had to prove to everyone that Texas Tech basketball will carry on its winning ways without the egotistical, cantankerous, self-obsessed previous head coach, one who many inside the Texas Tech athletic department were happy to see go.  And the only way to do that was by Beating beard where it mattered most, between the lines.

So as Kevin McCullar hit key free throw after key free throw down the stretch and as the seconds ticked off the game clock on Tuesday night, the celebration inside United Supermarkets Arena and around Raiderland wasn’t about winning another basketball game.  We’ve experienced plenty of that this year.

Rather, what was heard from Red Raider nation was a war cry – a resounding reminder that we are still here and that, when united, we are still a force to be reckoned with.  And that was a point driven home at the expense of the man who just ten months ago tried to single-handedly destroy what he and Adams had built in Lubbock.

Fortunately, Adams didn’t get on the plane to Austin.  Instead, he stayed right where he always belonged.  And on Tuesday night, he showed the country that Texas Tech is just fine.  In fact, with Adams now one of the faces of the university, not Beard, Texas Tech may be better than it ever has been.

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