On Monday The Athletic ($) posted their state of the program on Texas Tech basketball and I don’t normally post links to paid articles, but it maybe emphasized something that I’ve thought, but not ever expressed. The idea that’s been rolling around in my head is the idea of Chris Beard’s coaching super-powers. I tend to think that most successful coaches have at least one, maybe two, coaching super-powers and when those powers are fully realized, you have what Texas Tech had the last few years, and in particular the run to the Final Foul.
For me, Beard is not a tactician, that’s not to say that he doesn’t know his X’s and O’s, but that’s not his super-power. He knows more about the motion offense than most people know about their kids. Back to the point of this post, which is that Beard’s super-powers are I think two things: 1) the ability to recruit at a high level; and 2) pushing players to their absolute limit. Let’s get to that first item, which is that Beard is a monster recruiter:
No one questions the mind. Everyone in Lubbock appreciates the loyalty. But there was an electricity around Chris Beard. His personality was magnetic. “Chris was a recruiting machine,” Myers admits.
I wholeheartedly believe that Beard’s personality is magnetic. When he’s selling, he’s probably second to none in terms of what he can sell. It’s the reason guys like Nimari Burnett, Jonathan Kuminga, and Joel Ntambwe would commit to Beard. He’d sell the hell out of himself and the program. But then part 2 of the super-power comes into play, which is that Beard would push players beyond what they thought they could be pushed. Pushed to the point of being uncomfortable. I think the assistant coaches are sometimes left to pick up the pieces a bit. But that ability to drive players is absolutely one of the reasons why Texas Tech was so successful. He’d will the hell out of victories, maybe not through any plays at the end of games, but literally will the player to perform at their absolute peak. We’ve all seen Beard during timeouts. It’s not usually a coaching session in the traditional sense, it is sometimes rage, it is sometimes yelling, but it is absolutely intense.
The problem with this idea of pushing so much is that those highly talented players who have never been pushed as hard as Beard pushes players simply are not accustomed to something like that. It’s hard to keep guys happy. It’s a difficult balance and I think it’s going to be a difficult sell in Austin. I have no doubt that he’ll maybe have to recruit different guys and I think he’ll have to find guys that can take that type of coaching that Beard dishes. And I want to be clear that Beard’s methods can absolutely work. It was ridiculously close to working for Texas Tech. I also believe (although this is not a super-power, that when Beard is “off” or not in coaching mode, he’s a helluva guy to be pals with and is probably a hoot on a certain level).
And this gets us to what I think is Texas Tech head coach Mark Adams’ super-powers. We haven’t’ had a ton of time to figure out exactly who Adams is. Actually, that’s not true, we’ve had plenty of time to figure out Adams because he’s been a fabric of West Texas for decades. I had no idea that Adams owned two hockey teams and that the reason he fell from grace in the coaching world was going to Texas Pan-Am with a $500 recruiting budget.
Adams’ super-powers are, I think, two-fold as well: 1) basketball innovator; and 2) relationships.
Much like me thinking that Beard is just fine at X’s and O’s, just not his super-power, I want to make it clear that I’m not saying that Adams isn’t good at motivating or recruiting, but that I think his strongest points as a coach are these two things (and you are free to disagree, I’m just having fun and spit-balling here). I’m guessing a bit here, but Adams was essentially out of coaching when he was really truly saved by Tubby Smith to be the director of operations (I think that’s what he was, it wasn’t an assistant coach position) and then was hired by Beard at Little Rock. But what this means is that Adams was scheming up his No Middle defense while working for Smith. Innovating while doing ops and then laying that defense on the NCAA when Beard arrived at Little Rock.
I’d also like to add that Adams super-power of innovation is evidenced by his hiring of Barret Peery, an offense first coach who ran a fast paced offense at Portland State. And then in that same article, we find out that Adams isn’t just satisfied with Peery, but he wants to continue that innovation:
Adams and his staff have also had video conferences with multiple NBA teams about space-and-pace philosophies, and he’s consulted Northwest Missouri State coach Ben McCollum, whose offense Adams says is game-changing in the way they screen and use angles. McCollum’s teams have won three of the last four Division II national titles.
“Our slogan is, ‘Together we attack,’” he says, “and so we do want to be aggressive on both ends of the floor and try to keep our opponent on their heels.”
It’s not hard to get the players to buy in to this style. No one wants to play slow. But Adams also has some credibility with his returners, who point out that Adams would occasionally draw up a quick-hitter and that they almost always worked. “He’s actually a genius on the offensive end, too,” super senior Marcus Santos-Silva says.
We’ll get more into the Northwest Missouri State offense shortly (yes, I’ve Googled things and this is basketball p0rn but deserves its own post and you’ll have to be a bit patient for that), but the idea here is that Adams is obsessed with spacing, flow, ball-screens, etc.
Can. You. Dig. It.
And maybe the one super-power that will be difficult thing that’s most difficult to translate to 18-year old recruits is the idea that Adams gives a shit about you. That may play better with older players, and that’s not to say that high school players can’t appreciate those things, but meaningful relationships are what you develop in college and being together as a team, that’s a big deal. I’m not doubting Adams’ ability to sell the program or himself or what he can do. The Athletic article has multiple examples of Adams vouching for his ability to be a person that excels at creating a meaningful relationship: Kevin McCullar, Terrence Shannon, Matt Mooney, Rick Cooper.
I honestly can’t wait to see if I’m right about Adams and how what I perceive those super-powers working out in his favor (fingers crossed).