Busting Brackets

NCAA Basketball: 5 head coaches who could be the next Chris Beard

Photo Credit: Streeter Lecka - Getty Images
Photo Credit: Streeter Lecka - Getty Images /

Chris Beard is a household name in NCAA Basketball, but it wasn’t always that way. Let’s take a look at five coaches that we should see at high-major schools in the near future.

Chris Beard was the head coach at Little Rock for only one season in 2015-2016, but that was all it took for Texas Tech to scoop him up following a first-round upset of Purdue in the NCAA Tournament. Fast forward four years and everyone is looking for the next Chris Beard. To Beard’s credit, he’s built a culture on defense: his Little Rock team was ranked 4th in the country in points allowed. Since arriving at Tech, his defense went from 55th in year one, to 16th in year two, to 3rd in last year’s remarkable run to the NCAA Basketball championship game. For the “defense is boring” crowd, Tech signed Beard to a six-year extension in April that will make him the fourth highest-paid coach in Division 1. Defense pays, literally.

While defense paved the way for Beard, there are a variety of factors that can make a coach great. With that, here are five coaches that are on the radar of power five conference athletic directors. When evaluating these coaches, I looked at several factors (not just defense) that give these five an edge:

Eric Konkol: Louisiana Tech

Konkol is 83-49 in four seasons at Tech and has almost his entire team back from last year, including leading scorer, DaQuan Bracey. Konkol spent years as a pupil to Jim Larranaga at Miami, where he helped develop former Canes guard, Shane Larkin, into a first-round NBA draft pick. Current Florida coach, Mike White, made his mark at Tech and posted an impressive 101-40 record over a similar four-year stretch. Konkol won’t be a Big Five AD’s first call next spring, but a big year for Tech could springboard him into more conversations.

Chris Jans: New Mexico State

Jans has posted a ridiculous 58-11 record in his last two seasons and was within a point of knocking off eventual final four teams, Auburn, in the first round of last year’s NCAA Tournament. While Jans is on the older end of this list (50), a power five job is right around the corner. With his top three scorers from last season returning, recruits admiring alum Pascal Siakam’s work in the NBA Finals (Siakam starred at New Mexico State the year before Jans became the head coach), and a defense that ranked 28th nationally in total points allowed last year, Jans is well on his way to becoming a household name.

Baker Dunleavy: Quinnipiac

Dunleavy hails from the Jay Wright coaching tree and posted 16 wins last year vs. 12 in his first year as head coach. Despite only 12 wins that first year, the school signed him to a five-year extension illustrating the confidence they have in the 36-year-old coach. Dunleavy adds Northwestern graduate transfer, Aaron Falzon, to a returning core that includes three of his top four scorers from a year ago. It’s also worth stating the obvious: Dunleavy’s father, Mike, was a longtime NBA coach and his brother, Mike Jr., had a long and successful NBA career and is now an assistant general manager for the Golden State Warriors.

Bob Richey: Furman

Richey is 48-18 in two seasons at Furman but has yet to make an NCAA Tournament. Furman is another team that gets after you defensively, allowing 66.1 ppg, which ranked 45th nationally. Senior guard, Jordan Lyons, was a third-team all-conference pick last year, and the success of conference rival, Wofford, lends credibility to the Southern Conference. Just last November, Furman beat Villanova on the road and was actually ranked in the Top 25 after starting the season 12-0. At only 36 years of age, athletic directors across America are keeping a close eye on Richey.

Ritchie McKay: Liberty

McKay is 54 and has had previous head coaching jobs at Portland State, Colorado State, Oregon State, Liberty, and New Mexico. Yes, Liberty is listed as both a previous job and his current institution, as McKay was the head coach from 2007-2009, before returning in 2015.

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McKay makes this list becomes his teams flat-out defend. Liberty ranked 9th and 8th in scoring defense the past two seasons. In addition, leading scorers Scottie James and Caleb Homesley return from a team that finished 29-7 and made it to the second round of last year’s NCAA Tournament.