MINNEAPOLIS - Being great is a series of sacrifices. Or possibly a continuous case study in self-denial if the ultimate goal is to be a champion.
That’s the hook Texas Tech head coach Chris Beard set for his men’s basketball team in the offseason. Just as Tom Brady can’t recall the last time he had a slice of pizza, Beard wanted his players to understand that decision goes beyond counting calories. And he went big, relatively speaking, to show his players he meant business. He started by punting ... beer.
“It hasn’t been easy,” Beard said with a knowing, if sympathetic, nod from rows of media Friday in the bowels of U.S. Bank Stadium. “We make sacrifices every year. Team, players, before we start official practice, we pick this up. LeBron James eliminates social media in the playoffs. I want to say Tom Brady enjoys a beer from time to time, too. He gives it up in an NFL season. It’s just the idea of elite people making sacrifices and having discipline.
“There’s guys on our team that have given up Netflix after 9 p.m. There’s guys on our team that have given up social media. There’s guys that have given up fried food. You basically have to sacrifice something. In our culture, if you say you’re going to do it, you’d better do it, or you’re about to get roasted.
“So me this year, it’s no beer, no desserts, no candy. I haven’t had any ice cream, candy, cake, beer, since the first day of practice. A couple things, though. Did you know a Pop-Tart is not a dessert! It’s a breakfast. I’ve eaten a lot of Pop-Tarts, man, since October.”
Beard knows a thing or two about sacrifice. He said there are “a lot of guys in this Final Four coaching that aren’t getting paid.” Beard said Friday it wasn’t until his fourth job in college basketball that he earned a paycheck.
“You know, you scrap,” he said. “We did private lessons on the side, rebound for guys, and used to cut cardboard boxes behind this grocery store, and then they’d pay — because you could work at any time as long as the boxes were cut by the next morning, and just all sorts of stuff like that. I don’t think coaching is any different, though. I’ve got friends in other professions. You sacrifice. When you find something you love, you sacrifice. None of us do this — [Texas Tech guard] Jarrett Culver doesn’t play — he plays for the love of the game and not what the game does for him, and the same thing for Norense.
“Don’t tell Kirby Hocutt, my AD, this, but I would do this job for free. Do I have y’all’s word that you won’t put that out there?”
Beard won’t be working for free again, but his example caught on at Tech.
Beard, who coached under Bobby Knight at Texas Tech and later was on Pat Knight’s staff, quickly noticed players were following suit.
Odiase, a fifth-year senior, decided to enact blackout periods for cellphone use, especially on the road during the Big 12 season. It started with team bonding in mind but became a mandate with expanded restrictions.
“We played on the road at Oklahoma, and it was a good idea to stay focused, locked in, get some rest, and we went on a big winning streak,” Odiase said. “So ever since then, coach, if we come to — say we play on Saturday and we come on Wednesday, every night, no matter if it’s before the game or not, we’ve been taking the phone up. It’s helped us. Some of the young guys don’t like it, but it’s great to be disciplined and get rest.”
All-Big 12 wing Culver — who smirked through a good-natured ribbing from Beard about perhaps talking to his roommate instead of clinging to his phone — said there was little resistance to the idea of unplugging because the results were undeniable.
“I feel like it’s good for us,” Culver said. “I mean, you don’t have nothing to do. You can’t be on your phone. You’re not on social media, you don’t have your phone. Can’t talk to nobody. So it kind of forces you to get rest and get the sleep you need. I feel like it helps us. Once we went on that run, we just kind of stuck with it as a tradition.”
—By Jeff Reynolds, Field Level Media