AUSTIN, Texas (AP) — Chris Beard is leaving Texas Tech for the job at Big 12 rival Texas.

Beard said Thursday he was “thrilled and excited” to be returning to Austin, where he was a student assistant under coach Tom Penders. Beard will be formally introduced at a Friday news conference on the UT campus.

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“It’s been a whirlwind of a day,” Beard said in a statement released by Texas. “It’s a difficult and emotional day in a lot of ways as I leave Texas Tech, a place where I’m very appreciative of not only my five years as a head coach but also my 10 years as an assistant. I owe so much to Texas Tech University.”

Beard led the Red Raiders to an NCAA Tournament runner-up finish two seasons ago. At Texas, he will replace Shaka Smart, who left after six seasons for Marquette after failing to lead the Longhorns past the first round of the tournament in three appearance.

Smart left Texas with two years left on a contract that was set to pay him more than $7 million.

Red Raiders athletic director Kirby Hocutt said frustration was a fair way to describe how he was feeling. In a Zoom call with reporters before Texas announced Beard’s hiring, Hocutt said Texas Tech had long been proactive in working on a longterm contract, but never had an opportunity to make a counter offer. The Tech AD said Beard told him he was ready for a new challenge.

“Frustration? Absolutely. Disappointment? Absolutely,” Hocutt said. “You know, you work along(side) somebody for five years and you invest into this program and you grow this program. And, of course his leadership had a great deal to do with that. But, you know, at the same time there are other components that have led to the success of Texas Tech basketball.”

“We’re going to fight, to use a term that Coach Beard uses every day. You get in the fight, we’ve been in the fight for five years and the fight’s not over,” Hocutt added. “And you have somebody that then walks away to go to an in-conference school, an in-state school. Absolutely, that frustrates you. Heck yeah it does.”

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Beard, 48, will be expected to produce consistent postseason success the Longhorns never achieved under Smart, who had led VCU to the Final Four in 2011 and was one of the hot names in coaching when Texas hired him.

Beard was 112-55 in five seasons with the Red Raiders. He was named The Associated Press coach of the year in 2019 as he guided Texas Tech to a 31-7 finish and lost to Virginia in the national championship game. The Red Raiders made it to the second round of this season’s tournament.

The Longhorns last made the Final Four in 2003 but made tournament appearances 16 times under Rick Barnes from 1999 to 2015 and reached the regional finals in 2006 and 2008. Texas hasn’t made it out of the first weekend of the tournament since then.

Texas entered this season’s tournament as a No. 3 seed with a veteran team, but lost in the first round to No. 14 Abilene Christian, which had been playing Division I basketball for less than a decade.

Beard’s coached one season at Arkansas-Little Rock, leading the program to a 30-5 finish and to the second round of the tournament in 2016.

He then accepted the head coaching job at UNLV, before leaving less a month later for Texas Tech, citing a desire to return to the program where he’d spent several years as an assistant under Bob Knight.

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