There are four-figures worth of players in the transfer portal, and it has led to many lamenting its affect on the game.
The complaints typically range somewhere from harping about how kids are being taught to take the easy way out and aren’t trusting the process or working hard to get where they want to be in their current situation. None of these people are presently playing basketball on national television for free.
My thoughts on this argument should be clear from the last sentence. But I can respect that viewpoint if it’s accompanied with criticism of Chris Beard.
This week, Beard left his post as head men’s basketball coach at Texas Tech after five seasons to take the same position at Texas. He will not have to sit out a season and will be paid handsomely, even more handsomely than he was already being paid with a top-five biggest contract in the sport at Tech, after transferring between the two schools after submitting his resume to the transfer portal.
Beard began his head coaching career in 2011, leaving his assistant position at Texas Tech to become the head coach of the South Carolina Warriors, a semi-pro team in the American Basketball Association, a 1999 re-launch of the ABA that merged with the NBA decades ago that really does exist.
After one season, he left to become the head coach at then-Division II McMurry in Abilene, Texas. Beard was there just for the 2012-13 campaign, leaving for Division II Angelo State in San Angelo, Texas, after the season. He was at Angelo State until 2015 – two seasons – before heading off to accept the head coaching position at Little Rock after putting his resume in the transfer portal.
After a 30-5 season and an NCAA Tournament win, Beard ditched the Trojans for UNLV, accepting the Rebels job on March 28, 2016, on a five-year, $900,000 per year deal. On April 14, 2016, Tubby Smith left Texas Tech for Memphis. On April 15 – 18 days after taking the UNLV job – Beard was the Red Raiders’ coach.
Beard never had to sit out a season, or even a game, while transferring among all these schools. His wallet got a bit fatter, too, and he capitalized on his opportunities to move up divisions and leagues.
If you are a transfer portal hater and take issue with Beard’s bouncing, too, then I can respect your consistency.
Now, maybe you’ll say that Beard isn’t the same – he earned those better jobs, because he put in the hard work at every school. The results speak for themselves, after all. Ignoring that this means you shouldn’t have any issue with mid-major or lower level players transferring to bigger, more prestigious teams, you would be right that Beard’s situation does not align perfectly with the idea that the transfer portal is enabling young people to avoid adversity, not put in the hard work, and take the easy way out.
But then what about Shaka Smart?
Smart is whom Beard replaced. He spent six seasons at Texas until a first-round upset defeat to No. 14 seed Abilene Christian really rained in the criticism, stretching the streak of no tournament wins for him in Austin another year.
Was Smart fired? No. Six days after the Abilene Christian defeat, Smart left Texas to take the head coaching job at Marquette. We don’t know his exact contract, but we do know he’s being paid more than his players.
Maybe Smart knew the firing was coming. Maybe Texas encouraged him to leave to avoid paying him a buyout on the two years worth $3-3.5 million remaining on his deal. But that doesn’t really matter, does it? When the going got really tough, Smart voluntarily left to start over elsewhere.
So, if you think players in the transfer portal who don’t like their playing time are doing it because they won’t put the work in to improve the situation at their current school, then you must think similarly of Smart, right?
But many will argue they’re not the same, and I agree. I can think of two big differences between the situations of players and coaches.
First, the salaries between the two are a bit different. Second, players only have four years of eligibility (although COVID-19 made this one weird temporarily, but either way, a very limited amount of eligibility), while coaches can coach for pretty much as long as they’re wanted. This means finding the right fit can be much more urgent for players than coaches.
So yes, they’re not the same. It’s even more important for players to be able to move freely.
So by all means, if you don’t like the transfer portal and think it’s corrupting our youth into believing life is easy or hard work isn’t important or whatever, then have the same energy for Chris Beard, Shaka Smart, and every other coach who has left a program high-and-dry or when the going got tough because they saw greener pastures elsewhere.
And maybe be even more angry at them, considering they’re the adults who are supposed to be setting the example for the kids, right Dick?