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April 5, 2019

Chris Beard

Norense Odiase

Jarrett Culver

Minneapolis, Minnesota

THE MODERATOR: We're ready to go with head coach of Texas Tech, Chris Beard. Want to give us thoughts as you head into the semifinal.

CHRIS BEARD: I told the guys, if it doesn't feel a little different today than it did yesterday leading up to tomorrow, then we're not ready, and everybody assured me that it did.

We're just excited about the opportunity. To me, personally, this open practice is sacred. I grew up in coaching coming to these. It's the one part of the Final Four that I've never missed. I'd come to all four practices, sit there with my coaching friends and watch the Michigan States, the North Carolinas, the Dukes, the Kansases of the world of college basketball and dream of being here.

It's here, and I tend to have a great time here. In our 50-minute practice today, wile try to get a lot of shots up and enjoy the moment.

Q. Coach, your team plays incredibly intensive on defense, which is something that Michigan State likes to do. Is it fun to be able to -- most teams just don't play with the intensity you do on that side of the ball. Is that a fun challenge to play someone who has the same commitment that you do?
CHRIS BEARD: That's a great name, Hondo. Have you ever heard of Hondo from Luckenbach, Texas?

Q. Yes, sir.
CHRIS BEARD: I have three daughters, but I always said if I had a son, I was going to name him Hondo. Actually, the girls didn't know that.

Just to be mentioned in the same question or a statement with our defense and Michigan State is a huge compliment for our program. Yes, we try to guard at a high level. It's been the identity of our teams at all different levels and now currently at Texas Tech. But it's something that we try to recruit to. We certainly coach and emphasize it. It's just always kind of our belief of basketball, and it was kind of reinforced by Coach Knight in those years under him.

Just getting to know Coach Izzo, but the last couple days have been pretty cool. Last night he was talking about his relationship with Coach Heathcote and the defense and things like that.

Yeah, people ask me all the time is it challenging? Not really. Good players want to be coached, and good players want that trust factor, and I think, once you explain to the guys, this is why we do the things we do and this is what defense can lead to, once they kind of visualize and they understand how important it is, it becomes everybody's identity.

But I think Michigan State's one of the best defensive teams in college basketball, as they are every year. To me, it's much more than just the rebounding. It's the positioning and the gaps and the toughness, the mental toughness, the lack of mistakes, the players playing roles, their rim protection. It's one of the best shot blocking teams in college basketball, but they do it by committee.

Michigan State, we have a lot of respect for obviously, but their defense is at the top of the list of reasons why.

Q. Sadly, my name is not Hondo. Hondo asked partly what I wanted to ask, so I'll take it a step further. You've been glowing in your reverence for Coach Izzo. I just wanted to touch on a little bit more about the respect you have for him. There's a lot of great coaches out there, but what is it about Coach Izzo that resonates with you so much?
CHRIS BEARD: There's three things. One, talking to people who know Coach and kind of study him and read the articles and the books like everybody, I'm 100 percent sure that this is a coach who hasn't changed from when he was a high school coach to an assistant coach, graduate assistant, then assistant, now head coach, and then NCAA coach, National Championship coach, Naismith Hall of Fame coach. He hasn't changed. Everybody around him says he's the same old coach.

You kind of feel that. In coaching we're kind of a fraternity. We spend Aprils together and Julys. You might run into somebody at the rental car counter. One time at Peach Jam, they got one row of chairs on Court 3, and I just happened to be sitting somewhere, and then you're sitting next to a Coach Izzo. He obviously will not remember this story, but I do. He's just a guy that's personable, he's nice. He treats everybody, regardless of what a guy's shirt says, the logo on the shirt, to me, he kind of goes out of his way. He's a coach's coach. He helps coaches. So that's the first thing.

Obviously, on the basketball court, everybody has an idea kind of the way the game's played, and the way Michigan State plays is exactly how I kind of visualize the game, defense and toughness. They have an identity. He coaches his guys hard, but you can tell he loves his guys, and they love him. The relationship piece is there. I just have a lot of respect for their program.

Q. Basketball-wise, what are the biggest Bob Knight influences on you?
CHRIS BEARD: I think preparation. We try to get our guys prepared. I think respecting every single opponent. The biggest game we play is the next game on the schedule. My girlfriend, Randi, somebody asked her the other day how big a game it was when we were playing Gonzaga, and she said, it feels just like it did opening night against Incarnate Word.

That's exactly right. To us, the next game on the schedule is the most important game. I learned that from Coach Knight.

The ability to bounce guys back into play pretty quickly. If we had some success, he would humble them pretty quick, let's get back to work. If we came up a little bit short, he would bang them up a bit, but we were always ready to play the next game. I never saw one loss turn into two losses with Coach Knight. Player development, guys getting better, just so many things with Coach Knight literally. Pretty much, maybe in most aspects of our program today, he influences in some way.

Q. To follow up, how instrumental was Bob in just giving you a break to start at Texas Tech, right from going from a JuCo there?
CHRIS BEARD: I was coaching junior college basketball at Seminole State College in Oklahoma, and I had the best job coaching guys every day. We were coming off a 25-win season, and we had three returning starters, and we were out recruiting. I got hooked up with Coach. He sat out one year between Indiana and Texas Tech, and he was looking at different jobs around the country, and I was just fortunate.

I went to Lubbock to spend a few days, but the guy that really endorsed it was Pat Knight. I met Coach Knight first, and then I spent several days with Pat. We developed a relationship that turned into a strong friendship.

Pat was the one, basically in my eyes, that got me the job at Texas Tech. Coach might disagree, but it was definitely Pat, I think, endorsing. I still have a close relationship with Pat today.

Q. Coach, when you look at the guard talent and the wing talent throughout this Final Four, including Jarrett Culver, how does that speak to the game evolving in terms of smaller lineups and a lot of guards throughout this Final Four?
CHRIS BEARD: I think obviously guards have been a big part of basketball forever, and certainly in today's game, you can -- I think it's just more versatility on the floor. Like I've never -- we're a small college, even in Little Rock, small ball. Maybe you can't go out and get those 6'8", 6'9" guys who try to play different positions. Certainly in the NBA, Golden State, kind of transform this.

In college basketball, we'd study Villanova's teams forever, and I thought it was small ball until we went out there in the Elite Eight last year in Boston. This was not small ball. These guys were 6'9", 6'10", and they could dribble past and shoot, and some people say it's small ball.

But you still think it's a place in basketball for the big guy. Michigan State has three or four of them we've got a lot of respect for. And even on our team, we're not here today if it's not for Norense. We're not here today if it's not for Tariq. I think guards get a lot of attention today in college basketball, but it's still you've got to have some play around the basket to advance.

Q. Both at Little Rock and Texas Tech, you've had a lot of success with transfers, junior college players, guys who you haven't had a lot of time to build into your program. How fundamental is it to just your philosophy of building a team that you go out and get some of those guys?
CHRIS BEARD: You mentioned the key word, time. I mean, it's not arrogance. It's just the truth. We're really good at coaching one-year guys. Coach Cal at Kentucky is pretty good at it too. It just goes back to different backgrounds -- junior college, D-II, low major, your roster is always changing. My experience in professional basketball, the rosters always change. Guys come in on contract and just leave. I think there's an art to it.

I don't think you can coach a guy in a one-year setting like you can in a two or three-year setting. The first thing I think is you've got to get a relationship quickly. With Matt and Tariq this year, for example, we said, we've got to develop this relationship quickly. When the guys got to Lubbock in late May -- I'm not a golfer. I'm a basketball guy. I've got my three daughters, my family, and Randi. So I just told Matt, like we've got to get a lot done. It might be to the point, Tariq, where you get tired of me.

I ate lunch with Matt and Tariq in the summer and would check on them and would be in the gym with them at night and just spent time. I think one of the things you're fighting with one-year guys is time. This coach has a relationship with this player for two, three years. We've got to get a relationship in two months.

I always tell those guys, too, the first game we play of the season, which this year was against Incarnate Word, if I'm not mistaken, I want you to feel like you've already been at Texas Tech for a couple of years. To do that, there's a process to it. We practice a little bit different, we spend more time off the court together. What you fight in those situations is time, and we try to compete with time by spending a lot of time together and developing relationships quicker than most.

Q. Just wondering, I guess, how do you go about establishing expectations and tradition in a program when you come in that maybe doesn't have a lot of either?
CHRIS BEARD: First of all, Texas Tech does have a great tradition. It might not be on the national scene lately, but great basketball tradition. In my lifetime, Coach Myers, the old coliseum, Polk Robison, I think Coach played for them. We have an old municipal coliseum that used to sell out. You couldn't get a ticket, and there was overflow in the '60s and '70s that people would buy a ticket to watch things on the simulcast on the theater screen. Coach Myers is a championship coach in the Southwest Conference when Coach Sutton was at Arkansas and the great SMU teams. We had great players, Tony Benford, Bubba Jennings. These are iconic players. And then in my lifetime, Coach Dickey, Sweet 16, Darvin Ham, Tony Battie, Cory Carr, they broke the backboard against North Carolina. Coach Knight, we had a great run. Three NCAA Tournaments in four years. Beat Gonzaga to make it to the Sweet 16. Coach Smith got the guys back in the tournament.

It's not like we're starting something that's never been there. We're rebuilding it and getting it going again. The biggest thing is to eliminate outside noises and to set your own expectations. This is what we think we can do, here's our plan to get it done, and we're going to be positive until we're there.

Q. A little lighter question for you. I read in one of the articles about your trip here that one of the things you gave up this year was beer, which I think is something we can all relate to, both drinking it and the notion of how intimidating it would be to give it up. I wonder if you could reflect on that as someone who said he drank draft beer at the Final Four for many years.
CHRIS BEARD: It hasn't been easy. 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 9:00 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 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.

THE MODERATOR: We're going to let our student-athletes come up to the dais first.

Q. You've played a couple of Big Ten teams this year. What do you find to be a common difficulty when facing a team from that conference? And have you watched any game film to prepare for the one you've got coming up?
CHRIS BEARD: Yes, we've got great respect for the Big Ten. We try to schedule as many games as we can in the non-conference. We, off the top of my head, played Northwestern last year, Nebraska this year. Obviously in this tournament, having a chance to compete with Michigan.

So when we go into a game like that, we just tell our guys, this is a Big 12 game. This is a BCS game. You'd better rebound and get back and take good shots. These guys have NBA players, specifically with the Big Ten. I think the reputation is true with the physical play around the basket and the rebounding. Obviously, Hall of Fame coaching. We try to keep it pretty simple. To us, it's a Big 12-level BCS game.

THE MODERATOR: We're joined by student-athletes Norense Odiase and Jarrett Culver.

Q. Coach, much has been made about your journey to get to the Final Four about your small coaching roots. I know you have tons of friends at that level. Is it kind of pride for you? You're carrying the banner, guys like Steve Green, Clif Carroll, those guys?
CHRIS BEARD: Absolutely. I hope those guys are having a blast watching our team. I've had a chance to see a couple of them. They come by the hotel late at night and stuff. Absolutely. When we first started, we starting having success, kind of shied away from that. If our teams and my personal journey can get other coaches get opportunities to advance in that direction because they're really good coaches, if I could play any role in that, I would gladly do so. He mentioned Steve Green, one of the best coaches I know at any level. So, yeah, I do.

Q. Chris, and for Norense too, Pat Mahomes is going to be here tomorrow. Have you gotten to know him? I think you came to your games in KC in November. Have you gotten to know him, and just kind of what his season meant to the awareness of Texas Tech athletics?
NORENSE ODIASE: Definitely. When he was at Tech, we were friends. He's a humble guy. He stays true to who he is. He loves his Red Raiders, not just us, but other teams on our campus. He's very supportive of us, of our program, and things Texas Tech wants to do. He's just been a great guy, ambassador for us and our school.

CHRIS BEARD: We're trying to get him on the fireside chat. That's the only problem I have with Pat is we haven't gotten that done yet. Other than that, he's been unbelievable for our university, our city, our team, our town. He's just a real ambassador. He's one of those guys that hasn't forgotten where he came from.

Q. Hey, Coach, we're asking some of the guys about "Old Town Road." Just wanted to know what makes it so attractive to you as a song and your rallying cry? And I heard you also aren't a big fan of the remix.
CHRIS BEARD: Yeah, Billy Ray Cyrus, is that right? My daughter told me that morning. I love Billy Ray. "Some Gave All," it's one of my top 25 songs. "Old Town Road" is the diversity we're looking for in our program. I like country. The guys like hip-hop, rap, and it's both. The first time we heard it, I think we just ran with it.

Q. This is for both players. Is it true that you voluntarily give up your cell phones regularly during the season? And if so, how do you live without them?
NORENSE ODIASE: Somebody just asked me this question. Obviously, it was my rule to take the you phone up. 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. 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 guys don't like it, but it's great to be disciplined and get rest.


JARRETT CULVER: I feel like it's good for us. 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 force 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.

CHRIS BEARD: You could talk to your roommate.

Q. Jarrett Culver, if you were guarding Jarrett Culver, how would you try to contain him or stop him?
JARRETT CULVER: Pray. No, I'd listen to my coach and do what the coach tells me to do. If I was playing for Coach Adams, I'd play side defense and play their defense.

Q. Hi, I've got to follow up on this no cell phone question. You make it sound so easy. But were there withdrawals of any kind when you give up those cell phones, and at the end of the day, you just crave it? Or how did you get through that?
THE MODERATOR: Norense, you want to continue with your thoughts on the cell phone?

NORENSE ODIASE: Some of the younger guys aren't the biggest fans of it, but senior leadership, we really harp on it. I said it. Jarrett backed me up. And along with the other guys. Basically, they just have to. It's no choice, but they see us winning, they see how much sleep they get and how better it makes them feel in the morning, they kind of hold on to it.

THE MODERATOR: For Norense, when you look at Michigan State's front line, they've got three big guys. Have you run into a front line like that, and how do you plan to combat their physicalness?

NORENSE ODIASE: In the Big 12, we have a lot of great teams. Every team is different from another team. We pose another different and unique challenge. They have three bigs that are active rebounders, tough guys. We've just got to match that intensity, not only me, but our front line and our other guys since we switch so much.

We'll be ready for that challenge. They're a tough team, just like us, and we'll be ready come Saturday.

Q. This one's for Jarrett. You came in kind of as an underrated recruit with Zhaire Smith, who's now getting playing time with the 76ers in the NBA. Have you stayed in touch with him at all through this run. Has he been talking to you guys?
JARRETT CULVER: We talk almost every day. That's my brother. We came in together. He's doing great things. He's working hard every day. We talk. We're pretty close. He's close with my family, and I'm close with his family. So we just talk every day.

Q. Coach, could you talk about your first coaching job, how much you got paid, what all you had to do, whether it was driving vans, sweeping floors.
CHRIS BEARD: I didn't get paid until my fourth job.

Q. How about that one?
CHRIS BEARD: Get paid? There's a lot of guys in this Final Four coaching that aren't getting paid. You know, you scrap. 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 -- 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? Just anything you can think of to get in the business.

A lot of guys, they're going to be at this open practice here in a few minutes that are doing those same things right now. Norense and Jarrett, they both played for great high school coaches that make sacrifices and great grassroots AAU guys and have trainers and things like that.

It's just a great game. That's why the Final Four is so special. All of us are here for one common thing, and that's the love of the game and basketball. My journey is not much different than anybody else's, but there was a lot of sacrifice.

THE MODERATOR: Coach, your secret is safe with us. We'd like to thank Coach Beard and thank the student-athletes, Jarrett and Norense, for joining us here in the interview room.

FastScripts Transcript by ASAP Sports

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