K.C. Beard, University of Houston Assistant Men's Basketball Coach | Hoop Story #082

K.C. Beard, University of Houston Assistant Men's Basketball Coach | Hoop Story #082

Coach K.C. Beard currently serves as an assistant coach for the men's basketball program at the University of Houston. During his time there, the Cougars have achieved multiple Sweet Sixteen appearances, an Elite Eight, and even reached the Final Four. The success Coach Beard has experienced in his professional life is attributed to his relentless work ethic and refusal to back down in the face of adversity.

Coaching is a complex profession, marked by constant relocation and numerous challenges. It's a career that demands resilience and dedication.

Coach Beard recognized his calling early in life. He understood that the path to coaching wouldn't be straightforward, but he was willing to put in the hard work required to make it. Coach Beard's journey was far from linear.

Coach Beard's journey was far from linear. His frequent moves provided him with the physical and mental tools necessary to thrive in his career. 

Disclaimer: This is a modified transcript

What Initially drew you to the world of coaching? How did you start making strides toward a career in coaching? 

My dad was a high school coach and coached me in sports growing up. Ironically, the only sport he didn't coach me in was basketball, but as I got older, he remained involved. He coached me in baseball and football, but basketball was the one sport he didn't coach. So it's kind of funny that both my younger brother and I ended up coaching basketball. With my dad being a coach, I was around locker rooms a lot growing up. I had an idea that I wanted to pursue coaching, but I didn't fully commit to the idea until I was 16, during my junior year of high school.

In high school, I had to do a job shadow for a day as part of a school requirement. I'm not sure if they still have students do that, but at the time, I decided to shadow someone in the field of financial planning and real estate because I wanted to make a good living. However, after spending a day with that person, I realized that it wasn't something I could see myself doing. That's when I knew that I wanted to coach, but I also knew that I didn't want to limit myself to coaching at the high school level. My goal was to reach a level where I could not only focus on coaching and helping others but also provide for my family. So, at that time, my goal was to become a Division I head coach so kind of started to gear decisions in my life toward that

After high school, I went on a mission for my church then decided to walk on at Big Bend Community College in Moses Lake, Washington, where I played for a year. Eventually, I realized that I wasn't getting much playing time, but I still wanted to get into coaching. I had conversations with the head coach there, and he gave me some good advice. He said that I should strive to reach the highest level possible and that, from there, I could always explore other opportunities or adjust my career path if needed, but you need to try to get to a high level to help your career.  So, at that point, I finished up about two years of schooling and decided to transfer to a four-year college. I based my decision on where I could become a student manager, and Boise State University was the school that got back to me.

Coaching is a difficult career and your journey wasn’t linear. Can you walk me through the steps you took to get to the position you are currently in?

I met Coach Julius Coleman during my time at Boise State, and he offered me a gig as a student manager. After graduating in 2008, I landed my first job, thanks to coach Coleman, Cleary, and the Boise State staff. .

In the basketball world, assistant coaches are your go-to people when you're starting out. Coach Cleary, another assistant at Boise State, knew Steve Lutz, an assistant coach at SMU at the time, who helped me snag a position as a video intern, essentially an entry-level role in basketball. 

I packed my bags and drove from Boise to Dallas for this opportunity. Unfortunately, SMU wasn't exactly lighting up the scoreboard that year with a record of 9-22, way off from Boise State's 25-9 or 25-8 record.

One thing you learn early in coaching is that each year can be vastly different. At SMU, under Coach Matt Doherty, I learned this lesson firsthand. He wanted to change the offensive system, hiring someone with Princeton-style basketball experience, which left me without a job.

Steve Lutz, the assistant who had helped me at SMU, helped secure me a graduate assistant position at Division II West Texas A&M, a top Division II program. While there, I pursued an MBA and gained valuable coaching experience.

During my time at SMU, I attended a conference where I met NBA video coordinators, establishing friendships and connections with some of them. After two years at West Texas A&M, I received an offer from the Portland Trail Blazers as a video intern.

This was my first big break. After my first year, they brought me back, and I had the chance to work with Jay Triano, who was the national team head coach for Canada. I traveled the world with him that summer, gaining exposure to international basketball.

Later, I joined the Utah Jazz as an intern. However, Ty Corbin was fired as the head coach, leaving me in a difficult position. Fortunately, Kelvin Sampson hired me as a video coordinator. 

Over the years, I moved frequently, but my time with Coach Sampson at Houston provided stability. He supported my desire to become an assistant coach and eventually a head coach. I transitioned to an assistant coaching role after seven years as a video coordinator. During this time, our team achieved significant success, making it to multiple Sweet Sixteens, a Final Four, and an Elite Eight. It's been a rewarding journey, and I've had the opportunity to help others in the profession, just as I was once helped by mentors like Tim Cleary and Steve Lutz. Coaching is demanding but fulfilling, and it's all about paying it forward in the end.

Having a strong work ethic is so important in your career. How do you continue to fuel it?

Coach Sampson often emphasizes keeping that competitive edge, that "chip" on your shoulder. We all have something to prove, right? Coach grew up in a tough neighborhood in North Carolina. It's a world apart from my upbringing in a small Idaho town with only 1,700 folks. Sometimes I still can't believe how far I've come, traveling the world, making it to a Final Four, and becoming an assistant coach.

Sports, and being part of a team, have this unique power to level the playing field. It doesn't matter where you're from; what counts is showing up and giving it your all. That's why I've always carried this drive to prove myself. People like your dad, who put their reputation on the line to help me get my first job, deserve nothing less than my best.

Especially in the early days, that drive was all about learning video. If there's one thing I've learned in this business, it's that many people are always chasing the next job. But what's helped me stay employed and move up is being exceptional in my current role. So, I focused on being the best video coordinator I could be. Sure, it might have delayed my transition to an assistant coach at times, but I've had conversations with Coach and reminded him of my goals.

I had to seize opportunities too. When Coach promoted me, he wasn't sure if I could recruit. So I had to prove myself there as well. I didn't have all the connections, but I worked hard and got involved with kids that Coach liked. Recruiting, like everything else, comes down to work ethic. I've been lucky to be around coaches who are hard workers, and it's all about seeing what they do and realizing that effort and sacrifice are part of the journey.

But here's the thing, whether I pursue this or not, I'd have to find a job and work hard. So, it makes sense to choose a profession you enjoy. Even on tough days or when you're not crazy about every aspect of your job, you remind yourself that you're living a dream. My 16-year-old self would be in awe of where I am today.

For me, wanting to become a head coach means there's still more to achieve. I have goals, and I keep my head down, trust the process, and look for opportunities. When they come, I don't turn them down. I've learned that if you meet someone or have a chance to do something in your profession, take advantage of it. That's how I felt when your dad gave me an opportunity, traveled with me, and when I was on the scout team at Boise State. I wanted to be reliable and spend all my extra time there because, as much as my business degree mattered, I knew excelling in this role would take me where I wanted to go. I've told so many people what I was going to achieve. There's also a little bit of like, I'm not going to be wrong. I'm gonna make sure I do this.

You have been a part of so many successful programs and have experienced so many great moments, what have been some of your favorite moments in your career?

The best moments are being with the team after a big win. It never gets old, and it often happens on the road. Take the year we went to the Final Four – it was incredible. We beat Oregon State, but what really stood out was the second-round game against Rutgers. We were down by 10 with just five minutes to go, and we managed to make a comeback. The joy and celebration in the locker room after were unforgettable. Everyone puts in so much effort and sacrifice to achieve our goals.

Another memorable moment was at Boise State when we defeated New Mexico State in the conference championship game, earning a spot in the NCAA tournament. We went into double overtime, and seeing a hometown kid like Matthew Boucher succeed was heartwarming. I've known him since he grew up with my cousins.

Then there were surreal experiences with the Canadian national team, traveling the world, like being in the Philippines. I had dinner with the team in Toronto, and Steve Nash introduced himself. Meeting incredible people like that was a dream come true.

While transitioning into my role as an assistant coach, I've come to value relationships more. The bond with your dad, helping friends get into the NBA and become coaches, and guiding players, especially those I recruited, through their journey to achieve their dreams, are the most rewarding aspects. Many of them aspire to play professionally, and it's a privilege to support them.

These moments, along with the excitement of travel and road victories, especially when it's a game I've scouted, make this profession truly fulfilling.

Interview by Olivia Cleary 

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