Thursday could be a big day in search for Shaka Smart’s replacement at Texas

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Texas Tech head coach Chris Beard signals to his team as they played against Arkansas in the first half of a second-round game in the NCAA men’s college basketball tournament at Hinkle Fieldhouse in Indianapolis, Sunday, March 21, 2021. (AP Photo/Michael Conroy)

AUSTIN (KXAN) — As the search for the next Texas basketball coach continues, Thursday could be a pivotal date for a specific Longhorns target.

There’s no question that the Longhorns’ top target is current Texas Tech head coach Chris Beard, and he becomes more affordable Thursday. That’s when Beard’s buyout drops to $4 million if he leaves for another Big 12 school.

Not that money has ever been an issue for Texas, but the athletic department already had to pay the buyout for Tom Herman and nearly all of his staff, which cost well over $20 million. Smart’s voluntary departure for Marquette saved the Longhorns a little more than $7 million over the next two years.

Beard, who was a grad assistant at Tech under legendary head coach Bob Knight, currently makes just under $5 million with the Red Raiders. He signed a six-year contract extension with Tech after the 2019 season.

There hasn’t been a lot of talk out of Lubbock about what Beard is thinking, which way he’s leaning or if Tech is offering him another extension. If Texas fans want Beard, a former student assistant at UT under Tom Penders, you have to assume that no news from Texas Tech is good news.

Take, for example, Oklahoma State head coach Mike Boynton. His name was instantly mentioned as a possible hire for several programs or as a replacement for Smart when the Texas job came open. But on Monday, OSU announced that it had signed him to a seven-year contract extension.

The entire search has been a relatively quiet one for Texas. Royal Ivey, a key player on UT’s 2003 Final Four team, is the only candidate that’s been reported to have interviewed for the job. He’s currently an assistant for the Brooklyn Nets.

Beard became one of the hottest names in the sport when he led Texas Tech to the national championship game in 2019, where it lost to Virginia, 85-77, in overtime. In his second season at Tech, Beard took the Red Raiders to the Elite Eight.

Before arriving in Lubbock, he caught the nation’s attention when his Little Rock team upset Purdue in double-overtime, 85-83 in the 2016 NCAA Tournament. He parlayed that success in his lone season with the Trojans into the head coaching job at UNLV, but he quickly left for Tech after Tubby Smith took the Memphis head coaching job.

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