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UNLV's new coach left for Texas Tech after just 2 weeks, but there's a good reason

Chris Beard jumped from UNLV to Texas Tech after less than a month on the job. It's pretty clear why.

Ron Chenoy-USA TODAY Sports

Less than a week after being formally introduced as UNLV's head coach, Chris Beard became the top candidate to take the same job at Texas Tech. The former Tech assistant cropped up on the Red Raiders' radar after Tubby Smith left Lubbock for Memphis. While a reported $1 million buyout stands in the way, there's still a chance Beard's tenure in Las Vegas goes down in history alongside Rollie Massimino's zero-game stint with the New Jersey Nets as a famous never-was.

So how did we get here, and what does it mean for Beard, UNLV, and Texas Tech going forward?

Why UNLV made sense for Chris Beard after the NCAA Tournament

Beard was one of the hottest names among emerging coaches after his Arkansas-Little Rock team upset fifth-seeded Purdue in the opening round of the NCAA Tournament. The longtime assistant coach had worked his way up from the ABA and a pair of Division II jobs before earning a taste of March Madness in his first season with the Trojans. That rising status sent UNLV calling after the Runnin' Rebels fired head coach Dave Rice back on January 10.

That firing waved the white flag on UNLV's season, but it also gave the program a head start on finding a new coach. News broke that the university hired Beard on March 27, the same day Pittsburgh hired Kevin Stallings and several days before programs like Vanderbilt, Georgia Tech, and Memphis could find new head coaches.

The Rebels offered Beard several amenities Little Rock couldn't. UNLV boasts a national championship banner in the rafters, 20 NCAA Tournament appearances, and an NBA pipeline that includes players like Shawn Marion, Larry Johnson, and former No. 1 overall pick Anthony Bennett. The team consistently produces top-50 recruiting classes, and with its reputation set as a basketball school, the university's attention -- and the funding that comes with it -- would ensure Beard's status as an athletic priority. With a roster piled high with elite recruits, any coach who could keep this group together could find success in Las Vegas.

Except ...

No one stuck around, and now UNLV is screwed

If Beard departs for Lubbock, UNLV would face a three-plus month stretch during which they've had a permanent head coach for less than two weeks. Bringing in an impact hire this late in the process won't be easy. The team tried and failed to lure Cincinnati's Mick Cronin to the university before settling on Beard. The pool of available candidates has only narrowed since then.

Beard's decision is just the latest in a trend of high-profile departures from sin city. Five-star center Stephen Zimmerman declared for the NBA Draft on the same day reports broke the news Beard was hired. He spent just one season at UNLV. The team's leading scorer, Patrick McCaw, also decided to join him. Four-star forward Derrick Jones Jr., fresh off being declared ineligible to play by the NCAA, threw his name in the draft pool as well.

Another five-star recruit, Dwayne Morgan, announced he'd transfer to a school closer to his Baltimore home back in March. On April 11, Jordan Cornish told reporters he'd be leaving as well. One day later, news broke that rising junior Ben Carter may use a graduate transfer to avoid being the last rat on the Rebels' sinking ship.

Player Year PPG Reason for departure?
Stephen Zimmerman Freshman 10.5 NBA Draft
Derrick Jones Jr. Freshman 11.5 NBA Draft
Patrick McCaw Sophomore 14.7 NBA Draft
Dwayne Morgan Sophomore 5.5 Transfer
Jordan Cornish Sophomore 6.2 Transfer
Ben Carter* Junior 8.6 Graduate transfer
Jerome Seagears Senior 10.3 Graduation
Barry Cheaney Senior 1.3 Graduation
Alex Perez Senior n/a Graduation
Ike Nwamu Senior 11.4 Graduation
Chris Obekpa Senior n/a NBA Draft

Between graduations, transfers, and early entries to the NBA Draft, UNLV will lose all but four players from its current roster. That's nearly 80 percent of the team's total minutes from 2015-16. That's over 90 percent of the team's scoring. And while help may be on the way thanks to four-star recruits Jaylen Fisher and Justin Jackson, there's no guarantee they'll honor those commitments when they see a Rebel roster that resembles a bombed-out WWI trench this summer.

Beard was working to stitch up the gaping wounds in his roster. He had targeted several potential transfer players to help bridge the gap between a bleak present and a prosperous future.

Dave Rice proved you can lure recruits to Las Vegas, and that logic applies to transfer students as well. However, that's a stopgap solution for a serious attrition problem. Now, UNLV may not only need a new coach, it may need to find a candidate willing to captain a complete rebuild in Nevada.

Why Texas Tech, specifically, is a better fit for Chris Beard

It's clear Texas Tech is an upgrade from UNLV, if just for the stable roster situation alone. Beard would inherit a roster that will only graduate two players after an NCAA Tournament appearance while retaining its most efficient scorers. He'll also get to coach in a major conference and earn a major paycheck while doing so. If Beard makes the same annual salary as his predecessor -- $1,811,300 -- he'll nearly double the Rebels' offer. However, the job has appeal beyond just the obvious perks.

Beard has deep ties to the Red Raiders. He spent 10 seasons in Lubbock as the team's associate head coach under Bobby Knight. He was there for four NCAA Tournament appearances in six seasons. He's seen firsthand what it takes to win at Texas Tech. While he was on the sideline, the team won more than 57 percent of its games. Since his departure, that mark has dropped to just under 41 percent.

Beard also put down roots during those 10 years in northwestern Texas. That's where his three daughters live. Those family ties go a long way in selling an already attractive opportunity to the rising head coach.

As Fran Fraschilla notes, the $1 million buyout won't be a hurdle for Beard. That's money Texas Tech can afford to spend, especially if the university can sell boosters on the homecoming of the program's prodigal son.

While it may be poor form to bail on a job after less than a month on the sideline, the upgrade is significant. Beard is walking into a situation tailor-made for him on both a professional and personal level. The position he'll leave behind presented few avenues for success. While UNLV is traditionally the more prestigious job, it will take patience, resourcefulness, creativity, and time to rebuild the Runnin' Rebels. There's still value in a position like that, but it may not be enough to prevent Chris Beard's homecoming in Lubbock.