Texas players say Beard firing won’t derail their season

AUSTIN, Texas (AP) — Texas players said Monday they will not let their season be derailed after the mid-season firing of coach Chris Beard following his arrest on a felony domestic violence charge.

“The coaches preached to us early on … (about) us being a player-led team,” sixth-year senior guard Marcus Carr said. “Those really special teams teams that do something special are teams where players are able to set the standards and hold each other accountable.”

Carr and fifth-year seniors Timmy Allen and Brock Cunningham met with reporters to speak for the first time about Beard’s Dec. 12 arrest and suspension, and eventual firing last week.

The No. 10 Longhorns (13-2, 2-1 Big 12) are 6-1 since Beard was suspended and assistant Rodney Terry took over. The Longhorns host No. 17 TCU (13-2, 2-1) on Wednesday night.

Police arrested Beard after responding to an emergency call from his house. His fiancée told officers he choked her from behind, bit her and hit her when the two argued. She later recanted that she was choked and said Beard may have acted in self defense.

Beard was charged with assault by strangulation/suffocation family violence and could be sentenced to prison if convicted. His case still must go to a grand jury to consider an indictment. Beard’s attorney has said the coach is innocent.

Texas fired Beard after determining he is “unfit” to coach the program.

The Longhorns players described the “initial shock” of Beard’s arrest, which had to then be quickly suppressed when the Longhorns played that night against Rice. The Owls took the shaken Longhorns to overtime before Texas pulled out a victory.

Cunningham said the veteran players gathered the younger ones at that morning’s shootaround to talk things through. Carr and Allen are second-year transfer players who have experienced change. Cunningham stayed with the Longhorns after former coach Shaka Smart left for Marquette.

Each encouraged their younger teammates to focus on the play on the court, not the legal case swirling around Beard.

“It’s still our team,” Cunningham said. ”We’re an older team and we can weather any storm … Nothing has changed for our goals or the team that goes out on the court and competes every game.”

Cunningham said hes not angry at Beard.

“I can only speak for myself: There’s no resentment toward coach Beard,” Cunningham said. ”An event happened and now he’s no longer with us. Thats the bare bones of it. We’re trying to go win games.”

Having Terry, who had a previous stint as a Longhorns assistant and head coaching jobs at UTEP and Fresno State, also helped calm the choppy waters around the program.

Terry now has a chance to show if he’s the right person for the full-time job after this season. He had a big hand in signing next season’s incoming freshmen Ron Holland and AJ Johnson, two of the top recruits in the country.

“Both of the guys we have signed I was heavily involved with, was really the point person with both. That relationship is really strong, it hasn’t really wavered,” Terry said. “They made a commitment to an elite-level basketball program where they were going to have an opportunity to come in and be impact players for us.”

When asked if he sees himself as a top candidate to fill the job permanently, Terry said, “I live in the moment. We’ve got a great team to coach.”

Terry said he still considers Beard “like a brother,” and suggested he may be in touch with him from time to time. Terry said the two had not been in contact between Beard’s Dec. 12 suspension and his firing of him last week.

“He wants this team to do special things that we thought we were capable of doing,” Terry said. “He doesn’t want to be a distraction … But any way he could help at any point, he’d love to be able to throw some advice here and there.”

Terry said he hasn’t been told by school administrators to limit his conversations with Beard.

“Whether I talk to Chris and have a conversation about our game or maybe a different game, it has no bearing on who is coaching the team,” Terry said. “I’m coaching the team right now. I have the direction of the team.”

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AP college basketball: https://apnews.com/hub/college-basketball and https://apnews.com/hub/ap-top-25-college-basketball-poll and https://twitter.com/AP_Top25

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