MYRTLE BEACH, SC (WMBF) - This Saturday, the NCAA Tournament continues with the men’s Final Four, as three of the four teams look to win their first-ever National Championship.
One of those teams, the Texas Tech Red Raiders, is led by third-year head coach Chris Beard.
But before he was cutting down championship nets and being named 2018 AP Coach of the Year, Beard was just an upstart college assistant for legendary Indiana Hoosiers head coach Bobby Knight.
In 2011, Beard chose to leave the college game to lead an upstart semi-pro basketball team in Myrtle Beach.
The team would be known as the South Carolina Warriors, who played and practiced at the Carolina Forest Recreation Center.
“He was a very capable young man, very smart defensively, a great basketball mind and he’s a good recruiter,” said John Kefalas.
With more than 50 years of coaching experience in both the NBA and NCAA, Kefalas joined Beard’s coaching staff and started to build the South Carolina Warriors from the ground up with players like former Coastal Carolina University walk-on Colin Stevens.
“It was very unique for the Myrtle Beach area, that never had a semi pro team here. It was a fun ride,” said Stevens.
Beard and Kefalas assembled one of the most dominant American Basketball Association teams in the country.
They played all home games in Horry County at the Carolina Forest Recreation Center.
This weekend, Beard leads his team into the Final Four with their first-ever shot at a national championship.
“He was recruiting the best guys he could recruit for this ABA team and we put together a heck of a squad and we were smashing teams,” said Stevens.
The Warriors would only lose two games under Beard, one of those being the ABA Championship game.
With a 29-2 record, Beard would leave the Warriors after one season and head back to the NCAA as a head coach.
“He listened and got better. He got a lot better at dealing with kids. Look where he is today. I’m proud of him,” said Kefalas.
Kefalas would take over as the South Carolina Warriors head coach, winning the ABA championship in 2013.
As for Beard’s former players, they’re not surprised to see him coaching under the bright lights of the Final Four.
“Basketball is everything he does; he’s always thinking about it and always trying to get better,” said Stevens.
Texas Tech will play the Michigan State Spartans Saturday night in the Final Four with a chance to play Virginia or Auburn for the national championship on Monday night.