Rick Byrd is a fantastic head coach, but then again you already knew that. So let the fact that Belmont just wrapped up a ninth conference regular season championship in nine years serve as a reminder.
All of the credit for that success belongs to the legendary Byrd.
When Belmont made the switch from the Atlantic Sun before the start of the 2012-13 season, many wondered if they would still be able to contend for conference championships as consistently as they had in the A-Sun. All the Bruins have done is win four regular season titles in their first five years in the league.
Throw in two OVC Tournament titles in four years and the Bruins have surpassed all expectations.
You often hear the phrase that, "some programs don't rebuild, they just reload." Byrd does both.
He has mastered the art of recruiting to Belmont, finding overlooked high school recruits that fit his system so there is never much of a dropoff in talent. In the last four years he replaced NBA talent Ian Clark with a role player turned Player of the Year J.J. Mann, and moved on from Mann with explosive guard Craig Bradshaw and now undersized big man Evan Bradds.
But Byrd, who won his 750th game last week, also understands that no two teams are ever the same, and has a unique way of rebuilding each year around the talent he has. In 2010-11, the Bruins ran two-deep at every position, sending waves of subs and defensive pressure at every opponent on the way to a 30-5 record. The 2012-13 version of the Bruins, led by Clark, was one of the best shooting teams in the country.
This year Belmont sits at 20-5 thanks to an emphasis on defense and rebounding. The team's achilles heel in the past has turned into a strength as the Bruins lead the OVC in points per possession allowed. Couple that with Bradds, who ranks second in the league in scoring (21.0 PPG), and an offense that is as balanced as any that Byrd has coached and you see why these Bruins have won 16 of their last 17 games.
It's that buy in and execution that has made the 63 year old Byrd have so much fun with this team, and it's why Belmont will be a heavy favorite at the OVC Tournament at Municipal Auditorium next week and, if they win it, a scary opponent for some heavyweight in the NCAA Tournament.
The methods of this team are different, but the results are the same. Belmont is a conference champion again. The program's one constant makes it easy to see why.
Rick Byrd is a darn good coach.