KNOXVILLE, Tenn. (WVLT) -- Rick Byrd recently retired as the head coach of the Belmont Bruins men's basketball team. He coached there from 1986-2019. On February 16, 2017, with the Bruins win over Eastern Kentucky, Byrd marked his 750th career win, 658 with Belmont.
He retired after the 2018-2019 season with 805 wins, which ranks twelfth all-time among NCAA Division 1 men's basketball coaches. Belmont renamed their basketball floor the Rick Byrd Court in 2019.
Byrd grew up in Knoxville, Tennessee where he would sit alongside his father, Ben Byrd, and watch him write articles on the Tennessee men's basketball games as a kid. He then went to play basketball at a Florida junior college for a year, but decided to come back home to Knoxville and attend the University of Tennessee, where he was asked to join the junior varsity team for the Volunteers his senior year. The next year, in order to start his coaching career, he became the student assistant to the varsity squad coached by Ray Mears.
Byrd says owes his coaching career to his father, legendary sportswriter Ben Byrd, saying he would have followed in dad's footsteps had he not been a coach, "I would sit underneath my dad's seat on the edge of the floor before they had all the fancy scoreboards so I can't help but believe that had to do with what I ended up doing. Coach Mears is about the end of the table away from me down here and I'm watching Adolph Rupp and other great coaches on the other end."
Rick, who had the floor at Belmont named after him recently, shared stories Wednesday about his path to 805 career coaching victories with Maryville College, LMU, and Belmont. He said he's seen all kinds of coaches through the years and believes Tennessee's got a great one in Rick Barnes, I've heard horror stories about how hard coaches push and what they do to kids and I'm not throwing a big blanket over everyone that coaches. You all have a terrific guy in Rick Barnes in the quality of person that he is and I think you already know, he'd be the first to tell you he had to learn that ."
Byrd was 2-13 his first year at Maryville College and says he never thought he'd have wound up with more than 800 victories nearly 40 years later.