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Mark Adams is about as unlikely a head coach as you could find.
Who would’ve thought a 65-year-old first-time head coach in a power five conference would lead his team to the Sweet Sixteen?
Ask anyone who knows Mark, and they’ll tell you his success is no surprise. It also didn’t happen overnight.
Who Is Mark Adams? He’s a basketball coach. The son of a farmer. And most importantly, a Texan.
In a profession where the rise to head coach is usually linear, Adams took an unorthodox path that ultimately prepared him for the moment he and his team are about to face.
As the country prepares for another stop on the “Coach K Farewell Tour,” the Red Raiders aim to make this the final destination.
It all starts with the man in charge.
When former head coach Chris Beard left Lubbock for the hated Longhorns, Adams brought continuity and steadiness to the program.
With Adams at the helm, Tech players have taken on the attitude and mentality of their journeyman coach.
Started From The Bottom
Adams started his coaching career in 1981 as the head coach of Clarendon College, a JUCO in Clarendon, Texas. In just two seasons, he posted 46 victories.
Next, he took over Wayland Baptist, an NAIA program just an hour and a half away from Clarendon.
In four seasons with the Pioneers, Adams posted a 100-39 record with three postseason appearances highlighted by being the NAIA runner-up in 1985.
After a successful run at Wayland, Adams moved up to Division II West Texas A&M. The Buffaloes won 108 games and appeared in two NCAA Division II Tournaments during his tenure.
After much success, the big break to coach Division I basketball came when he accepted the job at Texas-Pan American. Unfortunately, the success Adams had usually found didn’t follow him to Edinberg, Texas.
Instead, in five seasons, he went 44-90 and was eventually let go by the program.
What was seen as a failure by many was a reset for Coach Adams. He took a brief stint away from basketball and owned a minor league hockey team.
Eventually, the itch to get back into coaching came with an opportunity to lead Howard College, a junior college in Big Spring, TX.
Adams posted a 233-54 record with two national championships in nine seasons with the Hawks. Future NBA player Jae Crowder led his 2010 championship team.
Finally, the call came from his alma mater and dream school.
Tubby Smith, the then head coach at Texas Tech, asked Mark to join his staff as the director of basketball operations.
A position he would hold for two seasons before Chris Beard called him to join his team as an assistant coach at Arkansas-Little Rock.
Adams was back on the Division I level. He was a part of the 2016 team that won the Sun Belt conference, and upset 5th ranked Purdue in the 2016 NCAA Tournament.
After two years, he followed Chris Beard back to where it seemed like he was supposed to be; Texas Tech.
After Beards’ sudden departure after the 2021 season, Mark Adams’ opportunity had finally arrived.
An unlikely journey for an unlikely coach has now placed him among college basketball’s elite.
And it feels like it’s where he should’ve been all along.
This Texas Tech team embodies the characteristics of their coach. They are a group of overlooked, gritty, tough guys wanting to prove that they can win at the highest level.
Guard Adonis Arms started at the Juco level and played for three different programs before landing in Lubbock.
Forward Kevin Obannor played in the Summit League with Oral Roberts. After leading them to the sweet sixteen last year, he wanted to prove he too could compete at the power five-level.
Forward Marcos Santos-Silva started his career at VCU before finding redemption at Texas Tech.
Senior guard Davion Warren started his career at a community college before transferring to HBCU Hampton University. Now he’s finishing his eligibility to play in Lubbock.
An unassuming group of misfits and castaways have come together and grown into a team that nobody wants to face.
Defense, Defense, Defense
The Red Raiders lead the country in defensive efficiency at 66.0 points per game. They rank sixth nationally in opponent field goal percentage.
They’re long, physical, and aggressive, causing every game to feel like a vintage WWF Hell In A Cell match.
They play suffocating defense, waiting for their opponent to break. When they do, the floodgates burst open, and the drowning begins.
Even ask Iowa State, a team they held to just 41 points in a conference game.
National pundits seem to think this is an easy win for Coach K and the Blue Devils. Yet, this Red Raiders team has proven that they love the role of the underdog and that they belong amongst the best.
This team’s makeup is of guys who had to do more with less. Guys who understand this may be their one shot to prove they can beat a legendary coach and his “Blue Blood” program.
All that to say, I wouldn’t bet against Coach Adams. He represents those who’ve been doubted, counted out and overlooked.
And now, with the whole country watching, his moment has arrived.
After coaching twenty-four years in the cellars of college basketball, Adams is ready to show everyone that he and his team belong in the Big dance.
I expect to see Texas Tech celebrating when the clock strikes zero Thursday night.
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