Rick Byrd, the coach of Belmont men's basketball for more than three decades, announced today that he's retiring, following a season of historic milestones.
The 66-year-old native of Knoxville led Belmont to 805 victories — 12th all-time among Division I coaches — and eight appearances in the NCAA Tournament, all of them since 2006. Byrd also led the Bruins to their first-ever NCAA Tournament win this season.
"I get the question a lot, "What’s the missing piece?'" Byrd said after that victory. "The missing piece is, 'Y’all hadn’t ever won a game in the NCAA Tournament.'
"And so I don’t really care about the personal part. If we’d have lost this game I’d have been proud of what we accomplished, but I don’t have to answer that question anymore."
When Byrd took over the team in 1986, Belmont was not yet a university, and sports were an afterthought at a college primarily known for its music business program. The men's basketball team played in the National Association of Intercollegiate Athletics, an association for small colleges and universities.
But Byrd went on to build the Bruins into a perennial powerhouse. Belmont is one of only nine programs in Division I college basketball to win 19 or more games in each of the last 14 seasons. Over that span, it's won 17 regular-season or conference tournament titles.
Since 2001, Belmont also leads the nation in Academic All-America selections, according to the university.
This year, Byrd was selected as a candidate for the college basketball Hall of Fame’s 2019 class. But even as he's been gaining recognition, Byrd has been hinting at retirement, as he did in a recent interview with NewsChannel5.
"I've said for several years, it's a year-to-year proposition," Byrd said. "There are so many pluses to continuing to coach. And I’ve said all along, I’m gonna have some healthy years of retirement."