The bass in any of Metro Boomin’s beats has a sort of sinisterly arrhythmic pulse that leaks out of speakers and drives through walls even at its lowest volume.
The sounds coming out of Texas Tech’s locker room Saturday were cranked loud enough to hear through the hallways at TD Garden.
Between the relentless thump of Metro’s “Pull Up N Wreck” and the triplet flow of Detroit rapper Big Sean, Texas Tech had the bowels of the Garden sounding like a hip-hop Dunkirk.
Villanova, the Red Raiders’ Elite Eight opponent on Sunday, could hear the audible assault from its locker room at the other end of the hall.
But for Texas Tech, the music booming from its locker room is as much a part of its DNA as the top-to-bottom balance that made it one of the toughest teams in the Big 12.
“Just our culture,” said senior guard Keenan Evans. “It helps us get ready to play. It brings energy. It brings life.”
If there’s one issue with the Red Raiders’ pregame playlist, it’s the occasional experiment with country.
“We probably play a little too much country,” Evans said.
“We do get upset with our guys sometimes for playing some of the country,” said senior guard forward Zach Smith. “Tell them to go ahead and skip that.”
Every so often, coach Chris Beard will sneak one in like, Merle Haggard’s “Mama Tried.” Even if the players still can’t name the songs, it’s gotten to the point that they find themselves singing along.
“It gets the coaches even in a great mood and gets them fired up,” Evans said. “So just us having music in there brings a little personality and helps us have fun in practice.”
Beard saw a larger point to the playlist.
“Diversity is the spice of life,” Beard said. “Think about this, I’ve been a little bit in the world. I’ve coached the Swiss national team a couple summers ago as an assistant. That’s what makes our country great. Look at the room today, everybody’s different. Diversity is America. Diversity is the beauty in life.”
When Beard took over as Texas Tech’s head coach two years ago, his mission was to get his team to come together as quickly as possible. He had done it before at almost every level — from high school to community college to Division 3 to Division 2 to Division 1.
“My plan has never been to outcoach anyone,” Beard said. “But my plan has been to have great relationships with the players, and maybe our guys will do a little bit more, run through that wall a little bit harder because of the relationship we have with them.”
In two years, he was able to get veteran leaders such as Evans and Smith to buy into the belief that he would surround them with enough young talent to make the tournament push they’re making now.
The Red Raiders built a culture on making unlikely but genuine connections and ultimately creating the kind of unselfishness that allows everyone to thrive.
“We learn more about each other every day,” said center Norense Odiase. “Just the interactions we have, the different songs, the different backgrounds guys come from. It just really helps this team grow.”
No one on the team averages more than 30 minutes per game. Ten players have started at one point this season. The bench led the Big 12 in scoring. A senior like Evans might lead the team in scoring (17.7 points per game), but a senior like Justin Gray sets just as much of a tone by embracing every role that’s been asked of him, whether it’s taking shots late in the clock or setting screens to get teammates open.
“Every guy on our team has made sacrifices,” Beard said. “We don’t like entitlement in our program. We’re staying at these ridiculously nice hotels where people come around and take your plate from you. I don’t let that happen. Seriously, we make our guys get up and put their plate on the table, myself included. So no entitlement culture, no selfishness. We just keep bringing it up where you either fit in or you don’t.”
In order to make those sacrifices, the players had to see Beard’s vision. Texas Tech had made the tournament 16 times prior to this year, but it had never reached the Elite Eight. Beard said the foundation was built on trust — not just in the big picture, but in the tiniest details.
“But the foundation of every relationship is trust,” Beard said. “So when we get the job, we just tell guys what we’re going to do. We’re careful not to say something we can’t deliver on.”
From the time Beard arrived, he put the goal in front of his team.
“As soon as the job opened up, he was basically there the next day,” Evans said. “Came in, had a one-on-one conversation with everybody. What stood out to me is one of the first things he said is, ‘I want to win, and we’re going to win if you stay.’ You get your core group of guys to stay, and, ‘I’m going to bring in help.’ And he did that. He stayed, and he did basically what he said he was going to do. And that’s what stood out to me.”
The players and coaches have a deal for the playlist after every game. Win, and the players get to pick three songs and Beard gets to pick one. Lose, and Beard gets the three picks and the players get one. Whether “Mama Tried” or Metro Boomin is thumping out of the Red Raiders’ locker room Sunday depends on one thing.
“So win,” Beard said. “It’s a winner’s world.
Julian Benbow can be reached at email@example.com.