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Belmont basketball legend Rick Byrd awarded highest college coaching honor

Updated: Sep 20, 2022

Retired men’s basketball head coach Rick Byrd is the 2022 recipient of the John R. Wooden Legends of Coaching Award.

Leading his Bruins to 713 wins and eight NCAA tournament appearances during his 1986-2019 tenure, Byrd collects the ultimate honor in collegiate coaching, presented to him Tuesday by the Los Angeles Athletic Club.

“I am overwhelmed and grateful to be named the recipient of the John R. Wooden Legends of Coaching Award for 2022,” Byrd said in an article for Belmont Athletics. “There is no coach in the history of the game of basketball that embodied excellence, integrity and humility like John Wooden.”

The annual honor is given to an NCAA coach showing high standards of character and success, something Byrd was recently praised for by Belmont President Greg Jones, as well as Vice President, Director of Athletics Scott Corley and Missouri Valley Conference Commissioner Jeff Jackson.

Byrd joins an outstanding list of coaches including Tubby Smith of High Point University, Roy Williams of the University of North Carolina and the inaugural 1999 honoree, Dean Smith, also of UNC.

After receiving this local attention at the OVC-MVC switch announcement last week, Byrd now steps onto the national scene with the Wooden accolade.

“You could show a lot of false humility and say that it’s not that big a deal,” Byrd said in an interview following the MVC announcement, where he was recognized for his contributions to Belmont basketball.

“You’d have to be not even human to act like you don’t appreciate it.”

Byrd also made academic excellence a keystone of his career at Belmont; all of his players graduated with a college degree and 18 of them made their way onto the NCAA-leading CoSIDA All-America team since his 2001 season.

The Bruins’ former head coach was also inducted to the 2021 National Collegiate Basketball Hall of Fame and the 2003 Tennessee Sports Hall of Fame.

“You get used to the praise when your team does well.” Byrd said. “But when you retire and you don’t have a way of knowing it, you just appreciate those kind of moments more.”

PHOTO: Rick Byrd at a home game during his coaching tenure with the Bruins. Belmont Vision / Carina Eudy.

This article was written by Jessica Mattsson.

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