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Byrd continues class act, even after defeat

Coach Rick Byrd probably said it best during Thursday night’s postgame press conference after Belmont’s loss to Arizona – losing wasn’t all that fun.

Nevertheless, Bruin Nation loves that the men’s basketball program is led by such a genuine coach, and Byrd’s trip back to the hotel after the game was no exception.

Moments beforehand, managing editor Autumn Allison and I had to leave the arena to make it back to our hotel so we could hurriedly pack our belongings for our flight back to Nashville. About the same time, we were offered a ride back with Belmont’s sports information director Greg Sage, media crew, Byrd and athletic director Mike Strickland.

Concerned there wasn’t enough room, Byrd asks where everyone’s going to go. I joke that I’ll get strapped to the top and he immediately offers to walk. This guy just lost a basketball game – something he doesn’t do often – and he’s offering to walk.

We find the vehicle and it initially looks like Autumn and I will walk back to the hotel because we refuse to let Byrd wander the streets of Salt Lake by himself. As we start the trek back, Byrd and Strickland yell at us to jump in the car.

And if they tell you to do something, you listen. Without argument.

Byrd offers to sit in the very back, and he does. The rest of us pile in, equipment and all.

As we ride, Byrd jokes that he didn’t get to do much of anything fun but look at film and go to shootarounds. He was sorry he didn’t get to see the Mormon Tabernacle just blocks away from the arena and hotel.

Immediately, Sage hangs a right so Byrd can view the Tabernacle and Mormon Temple lit up at night. Byrd wonders aloud about the ins and outs of the iconic church on Sundays. He knows people can get in because his wife went to listen to the choir perform.

The car was filled with the strangest hodge podge of Belmont affiliated-persons, yet somehow we were all able to talk candidly about the night, crack jokes and share cool things we had learned while in the city, even after a demoralizing loss.

A couple of minutes later, we made it back to the hotel.

I move my seat and Byrd climbs out the back, staying to make sure that assistant SID Kristen Litchfield gets out without a stumble.

These five minutes weren’t ones that the national media were able to experience, but I think they’re the most telling of Byrd’s character that I’ve encountered during my time at Belmont.

We’re really quite lucky to have a person so devoted to a program and to a community. He holds himself to the same high standards he holds of others.

Honestly, we could all probably work on doing the same.

Sports editor Katie Greene is a junior mass communications major.

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