Split Loyalties for One Night Former Kansas State Player Beard Keeps Coug Crimson Close at Hand

By Ogden, Whitney | The Spokesman-Review (Spokane, WA), December 20, 2017 | Go to article overview

Split Loyalties for One Night Former Kansas State Player Beard Keeps Coug Crimson Close at Hand


Ogden, Whitney, The Spokesman-Review (Spokane, WA)


As soon as Washington State's basketball schedule was released, Danny Beard scrambled for tickets. For the first time in seven years, his alma mater - Kansas State - was coming back to eastern Washington.

This time, the Wildcats would be much closer to home. They'll travel to Spokane where they'll meet WSU in a nonconference game at the Spokane Arena on Wednesday night.

Beard purchased 10 tickets and has already put aside a game-day outfit, which includes a purple Kansas State shirt, of course. But after living in Spokane for 35 years, Beard has embraced the crimson red and will wear a WSU jacket over his shirt in support of the Cougars.

He sported the same getup the last time Kansas State stepped inside Cougar country in 2010, when the Wildcats ran away from WSU 70-56 at Beasley Coliseum in Pullman. A few Kansas State staff members recognized Beard among the Cougars fans in the stands that night and pulled him out of the sea of red to meet some of the new administrators sitting behind the K-State bench.

"I had my Cougar stuff on, and when they came I zipped my sweatshirt off and revealed my Kansas State purple pride," Beard said. "But as soon as I got back in the stands, I put my Cougar stuff back on and zipped it up."

It's a daring position to take for a man with deep roots at Kansas State.

Beard, who grew up outside of St. Louis in the small town of Sparta, Illinois, was part of an early 1970s Kansas State group of basketball recruits deemed the Fab Four, which included Lon Kruger, the head coach at Oklahoma, Larry Williams and Gene McVey.

The four freshmen weren't eligible to play varsity at Kansas State until their second year in Manhattan. At the start of the 1971-1972 season, they walked onto the court together and stunned the nation.

"We were the small-town, farm-boy type, and we just came in and jelled," Beard said.

The Fab Four pulled the Wildcats back into the top 10 and led the program in two consecutive appearances in the NCAA Tournament's Elite Eight in 1972 and '73.

Beard, who averaged a career-high 11.3 points in 28 games in 1972, was named to the NCAA Tournament All-Region team in the Midwest.

In his three eligible years with the Wildcats, Beard never had a chance to play Washington State, an original member of the Pac-8 at the time. The only time he traveled to the state was to play the Washington Huskies, who beat the Wildcats in two of three meetings with Beard.

Soon, Beard was drawing the interest of several NBA teams. Midway through his junior year, Beard was sought after by NBA scouts and received letters of interest by the Chicago Bulls and Phoenix Suns.

Those dreams of playing professionally were quickly disrupted during the summer before his final season. Beard was diagnosed with pericarditis, an infection in the areas around the heart that often leads to inflammation and, in Beard's case, a heart murmur. He was hospitalized for 16 days and forced to miss a month of practice.

The setback led to a mediocre year for Beard in the 1973-1974 season. He averaged 9.2 points in 27 games, not good enough to get his name on the 1974 NBA Draft list.

Beard was encouraged to attend some of the NBA's open tryouts that summer, but he decided against it.

"I still have the letters," Beard said. "I still have the envelopes that they came in, but probably, in reality, I wasn't good enough to play. …

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