Belmont’s Rick Byrd gets 800th career victory, is No. 5 among NCAA Division I active coaches

Belmont coach Rick Byrd joined elite coaching company Thursday night. As his OVC-leading Bruins defeated Eastern Illinois 99-58, his resume added another win — his 800th in total.

The landmark victory puts Byrd in rarefied air as the fifth-winningest active coach in men’s college basketball, and the 26th to reach at least 800 career wins. Only Mike Krzyzewski, Jim Boeheim, Roy Williams and Bob Huggins lead him among active coaches.

“As I told our team in the locker room, 800 wins, a lot of people had to do with every single win,” Byrd said via the Tennessean. “I think college basketball and college athletics is about the student-athletes more than it is the coaches,” he said. “The coaches are too big, promoted too much, all that kind of stuff: too much credit.”

The 65-year-old veteran is 800-401 in his 38th season of coaching including stops at Maryville (1979-80), Lincoln Memorial (1984-86) and Belmont (1987-current). Byrd has led Belmont to 16 conference championships and seven NCAA Tournament appearances during his run with the program. At 22-4 on the season and 13-2 in the league, he has a chance to add another conference title and another tourney appearance to his already-splendid resume.

After the game Thursday, Byrd refused credit and deflected praise to players, coaches and administration. But he was aptly celebrated in the locker room with and blue and red confetti shower that he was left picking out of his mouth.

Byrd and his Bruins are favorites to win each of their final three games in the regular season, which would put them at 25-4 going into the postseason. The big obstacle in their path remains Murray State, led by projected lottery pick Ja Morant, but Belmont took them out in late January by double digits.

If Belmont does indeed get back to the NCAA Tournament this season it would be the first time since 2015 and fifth of the decade. The Bruins’ win Thursday improved their winning streak to 10, the longest since the 2016-17 season.

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