How ‘Hawaiian Shirt Guy’ plays role in building top-notch basketball program

Christina Huang, Sports Reporter

Texas basketball’s head coach Chris Beard has committed to creating a relationship with the student body. The effects were on display after last Monday’s game at Gregory Gym against Sam Houston State. 

The official Texas basketball Twitter account tweeted a video of a particularly enthusiastic student dressed in a Hawaiian shirt and asked the Internet for help in identifying this energetic spectator in the caption: “WANTED: Hawaiian shirt kid.”

Hawaiian Shirt Guy turned out to be McCombs junior Jonathan Stewart, a lifelong Longhorns fan and the son of two Texas alumni.

The third year student was graciously rewarded by Beard for his outward support of the men’s basketball team after he was featured on the Twitter account.

“I got a DM from the (Texas) men’s basketball (Twitter) account and (then-assistant coach) Chris Ogden (direct messaged) me his phone number and told me to give him a call. (He said) that Chris Beard was requesting my presence at practice,” Stewart said.

Part of Stewart’s visit to practice is documented in a tweet, where Beard jokingly breaks down film of Stewart’s cheering as if it was a basketball play. Stewart was also allowed to stay at practice, where he got to watch Beard break down actual film from the Sam Houston State game. 

The junior’s unprecedented experience is a testament to Beard’s devotion to forming a bond with students and fully integrating them into game day activities.

Beard has been working hard toward building an elite basketball program since he arrived in Austin.

But building a first class program goes beyond just playing good basketball. 

Beard has done just about everything to get students to show up to the Frank Erwin Center, from making appearances at fraternity houses to even hosting a campuswide party at the UT Tower.

The head coach’s dedication to building a relationship with the student body comes from an understanding of how powerful home-court advantage can be and how loyal fans of elite programs are to their respective teams. 

“Chris Beard really understands how to get students engaged (and) that students are going to be the rowdy people at the games,” Stewart said. “During the Shaka (Smart) games, you just went and watched instead of being part of the experience.”

Beard continues to grow the program’s home base and is hoping to find the next Hawaiian Shirt Guy in the stands.

“We appreciate Hawaiian Shirt Guy. … We’ll find our next ‘wanted’ fan and we’ll try to do that every game this year. (We’ll) find a fan that we think is bringing the juice and try (to build) a relationship with them,” Beard said. 

As for Stewart, he seems to be proudly running with the Hawaiian Shirt Guy title. 

“(The Hawaiian shirt) is just my new game day attire. I’ll probably even wear it to football games.”