Phil Ford Q&A

North Carolina great Phil Ford spoke to reporters on Tuesday about being honored as a member of the National Collegiate Basketball Hall of Fame induction class of 2012.

What does it mean to you to be inducted into the National Collegiate Basketball Hall of Fame?
"This is a tremendous honor, truly one that caught me off guard. I'd definitely like to thank the NABC. Receiving this honor is something that I'll cherish the rest of my life."

Can you talk about the impact that the 1975 ACC Tournament had on your career?
"I think you have to give credit to Coach [Dean] Smith for that win because we used to have something in the ACC called the Big 4 Tournament. It was North Carolina State, Duke, Wake Forest and us. We lost both games in that tournament and we probably wouldn't have gone to the NCAA had we not won the ACC Tournament, but Coach Smith just did a great job with us that year and we went from last in the Big 4 Tournament to first in the conference in a matter of a few months.

"But it was a tremendous honor to be MVP. I've always said that in a team sport, individual honors are good but it's always more important for the team to do well. It was just a great win for us because at that time I think we had only beaten North Carolina State like one of the last seven or eight times. We beat them the last time we played them at home in Chapel Hill and then we beat them again in the tournament, but it was just a great team win for us and I think Coach Smith is the one to get [credit] for that for the job that he did with us."

When you look back at your legacy, I would imagine not a day or two goes by that someone doesn't mention the Four Corners to you. What does it mean that you're so well known for running something that we haven't seen for 25 years?
"That was the brainchild of Coach Smith. He's the one. I've always said what makes Coach Smith the greatest coach is that he could always come up with something that gave us a chance to win offensively and defensively. They ran the Four Corners before I got to North Carolina and they ran it some after I left. We're known for the Four Corners, but I don't think people realize, and I'd have to go back and look it up, but I bet during that decade of the '70s that we averaged over 80 points a ball game, so that's not all what we did, but it was just so prevalent when we did do it that it got a lot of attention.

"But it was the brainchild of Coach Smith and it was something that we worked on every day. I've always said that holding the basketball is not as easy as it looks. You have to make pressure free throws, you have to take care of the ball and it's very important to go down to the other end and play good defense and rebound, because a lot of times the other team will come down and take a quick shot in frustration. Then we come down and run a little more time off the clock and before you know it, it had a snowball effect and we were up nine or 10 points and that was usually the game.

"It was a part of our offense that I enjoyed and I'm just happy that I got a chance to play for Coach Smith. It's something that he thought of and something that helped us win basketball games."

Can you talk about the influence of Coach Smith on your life today?
"Oh my gosh. I can't say enough about what Coach Smith has meant to me, not only in basketball, but away from the court. And it's not only me; it's all of his players. He's like a second father to all of us. I was over at his office last week and helped him celebrate his 81st birthday. Coach [Roy] Williams and Coach [Joe] Holladay and his secretary were in his office and we had some ice cream and cake. I can't imagine what my life would have been without him.

"When I was coaching at North Carolina and recruiting, I used to tell young men that the school that you choose is probably one of the biggest decisions that you're going to have to make in your life and you can't please everybody. You have to go with your heart and choose the school that you think is best for you. If I had to do it all over again, I would definitely choose the University of North Carolina because I was very fortunate. I guess you could say I was blessed to have Coach Smith in my life."


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