Ford: I Want To Win A National Championship

STILLWATER – Travis Ford took less than four minutes after being introduced Thursday at Oklahoma State to let Cowboy fans know what he expects to accomplish as the 18th head men's basketball coach in the history of the school. "My goals are to take this Oklahoma State basketball program to a national championship. That's why I'm here, and that's what I look forward to doing," Ford said.

The 38-year-old Ford was impressive during a nearly 45-minute press conference in which he discussed his decision to accept the Oklahoma State coaching job despite just last week turning down the opportunity to take over the Providence basketball program, the style of play he sees for future Cowboys teams, and many other topics.

Ford leaves the University of Massachusetts after three seasons, including leading the Minutemen to a 25-11 record and to the championship game of the National Invitation Tournament (NIT) this past season. He also was head coach at Eastern Kentucky (2000-01 through 2004-05) and Campbellsville University (1997-98 through 1999-2000).

But Ford never dreamed he would be standing inside Gallagher-Iba Arena being introduced as Sean Sutton's replacement just a few weeks ago while attending the Final Four in New Orleans.

"It was funny (because) at the Final Four I ran into a coach who is in the Big 12, and he came up to me," said Ford. "My name was surfacing for a couple different jobs (Providence and LSU), and he said you'd be great for Oklahoma State. He said your style of basketball would be unbelievable in this league. And he said (the Oklahoma State) team has a lot of great shooters, and you'd be great for them. I said, ‘Oh really. I think they're going after somebody else at this point (Bill Self). I think they've got their mind made up on somebody.' And I really didn't think that much about it after that."

But when Oklahoma State athletic director Mike Holder made the initial telephone call to Ford late last week to discuss the job, it didn't take long for the former Kentucky Wildcat point guard to get interested.

"You want to know what I said when he called me to tell me about it?" said his father Eddie Ford. "It's a no brainer. You've got to take it if they offer it to you."

That's what happened Wednesday afternoon upon returning to his home in Amherst, Mass., after spending part of Tuesday touring Oklahoma State and Stillwater.

"It was an incredible opportunity and something I wanted to be a part of," Ford said of his decision to leave UMass for OSU. "Yesterday afternoon when I got home, we sat and talked for a little while, and I called Coach (Holder) and said I want to be a Cowboy. You hear everything that was going on in the media, and I was hearing it … but it probably wasn't until late yesterday afternoon that I said I was on board."

Ford said it was tough to meet with his current Minutemen team but explained that it was the right move for him despite turning down the Providence job and receiving a contract extension just last week.

"When I met with my team last night at UMass, I told them this is too good of an opportunity to pass by. I told them my goal is to win a national championship, and I looked at my team and said, I think I can do it at Oklahoma State," said Ford. "It was bittersweet leaving my team last night, but they understand what the game of basketball means to me. They understand my goals as a coach. My goals are to take this Oklahoma State basketball program to a national championship.

"I have been fortunate to be approached by other people but I was looking for an opportunity to where I could go win a national championship. I was looking for an opportunity, and I shared this with Coach Holder as well, I wanted my next move to be a place where I could raise my family and be there for a while, and not a place where I could go and move somewhere else, and make it another stop.

"I wanted it to be the exact right place, and I want to be there 10 or 15 years, or as long as they will have me. I wanted to be patient," Ford continued. "I felt very lucky and fortunate to get some of the attention I was getting, but when this opportunity came along, and I learned more about it as the process went along, I realized this is an opportunity where I can reach my goals and dreams as a basketball coach, where I can raise my family in an incredible atmosphere in an incredible community around an great university. It was an opportunity that I couldn't let go by."

Holder said it didn't take long for him to realize that Ford was his man when the two sat down face-to-face earlier this week.

"As a coach, you like to feel like you have an intuition when you meet another coach that gets it, or when you meet an athlete that gets it," said Holder. "From what he said today, and what he said during the interview, I think everybody can see that he gets it. He's got his priorities in order. He's going to spend time with the players, and build those relationships. John Smith told me the first seven years that he coached he didn't really understand what it was all about. But once he figured out that it was the time away from the mat that was most important, that's when he became a great coach.

I talked to a lot of people, (and) his name kept popping up. I figured I needed to find out a little bit more about him," Holder continued. "I think the person who had more influence over me at the end of the day was (former Kentucky athletic director) C.M. Newton (who hired Rick Pitino).

"He made the recommendation to (athletic director) Jeremy Foley at Florida a few years ago that he should hire this young coach out of Marshall named Billy Donovan. C.M. told me, and said it's all right to share this with anyone, that's the way he feels about Travis Ford. That's a pretty good endorsement from someone I have a lot of respect for."

Ford said he thinks the Cowboy fans will enjoy watching the up-tempo style of basketball that he's used at UMass, Eastern Kentucky and Campbellsville during his 11 years as a head coach.

"I've tried to build my programs around the personnel, but I like to be very aggressive," says Ford, who has made one NCAA Tournament appearance (with Eastern Kentucky in 2005) during his eight years as a Division I head coach. "I explained to the (OSU) players earlier my style of basketball. We led the country in possessions (at UMass).

"People say we play very up-tempo but I like to call it very aggressive. We're going to put a lot of pressure on our opponents on both ends of the court. If we have a game on Wednesday night, I want people who are preparing for us on Monday and Tuesday to be stressed out all day long thinking we've got to go against that press, we've got to get back on defense, we've got to watch their three-point shooting, we've got to get ready because they play three, or four, or five, or six different defenses. I like that mentality. I like being very aggressive," he continued.

"When the ball is thrown up, we tell our guys don't look at the scoreboard because that's not what we're worried about. We're worried about how hard we're playing, and we want to worry about our style of basketball. We want to run people into the ground. If you look at how we play with about eight minutes to go in most every game we played we were the team looking like we were having the most fun, and the other team was ready for the game to get over with. That's how I like to play.

"I told the players they're going to have to be in the best shape they've ever been in to play this, and it's going to be extremely hard. But, and there's a big but to that … but it's a lot of fun. It's an incredible amount of fun to play this way, and I look forward to getting started."

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