The Travis Ford era begins at UMass
Courtesey: Associated Press (Ford), UMass Athletics (Mullins Center)

Coverage from:
The Springfield Republican - 3/22 External link
The Daily Hampshire Gazette - 3/22
The Springfield Republican - 3/23 External link
The Springfield Republican - 3/24 External link
The Daily Collegian - 3/24
The Daily Hampshire Gazette - 3/24
UMass Athletics - 3/24
The Associated Press - 3/24
The Springfield Republican - 3/25 done deal External link
The Springfield Republican - 3/25 McCutcheon decision External link
The Boston Globe - 3/25
The Boston Herald - 3/25
The Daily Hampshire Gazette - 3/25

Ford banner
The Associated Press - 3/25
UMass Athletics - 3/25
UMass Athletics - 3/25 press conference quotes
UMass Athletics - 3/25 bio
Ford career photo gallery Picture External link
WMUA recording of entire introduction & press conference Audio
The Springfield Republican - 3/26 External link
The Springfield Republican - 3/26 fan reaction External link
The Boston Herald - 3/26
The Boston Globe - 3/26
The Greenfield Recorder - 3/26
The Berkshire Eagle - 3/26
The Daily Hampshire Gazette - 3/26
The Daily Hampshire Gazette - 3/26 players' reaction
The Daily Hampshire Gazette - 3/26 recruiting needs
The Daily Hampshire Gazette - 3/26 bio
The Louisville Courier-Journal - 3/26
The Richmond Register - 3/26
The Daily Collegian - 3/28
The Daily Collegian - 3/28 column


Ford gains momentum at UMass
By Matt Vautour, Daily Hampshire Gazette Staff Writer, 3/22/2005

Eastern Kentucky coach Travis Ford appears to be gaining momentum in the search for a new men's basketball coach at the University of Massachusetts as athletic director John McCutcheon decides which candidates to bring to campus for second interviews.

Ford, who spoke to UMass officials last week, is one of four candidates remaining for the position which opened when UMass dismissed Steve Lappas on March 14 after four seasons. The Minutemen might not be the only school considering Ford, who led Eastern Kentucky to the NCAA Tournament and a 72-64 first-round loss to Kentucky. His name also has been mentioned in connection with vacancies at both Tennessee and Virginia.

If Tennessee hires Charlotte coach Bobby Lutz, Ford could be a candidate for the 49ers' job as well.

Ford played for UMass graduate Rick Pitino at Kentucky, where he led the Wildcats to the 1993 Final Four as a junior.

He began his coaching career in 1997 at Campbellsville (Ky.) University, an NAIA school. He went 67-31 in three seasons before being hired at Eastern Kentucky.

The Colonels were 6-21 the year before Ford arrived. After winning seven games his first two seasons at Eastern Kentucky, the Colonels jumped to 11 wins in 2002-03 and then 14 last year before exploding this season with a school record 22 victories and the program's first NCAA trip since 1979.

Pitino, who influenced the search committee that hired John Calipari in 1988 to coach at UMass, is believed now to be advocating for Ford.

McCutcheon will meet with his advisory committee today to review the search process and decide who to bring in for second interviews. The candidate pool is believed to include Manhattan coach Bobby Gonzalez, Kent State coach Jim Christian and Memphis assistant and former Minuteman Tony Barbee.

All four have spoken with McCutcheon about the opening.

NOTES: If UMass hires Ford, it would mean that two of the last three Minuteman coaches appeared in the movie ''The Sixth Man.'' The box office flop included Ford as a player and Bruiser Flint playing himself as the UMass coach in a fictional national championship game.

Matt Vautour can be reached at mvautour@gazettenet.com.


Ford close to being named next UMass hoops coach
By Mike Marzelli, The Daily Collegian Staff Writer, 3/24/2005

Massachusetts athletic director John McCutcheon appears likely to tab Travis Ford as the new head coach of the Minutemen men's basketball program, although the two sides had not reached an agreement as of last night and the door remains open on an 11th hour candidate entering the picture.

Ford was in Amherst with his wife on Wednesday, but UMass officials maintain that nothing is imminent and no announcement is planned.

If Ford falls from the top of UMass' list for any reason, the name of Manhattan coach Bobby Gonzalez would likely surface as a viable candidate. Memphis assistant and former UMass player Tony Barbee may also get additional consideration after receiving only a preliminary interview, along with Kent State coach Jimmy Christian.

Helping Gonzalez's cause is the fact that would-be UMass recruit Craig Austrie, a point guard from Trinity Catholic High School in Stamford, Conn., who committed to the program under Lappas but withdrew his verbal commitment when the coach was let go, has indicated that if Gonzalez were hired, he would don the maroon and white. If another coach is hired, it appears as if Austrie would go elsewhere, including recent suitors Providence and Fordham.

Ford was the coach at Eastern Kentucky University for the past five seasons, guiding the Colonels to a 22-9 record and an Ohio Valley Conference Championship this past season - one in which EKU made its first NCAA Tournament appearance in 26 years.

Initially not believed to be a candidate, Ford's name picked up steam after UMass could not land former North Carolina coach Matt Doherty. He was said to have been vouched for by Pitino during the search, and was brought to campus late Tuesday as talks intensified between the two sides.

Ford was originally hesitant about taking the job, as he was waiting to gauge his chances of landing the recently vacated head job at Tennessee that would have allowed him to stay closer to home.

After Texas Tech Hall of Fame coach Bobby Knight and North Carolina-Charlotte's Bobby Lutz moved to the forefront of the Volunteers' search, Ford acted quickly and decided to pursue his chances in Amherst before the opportunity passed him by in favor of another candidate. With negotiations still ongoing with UMass, Ford may still find himself in the mix at Tennessee, and the search has the potential to intensify if Knight's Red Raiders are eliminated prior to the weekend.

Ford's potential hiring poses major questions about whether a coach from the Bluegrass State can recruit competitively on the east coast, and if a man who's known to be relatively quiet and even-keeled can sell the UMass program and re-energize a downtrodden and apathetic fan base that hasn't had much to cheer about in over half a decade.

The Minutemen will return four starters next season, but are without a point guard on scholarship following the graduation of both Anthony Anderson and Chris Chadwick.


UMass expected to hire Ford
By Matt Vautour, Daily Hampshire Gazette Staff Writer, 3/24/2005

The University of Massachusetts has reached a preliminary agreement to hire Eastern Kentucky coach Travis Ford to fill the vacant men's basketball job, according to school officials familiar with the situation. UMass could hold a press conference as early as today, but an official announcement is more likely to come Friday so members of Ford's family can be present for his introduction as the new Minuteman coach. He would succeed Steve Lappas, who was dismissed last week after four seasons.

Ford, 35, and his wife Heather were on campus for his second interview Wednesday. He met during the day with school administrators and the committee advising athletic director John McCutcheon, and with school boosters at night.

Ford was a star player at Kentucky under UMass alumnus Rick Pitino. Ford emerged as a hot name in coaching circles after he led Eastern Kentucky to this year's NCAA Tournament, where the Colonels nearly upset his alma mater a week ago.

Pitino, whose Louisville Cardinals play Washington tonight in the Albuquerque Regional of the tournament, said Wednesday that he believes Ford would do well.

''I think it's great. He reminds me of (Florida coach) Billy Donovan,'' Pitino said. Donovan formerly was an assistant to Pitino at Kentucky.

Ford five years ago inherited a program at Eastern Kentucky that had won a combined 12 games the two years before he arrived.

''It wasn't like rebuilding a program,'' Ford told the Associated Press last week. ''It was more like starting one. It was bad in every aspect.''

After winning seven games in each of his first two seasons and 11 in his third, the Colonels went 14-15 last year, setting the stage for this season. Eastern Kentucky went 22-9 and finished second in the Ohio Valley Conference. The Colonels defeated Austin Peay in the conference tournament to earn the program's first NCAA bid since 1979.

His building project in Amherst doesn't appear to be nearly as large an undertaking. The Minutemen return four starters from a team that went 16-12 this season.

Ford's playing career coincided with the beginning of the glory years at UMass in the early 1990s. After playing one season at Missouri, the Madisonville, Ky., native transferred to the Wildcats where he helped resurrect the program that had been weighed down by NCAA probation.

He led Kentucky to the 1993 Final Four and was named the regional's most outstanding player.

After his collegiate career ended, Ford was in camp with the Golden State Warriors, but he was cut before the NBA season.

A movie producer approached him about a role in ''The Sixth Man,'' a basketball movie starring Marlon Wayans that coincidentally featured a cameo appearance by former UMass coach Bruiser Flint. The movie took 18 months to film and when it was over, Ford returned to basketball.

Campbellsville University, an NAIA school in Kentucky, decided to trade on Ford's Bluegrass State star power and hired him in 1997 to be its head coach even though he had no experience as an assistant coach. It worked out well. Ford compiled a record of 67-31 in three seasons there before Eastern Kentucky enlisted him for its rebuilding project.

Eastern Kentucky interim athletic director Jake Bell said Tuesday in a statement that he had been contacted by a school to speak with Ford. Bell declined to name the school and praised Ford's work.

''We have been extremely pleased with coach Ford's performance as our head coach and we hope he remains with our program and university,'' Bell said.

NOTE: Lappas has been mentioned in connection with coaching vacancies at Siena and Fresno State.

Matt Vautour can be reached at mvautour@gazettenet.com.


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UMASS TO ANNOUCE NEW HEAD COACH ON FRIDAY AT 3 P.M.
Fans Join Us At the Cage For a Celebration

UMass to introduce its new head coach at the Curry Hicks Cage at 3 p.m.
From UMass Athletics, 3/24/2005

AMHERST, Mass. - UMass will introduce its new men's basketball head coach on Friday, March 25 at the Curry Hicks Cage at 3 p.m. The event is open to the public so join us for a basketball celebration and your chance to meet the new coach.

Bring your friends and family for a special moment as the 20th head coach in UMass basketball history is introduced to the public.


Source: Eastern Kentucky's Ford to be Massachusetts coach
From The Associated Press, 3/24/2005

SPRINGFIELD, Mass. -- Eastern Kentucky's Travis Ford has been chosen as the next basketball coach of Massachusetts, a university source told The Associated Press.

The source, speaking on condition of anonymity, confirmed Thursday that UMass officials had reached an agreement with Ford, and planned to announce his hiring on Friday.

Ford and his wife arrived on the Amherst campus Tuesday and spent the past several days meeting with administrators, a faculty advisory committee and basketball boosters.

The 35-year-old former University of Kentucky guard, guided the Colonels to a 22-9 record this season -- the most wins in school history -- and an NCAA tournament bid, the school's first in 26 years. The Colonels lost in the first round to Kentucky, but not before giving his alma mater a scare.

The Massachusetts job opened when Steve Lappas was fired last week after going 50-65 over four seasons.

Ford did not return messages left at his home seeking comment. Jason Yellin, a spokesman for UMass athletic director John McCutcheon, confirmed that a news conference would be held Friday to announce the new coach, but would not confirm if Ford was the pick.

Through a spokesman, Eastern Kentucky President Joanne Glasser declined to comment. However, she spoke with the team Wednesday night.

"I told them that I hope coach Ford stays with us, but if he does choose to accept another position, then we will begin a nationwide search immediately to find the best coach to lead our program to even greater heights of excellence," she said in a statement.

Ford played for Rick Pitino at Kentucky. Pitino, now the coach at Louisville and a UMass alumnus, has been pushing for Ford to get the job, praising his former player's recruiting ability and calling him a "great fit" at Massachusetts.

At Eastern Kentucky, Ford took over a team that had seven straight losing seasons. He won seven games each of his first two seasons. Then each year, the team improved -- first to 11 wins, then 14 and 22 this season.

Eastern Kentucky finished second in the Ohio Valley Conference and defeated Austin Peay in the conference tournament final to get the NCAA bid.

The Kentucky native began his coaching career at Campbellsville, Ky., where he went 67-31 in three seasons at the NAIA school.

Last August, Ford signed a multiyear contract extension with Eastern Kentucky, the terms of which were not disclosed. When he took the job in April 2000, his four-year contract included a base salary of $80,000 a year.

After his first season with the Colonels, Ford received a new four-year contract, which would have extended the original agreement through the end of this season.

Ford tried out some other career paths before getting into coaching.

He took his stockbroker's exam after being released by the Golden State Warriors in 1995, then he got a part in a basketball movie, "The 6th Man," playing a hotshot, point guard.

The experience revived his interest in basketball and after spending a season observing Pitino, he got the job at Campbellsville.


UMass to introduce new basketball coach Ford today
From The Boston Globe Wire Services, 3/25/2005

UMass will introduce Travis Ford as its men's basketball coach today at 3 p.m. at the Curry Hicks Cage in Amherst.

Ford, who coached Eastern Kentucky to a 22-9 record this season, agreed to become the school's 20th head coach Wednesday and has spent the past two days meeting the players and school administrators.

The announcement was delayed in part because of the snow that hit the region yesterday.

Ford, 35, played for Rick Pitino at Kentucky and received the support of Pitino, a UMass alum, for the chance to replace Steve Lappas.


UMass set to put Ford behind wheel
By Rich Thompson, The Boston Herald, 3/25/2005

The UMass athletic department is so excited about its new basketball coach it's making him available to the public.

Minutemen athletic director John McCutcheon is expected to introduce Travis Ford, 35, as the school's 20th men's basketball coach this afternoon (3 p.m.) during an open house at the Curry Hicks Cage.

The school would not confirm or deny Ford's appointment, but did say the former Eastern Kentucky coach has been in Amherst since Wednesday.

``This is going to be open to the public and we want everyone to come out and meet him,'' said Jason Yellin, the school's assistant athletic director for media relations. ``There will be a big celebration to re-energize interest in the program.''

Declining attendance at the Mullins Center was one of the primary reasons McCutcheon relieved veteran coach Steve Lappas of his duties on March 14 after four seasons. Lappas just completed his first winning season (16-12) that included a stunning home win over defending national champion Connecticut. But the program's popularity among the student body and the surrounding communities had plummeted since coach John Calipari's reign in the 1990s, when UMass won five Atlantic 10 titles and enjoyed extended runs in the NCAA tournament.

Ford was brought through the interview process for the work he did re-energizing the dormant Eastern Kentucky program. Ford accumulated a 61-80 record in five seasons at EKU, guiding the Colonels to their breakout season this year.

The Colonels registered a school-record 22 wins and made their first NCAA tournament appearance since the 1979 season.

Ford will take over a team that has a nucleus of young talent on the verge of establishing itself as an Atlantic 10 power.

With junior Jeff Viggiano and sophomore starters Rashaun Freeman, Artie Bowers, Stephane Lasme and Maurice Maxwell in place, Ford will introduce his brand of basketball to an experienced group of players.


UMass celebrates its new coach today
By Matt Vautour, Daily Hampshire Gazette Staff Writer, 3/25/2005

The University of Massachusetts will wait until a 3 p.m. event today at the Curry Hicks Cage to announce that Travis Ford is in fact the school's new men's basketball coach.

UMass officials are calling it a ''basketball celebration'' as fans are invited to attend and meet the former Eastern Kentucky coach who completed his agreement with UMass on Thursday. The length and terms of Ford's contract have not yet been disclosed.

Ford, 35, a 1994 graduate of Kentucky, emerged as the leader from a list of finalists for the UMass job that included Manhattan coach Bobby Gonzalez, Memphis assistant and former Minuteman Tony Barbee and Kent State coach Jim Christian.

Ford will the 20th men's basketball coach at UMass, succeeding Steve Lappas who was dismissed last week after four years without a trip to the postseason.

Ford, who this season led Eastern Kentucky to a 22-9 record and its first NCAA Tournament berth since 1979, was the only candidate to have a second interview. He toured campus and met with school administrators and boosters on Wednesday.

Today's celebration will likely give way to work quickly for Ford. UMass has two scholarships to offer and no point guard on the roster. Ford will need to assemble a coaching staff quickly to aid him in that recruiting.

It's uncertain how many of his Eastern Kentucky assistants might follow him to Amherst. Associate head coach Tim Maloney and assistant coaches Steve Middleton and James Altman are all New York natives.

AUSTRIE OUT? - Craig Austrie, the 6-foot-1 point guard from Stamford, Conn., and Trinity Catholic, is now unlikely to join the Minutemen. Austrie gave UMass an oral commitment in September, but reopened his recruiting when Lappas was let go.

Austrie had an official visit yesterday at Connecticut and had visits scheduled at Providence and Fordham.

An assistant coach at Trinity Catholic who has advised Austrie in the recruiting process said earlier this week that Austrie might go to UMass if Gonzalez was hired.

FORD vs. UMASS - Ford faced his new employers twice during his playing career at Kentucky. He didn't score in 12 minutes when the teams met in the NCAA Tournament in 1992, but he had 10 points and three assists when the Minutemen and Wildcats played in 1994.

Matt Vautour can be reached at mvautour@gazettenet.com.


Ford Leaves E. Kentucky to Coach UMass
By Adam Gorlick, The Associated Press, 3/25/2005

AMHERST, Mass. - Travis Ford was hired as the basketball coach at Massachusetts on Friday after guiding Eastern Kentucky to a 22-9 record this season and giving Kentucky a scare in the first round of the NCAA tournament.

The former star point guard at Kentucky succeeds Steve Lappas, who was fired last week after compiling a 50-65 record during four seasons. The five-year deal calls for a $200,000 annual base salary with additional incentives and bonuses.

"It has always been a dream to be part of a tradition like UMass has," Ford said at a news conference. "I know it, I understand it, I can't wait to be a part of it."

Ford promised new energy for UMass basketball. Addressing fans in the bleachers at the Curry Hicks Cage events center, he said: "This is going to be the most exciting thing you've ever been a part of. We've got a team that can compete. We've got to pack the Mullins Center every night. We've got to make it an event, not just a game."

Athletic director John McCutcheon said the university had met with six other coaching candidates, and Ford was the "one person emerged who was clearly a person of distinction."

Ford coached Eastern Kentucky to the most wins in a season in school history and its first NCAA bid in 26 years. The Colonels lost to Kentucky 72-64 in the opening round.

The 35-year-old Ford played for Rick Pitino at Kentucky and helped the Wildcats reach the Final Four in 1993. Pitino, now the coach at Louisville and a UMass alumnus, has been pushing for his hiring. He has praised Ford's recruiting ability, calling him a "great fit" at Massachusetts.

At Eastern Kentucky, Ford took over a team that had gone through seven straight losing seasons. He won seven games each of his first two seasons. Then each year, his victories increased to first 11, then 14 and this year 22.

This season's squad finished second in the Ohio Valley Conference and defeated Austin Peay in the conference tournament to get the NCAA bid.

The Kentucky native began his coaching career in 1997 at Campbellsville (Ky.), where he went 67-31 in three seasons at the NAIA school.

Ford had taken his stockbroker's exam after being released by the Golden State Warriors in 1995. Instead, Hollywood called and he got a part in a basketball movie, "The 6th Man," playing a hotshot point guard.

The experience revived his interest in basketball. After spending a season observing Pitino at Kentucky, he got the job at Campbellsville.

Last August, Ford signed a multiyear contract extension. After his first season with the Colonels, Ford received a new four-year contract, which would have extended the original agreement through the end of this season.


TRAVIS FORD NAMED UMASS BASKETBALL COACH
Ford has emerged as one of the brightest, energetic and personable coaches in the nation
From UMass Athletics, 3/25/2005

AMHERST, Mass. - University of Massachusetts Director of Athletics John McCutcheon is pleased to announce the hiring of Travis Ford as the new head men's basketball coach. Ford is a rising star in the coaching profession and comes to UMass after leading Eastern Kentucky to the NCAA Tournament to culminate his five-year stint with the Colonels. Ford has agreed to a five-year contract with a base salary of $200,000 per year with additional incentives and bonus options.

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"We are extremely pleased that Travis Ford and his wife Heather have become part of the UMass family," McCutcheon said of UMass' 20th men's basketball coach. "He brings exactly the kind of experience, energy and charisma that we were hoping to find in a head coach. Travis distinguished himself from an outstanding group of candidates and we could not be more excited about the impact his appointment will have on the future of UMass Basketball."

Ford has emerged as one of the brightest, energetic and personable coaches in the nation. A decorated player at the University of Kentucky, Ford earned numerous accolades as the Wildcats' point guard from 1991-94. As a head coach, he led NAIA school Campbellsville University to a 67-31 record from 1997-2000 leading the Tigers to a National Tournament appearance in his final season.

"I am extremely excited to join the University of Massachusetts, a school with rich basketball tradition," said Ford. "I am looking forward to working hard every day to bring the excitement and energy back to one of New England's finest institutions. I know our fans seek the enthusiasm and passion that I can bring to Western Massachusetts and pack the Mullins Center again."

What They Are Saying...
Head Coach Travis Ford

"Travis Ford is one of the brightest players I coached in 30 years. He was a true coach on the floor. He did a tremendous job in taking a program that had not consistently won and improved it each year he was there. He got his team to the NCAA Tournament this season and played one of the giants in college basketball to the wire. I couldn't be any happier for my alma mater in seeing such a terrific basketball mind taking over the helm at UMass."
-- Rick Pitino, Head Coach, University of Louisville

"I enjoyed coaching Travis during his three years at Kentucky. We developed a very close relationship and Travis is somebody that has grown and evolved into an outstanding coach. He will do a great job at UMass recruiting, coaching and developing quality student-athletes in his program."
-- Billy Donovan, Head Coach, University of Florida

"Travis is an outstanding young coach who knows what it takes to win basketball games. His teams mirror him in that they are hard-nosed and competitive. As a player, he always looked for ways to improve his game. As a coach, he's been tireless in his approach to making his teams better. I have a lot of respect for Travis."
-- Tubby Smith, Head Coach, University of Kentucky

"Travis is full of energy, enthusiasm and has learned from one of the best in playing for Rick Pitino at Kentucky. He will bring a Pitino style with lots of excitement to the UMass campus."
-- Dick Vitale, ESPN

"Coach Pitino thinks Travis Ford can be another Billy Donovan, and he has proven to be prophetic. He took Eastern Kentucky to the NCAA Tournament and has shown that he is cut from the same cloth as Billy. If Travis can show the same passion and intensity as he did at Eastern Kentucky, there's a great chance he will be successful at UMass."
-- Andy Katz, ESPN

"Travis Ford is a winner. He always has been, he always will be. He has great passion and integrity and is someone that everyone at UMass can be proud of."
-- John Pelphrey, Head Coach University of South Alabama and Ford's former teammate at Kentucky

"Travis a great hire for UMass. He is an excellent young coach who has proven himself in a tough mid-major conference. He has also proven himself as a recruited at Eastern Kentucky. Travis will bring a ton of energy and an exciting brand of basketball to UMass. He is a close friend and I wish him all the best."
-- Mick Cronin, Head Coach Murray State University

"Travis has done an impressive job of growing the Eastern Kentucky program and I respect what he has done there. Obviously, he is a good recruiter, but he was able to adopt and develop a style with that talent that best fit his program at Eastern Kentucky. I really admired the way they improved defensively. That definitely stood out this year."
-- Dave Loos, Head Coach Austin Peay University

At Eastern Kentucky, Ford guided the Colonels to their first NCAA Tournament appearance in more than 25 years as well as their first winning season (22-9 in 2004-05) in 11 years. Ford was riding a seven-game winning steak -- Eastern Kentucky's longest such streak in 40 years -- prior to losing to his alma mater, Kentucky, in the 2005 NCAA First Round, 72-64. He led the Colonels to the Ohio Valley Conference Tournament Championship, their first since 1979.

Ford, led EKU out of doldrums as they were a combined 9-44 in the previous two seasons before his arrival. His first two teams won seven games, but his victory total rose each year to 11, then 14 and finally a school-record 22 this past season. In five seasons in Richmond, he led the Colonels to a 61-80 record. Overall, Ford's record as a head coach is 128-111 (.536).

He put the EKU program back on the map in 2003-04, as the Colonels posted a 14-15 record, giving the team its highest win total since tallying 15 victories during the 1992-93 campaign. The Colonels also made their second straight appearance in the OVC Tournament. Eastern would defeat Samford in the opening round of the league tourney in McBrayer Arena to post the team's first win in the event since 1995. Ford set several personal milestones with the 2003-04 resurgence. His eight OVC wins were the most for the program since 1997-98 Ford also became the first Colonel head coach to lead his team to back-to-back OVC Tourney appearances since Mike Calhoun accomplished the feat during the 1994-95 and 1995-96 seasons.

At Eastern Kentucky, Ford guided the Colonels to their first NCAA Tournament appearance in more than 25 years.

Ford has also had a long run of producing successful players. He has had at least one player named to the all-league teams in each of his five seasons, including two at the conclusion of the 2003-04 season and Michael Haney this past season. Ford also guided Matt Witt to the OVC Freshman of the Year award in 2002-03.

Ford used his team's success to his advantage during the recruiting process, landing a class that has been ranked No. 28 nationally by HoopScoop Magazine. His class was the second-highest rated in the OVC heading into 2004-05.

Ford's success at EKU, came as no surprise to anyone familiar with basketball in the Bluegrass State. He began his bench duties at Campbellsville University, where he served as head coach for three seasons. During his tenure at Campbellsville, Ford led the Tigers to a 67-31 overall record. During the 1999-2000 season - his last at Campbellsville - Ford guided his team to a 23-11 record and an appearance in the NAIA National Tournament.

Ford's Tigers tallied a 28-3 mark in 1998-99 including an impressive 10-2 record in Mid-South Conference play, earning him MSC Coach of the Year honors. While on the bench at Campbellsville, Ford produced seven First Team All-MSC players and 10 that were voted honorable mention all-conference. Three of his players were named honorable mention All-Americans and one was selected second team.

The playing career of Travis Ford was impressive as well. He began his collegiate career at Missouri, where he was named to the UPI Big Eight All-Freshman team. During that season, Ford averaged 6.4 points and 3.5 assists per game. Ford would transfer to Kentucky prior to his sophomore year and made a big impact on the Wildcat program after sitting out a season due to transfer rules. He helped the Wildcats to NCAA Tournament appearances in each season in Lexington.

Ford went on to earn First Team All-SEC honors once, while also earning SEC Tournament MVP twice. Aside from him athletic accomplishments, Ford was also named to the Academic All-SEC team in each of his three seasons at UK. During his sophomore season (1991-92), Ford's outstanding shooting ability was on display. He connected on 32 field goals during the season and 26 of them fell in from behind the three-point arc. That season he also won the team's Student-Athlete of the Year award.

In 1992-93, Ford averaged 13.6 points and 4.8 assists as a junior and became the first player in Kentucky history to make more than 100 three-pointers in a season, which still stands as a school record (101). He led his team to the NCAA Tournament Final Four during that campaign and was named Southeast Region MVP. As a senior (1993-94), he scored his 1,000th career points (1,143 career points) as he averaged 11.3 points and 5.8 assists per game. He was honored as co-team MVP in 1994 along with current NBA player Tony Delk.

He stands sixth all-time at Kentucky in three-pointers made (190) and second all-time in three-point field goal percentage (.445). In the all-time free throw charts, he is second all-time in free throw percentage (.882). His .912 percentage as a senior also still stands as a second-best mark in a single-season in Wildcat history.

The Madisonville, Ky., native was a part of the gold medal-winning South squad at the 1990 US Olympic Festival in 1990 and later played for the US team that won a gold medal in the 1993 World University Games. Ford's playing career in high school was also stellar. Playing at North Hopkins High School, he led his team to three state tournament appearances during his career and was named to the All-State team. He averaged 31.7 points per game as a senior and was twice named Western Kentucky Player of the Year.

Ford's playing days ended in training camp with the Golden State Warriors of the NBA, but his time in California led to a new job. He landed the role of Danny O'Grady in the movie The 6th Man.

Ford and wife Heather, a former swimmer at Kentucky, have three children: Brooks (5), Kyleigh (3), and Shane (1).


Press Conference Quotes
From UMass Athletics, 3/25/2005

John Lombardi, Chancellor
"There's nothing more thrilling than when you start anew with nothing but promise, hope, enthusiasm, and energy."

John McCutcheon on the selection of Travis Ford
"We did a lot of research and gathered a lot of facts. We had a very defined and deeply researched group of people. We had a group of ten people, and six that we met with individually, and in that process one person emerged: a person of great distinction, a great competitor himself and a great teacher of young people."

Travis Ford
"I am thrilled and honored to be part of such a distinguished university, I've grown up everyday playing basketball coaching basketball, thinking basketball and it's always been a dream to be a program with the tradition that UMass has. I know it, understand it and I can't wait to be a part of it."

"I can't say enough about all the coaches on campus and the people on campus. The first thing I noticed was what a family the UMass people are and I'm excited to be a part of it."

"I've seen the thirst in UMass people's eyes about what they want from their basketball team."

"I'm taking over a situation now that's got legs. I'm not trying to build a program. We just need to put the body and head on it to get it back to where we all want it to be without question. How are we going to do that? It's going to take a lot of long hours and hard work. These basketball players sitting in the front row are going to be the hardest working players in America, bar none."

"We're going to have the most fun of anybody but we're going to be a hard working group. Every time we step on the court, we're going to be the most prepared team. We're going to showcase these guys' talents."

"Off the court, the fans are going to be proud to call them their team."

"I want the fans to be a part of this team. I want them to be more than just fans; I want them to be a part of our basketball family."

"I know everybody here is going to be at every game. But you need to bring four or five more people and they've got to bring four of five more people. But don't wait because this is going to be the hottest ticket in town. It's going to be the most exciting thing you've been a part of."

"We're not only going to compete in the East and Northeast but we're looking to crack that top 25 and I think we've got a team that can do that."

"We've got to pack the Mullins Center every night. It's going to be an event, not just a game. You're going to be looking on the refrigerator at the next game saying 'I can't wait for the next game'....You're going to be proud to call yourself a UMass basketball fan."

"I cannot wait to get started and be a part of your family."


THE TRAVIS FORD FILE
From UMass Athletics, 3/25/2005

Coaching Career

SeasonSchoolOverallPct.Conf.Pct.Notes
1997-98Campbellsville16-17.4857-5.583Mid-South Semifinals
1998-99Campbellsville28-3.90310-2.833Mid-South Coach of Year
1999-00Campbellsville23-11.6768-4.667NAIA National Tournament/Mid-South South Semis
2000-01Eastern Kentucky7-19.2691-15.062
2001-02Eastern Kentucky7-20.2593-13.188
2002-03Eastern Kentucky11-17.3935-11.313
2003-04Eastern Kentucky14-15.4838-8.500OVC Semifinals
2004-05Eastern Kentucky22-9.71011-5.688NCAA First Round/OVC Champions
TOTALSEight Years128-111.53653-63.457

Campbellsville Totals67-31.68425-11.694

Eastern Kentucky Totals61-80.43228-52.350

Playing Career


GMINFG-FGAFG%3P-3A3FG%FT-FTAFT%REBPFASTTO BLKSTLPTSPPG
89-90 Missouri3069554-13739.424-8030.060-6789.65352105550361926.4
90-91 KentuckyDid Not Play - Transfer Student
91-92 Kentucky3341828-8035.026-7037.132-4080.0365569591251143.5
92-93 Kentucky341102129-24552.7101-19152.9104-11888.171921669115646313.6
93-94 Kentucky331047104-26339.563-16638.0103-11391.294781939124337411.3
TOTALS1303262315-725 43.4214-507 42.2299-33888.525427753329641601143 8.8

Personal Information

HIGH SCHOOL:North Hopkins HS, Madisonville, Ky., 1989
COLLEGE:University of Kentucky, B.S., 1994
FAMILY: Wife, Heather; Children, Brooks (5); Kyleigh (3); Shane (1)
COACHING EXPERIENCE:1997-2000 - Head Coach, Campbellsville University;

2000-2005 - Head Coach, Eastern Kentucky University

2005-Present - Head Coach, University of Massachusetts
COACHING HONORS:Mid-South Conference Coach of the Year
PLAYING EXPERIENCE:1989-90 - University of Missouri;

1991-1994 - University of Kentucky;

Golden State Warriors Training Camp
PLAYING HONORS:1990 Big Eight All-Freshman Team

1993 All-SEC First Team

1993 NCAA Tournament Southeast Regional MVP

1992, 1993, 1994 SEC All-Academic Team


UMass' Ford driven
By Rich Thompson, The Boston Herald, 3/26/2005

AMHERST - Travis Ford began his tenure as UMass' men's basketball coach by promoting an ambitious economic and athletic agenda.

Pledging to put UMass basketball back on the NCAA map, Ford was introduced to the media and his future fan base yesterday afternoon during an open house at the Curry Hicks Cage.

Ford assured the enthusiastic gathering that his energetic coaching style, combined with a solid nucleus of experienced players, can regain the national prominence UMass enjoyed in the 1990s under John Calipari.

``UMass basketball is going to be the hottest ticket in the East,'' said Ford, who captivated the crowd with his Kentucky twang and assurances of quality basketball. ``Don't wait, jump on board now, because this is going to be the most exciting thing you've ever been a part of,'' he said. ``We are going to staff a basketball program that is second to none. Not only in the Northeast, but we're going to crack that Top 25, and I think we have the pieces to compete, without question.

``We are going to pack the Mullins Center every night. We've got to make it an event, not just a game. You're going to be extremely proud to call yourself a UMass fan.''

UMass athletic director John McCutcheon brought Ford aboard 11 days after dismissing fourth-year coach Steve Lappas. Ford inked a five-year deal with a $200,000 salary and incremental incentives that could double his base pay.

Attendance figures at the Mullins Center have experienced a steady decline since Calipari and center Marcus Camby bolted for the NBA at the end of the 1995-96 season. Ford's enticing salesmanship provided soothing fiscal music to McCutcheon's ears, while his resume fit exactly what the UMass program lacked.

Ford, 35, came of age as a player at Kentucky under the tutelage of UMass grad Rick Pitino. Ford earned first-team All-SEC honors as a point guard his junior season and twice was named SEC tournament MVP and the Southeast Regional MVP. He was the first Wildcat to nail more than 100 3-pointers in a season and finished with 1,143 career points.

Ford elevated Eastern Kentucky to prominence this season, guiding the Colonels to a school-record 22 wins and their first NCAA appearance since 1979. Of the six candidates that visited the campus, Ford presented the best vision for UMass basketball.

``They all pretty much had the right answers, but what separated Travis from the rest was he had the backups to the answers,'' McCutcheon said. ``It wasn't just we've got to do this, it was we've got to do this, and this is how we'll do it.''

Lappas left Ford with a full complement of talented undergraduates to launch his program.

``We understand it's going to be hard, and he's going to be pushing us, but I'm really looking forward to it,'' UMass junior Jeff Viggiano said. ``It's new for him and it's new for us, and we are really excited about it.''


Ford officially parks at UMass
By Marty Dobrow, The Boston Globe Correspondent, 3/26/2005

AMHERST -- The naming of a new coach -- like the birth of a child, the first crocus popping through the snow, or Opening Day -- is a time of infinite hope.

"There's nothing more thrilling than when you start anew with nothing but promise, hope, enthusiasm, and energy," said University of Massachusetts chancellor John Lombardi yesterday afternoon, starting an event that was equal parts press conference, pep rally, and revival meeting.

Moments later, new men's basketball coach Travis Ford stepped to the microphone. Speaking to assembled media and approximately 1,000 supporters of the program, Ford quickly proved to be anything but the under-promising type.

"These players will be the hardest-working players in America -- bar none," said Ford, who this season led Eastern Kentucky to a 22-9 record and its first NCAA Tournament appearance in 26 years.

To UMass fans, whose support has dwindled markedly since the Final Four year of 1996, Ford said it was time to get back on the train. UMass games, he said, are "going to be the hottest ticket in the East," because "we're going to establish a program that is second to none."

"You've got to shoot for the stars," said UMass captain Jeff Viggiano. "I think I can speak for my teammates that we're all really excited about what's going to happen in the future." Ford, 35, becomes the 20th coach in UMass history, replacing Steve Lappas, who was dismissed after four seasons. The Minutemen finished 16-12 this season, their best record in seven years, but failed to make the postseason, and never really caught the imagination of the fans.

Athletic director John McCutcheon said Ford's charisma was obvious. He described the new coach as "a person of great distinction, a great competitor himself, and a great teacher of young people."

Ford received a five-year contract with a base salary of $200,000 per season. With incentives, McCutcheon said, the deal could be worth more than $400,000 annually.

McCutcheon acknowledged that he had contact from both Louisville coach Rick Pitino and Memphis coach John Calipari during the hiring process. Calipari advocated strongly for his top assistant, Tony Barbee, a former Minuteman, who was the sentimental favorite among many fans. Pitino, a UMass alumnus, backed Ford, who played point guard for him at Kentucky from 1991-94.

In 1997, Ford earned his first head coaching job at Campbellsville (Ky.) College, an NAIA school. In three years, he led Campbellsville to a 67-31 record. Then he took the job at Eastern Kentucky, a woebegone program that had won just nine games in the preceding two years combined. He inched up the ladder with back-to-back seven-win seasons, then went 11-17 and 14-15, before this year's breakout season -- the finest in school history. The season ended with a 72-64 loss to his alma mater.

Now he sets his sights on bringing UMass back to prominence. He told fans yesterday not to shy away from high expectations. "This," he said, "is going to be the most fun you've ever had."


UMass hoping new hoop coach is Ford-tough
By George Miller, Special to The Greenfield Recorder, 3/26/2005

AMHERST - No one could claim that the lure of the color maroon drew Travis Ford away from the foothills of Appalachia to the Happy Valley of western Massachusetts.

Both of his previous head coaching stops - Campbellsville University and Eastern Kentucky University - and his alma mater, Madisonville-North Hopkins (Ky.) High School (nicknamed the Maroons), feature maroon as their dominant color. In one respect, then, Ford found himself in exceedingly familiar surroundings Friday, when he was introduced as the new UMass head basketball coach at a news conference/open house at the Curry Hicks Cage.

The enthusiastic 35-year-old, a former point guard at Kentucky under coach and UMass alumnus Rick Pitino, was met with equal fervor from the approximately 1,000 fans who took in the afternoon ceremony.

"I've grown up everyday playing basketball, coaching basketball, thinking basketball, and it's always been a dream to be a program with the tradition that UMass has," said Ford. "I know it, I understand it and I can't wait to be a part of it."

Ironically, during Ford's introductory conference, his predecessor, Steve Lappas, was doing an NCAA tournament analyst's studio turn on ESPNEWS. UMass announced March 14 that Lappas would not be retained as head coach after four seasons and a 50-65 record, and the university reached an agreement with Ford Thursday on a five-year contract.

"We did a lot of research and gathered a lot of facts," said athletic director John McCutcheon. "We had a very defined and deeply researched group of people. We met with six of them individually and got to know them very well. In that process one person emerged: a person of great distinction, a great competitor himself and a great leader of young people."

McCutcheon also indicated that the university had taken its initial steps toward making a coaching change as early as midseason.

After five seasons at Eastern Kentucky and a 61-80 record - including 22-9 this season, with the school's first trip to the NCAA tournament in 26 years - Ford takes over a UMass program that posted its best record (16-12) since 1998, yet is still 96-112 overall during that seven-year span.

"I've seen the thirst in UMass people's eyes about what they want from their basketball team," said Ford. "I'm not trying to build a program. I'm taking over a situation now that's got legs. We just need to put the body and head on it to get it back to where we all want it to be.

"How are we going to do that? It's going to take a lot of long hours and hard work. These basketball players sitting in the front row are going to be the hardest working players in America, bar none."

Ford also addressed the necessity of building attendance at Mullins Center home games, which registered barely 40 percent of the building's 9,493-seat capacity this season.

"We've got to pack the Mullins Center every night. It's going to be an event, not just a game. You're going to be looking on the refrigerator at the next game, saying, 'I can't wait for the next game.'

"I know everybody here is going to be at every game. But you need to bring four or five more people, and they've got to bring four or five more people. Don't wait, because this is going to be the hottest ticket in town. It's going to be the most exciting thing you've been a part of."

From a personnel standpoint, UMass' most pressing recruiting need is at point guard, where the Minutemen lose seniors Anthony Anderson and Chris Chadwick.

"Everything's in place for a point guard to come in and have an incredible career," said Ford, himself a point guard for Pitino at Kentucky. "The team needs a point guard; all the players around him are very good; he's playing for a point guard; and the point guard's very important in our system."

Two of Ford's assistants at EKU, Steve Middleton and James Altman, were on hand at Friday's conference. They and fellow assistant Tim Maloney will also make the move to Amherst, and Ford said he intends to hire one more staff member.

Also present was the extended Ford family, including his wife Heather, sons Brooks (5) and Shane (1) and daughter Kyleigh (3), and his parents, Pat and Eddie, his high school coach at Madisonville-North Hopkins.

"We're not only going to compete in the East and Northeast, but we're looking to crack that Top 25, and I think we've got a team that can do that," said Ford. "I cannot wait to get started."


New hoop boss anxious to start
By Howard Herman, The Berkshire Eagle Staff, 3/26/2005

AMHERST -- There's a new Ford in the house at the University of Massachusetts, and Minuteman fans are hoping that Travis Ford's tenure as men's basketball coach will be the high-octane boost the program needs.

Ford was introduced yesterday at a late-afternoon news conference/pep rally in the Curry Hicks Cage. There were some 700 fans in attendance along with media members from Western Massachusetts.

"I know my accent is a little bit different. But I know one thing we all have in common," said the University of Kentucky graduate. "We want exciting, fun basketball and we want to be very highly successful. That's one thing we all have in common."

Ford, 35, comes to UMass after five seasons as the head coach at Eastern Kentucky University. This past season, EKU went 22-9, won the Ohio Valley Conference title, and played his alma mater in the first round of this year's NCAA Tournament. Kentucky won that game 72-64.

"We are going to establish a basketball program that's going to be second to none," he told reporters and the fans, "not only in the East and the Northeast, but we're looking to crack the Top 25, and I think we have a team that can compete from day one."

Ford has signed a five-year contract to take over for Steve Lappas, who was fired last week after compiling a 50-65 record during four seasons. Ford's contract calls for a base salary of $200,000. UMass athletic director John McCutcheon said that with incentives and other potential income opportunities, the contract package could reach $400,000.

"Once you get through the unpleasant day of the transition, [the search] really is kind of reinvigorating," said McCutcheon. "You're out there talking about our program, talking about all the good things we have going at UMass and the opportunity here. You get through that and you kind of pump yourself up."

There was no need to pump up Ford, who entered the Cage trailing a squad of UMass cheerleaders. And after brief remarks by McCutcheon and UMass Chancellor John V. Lombardi, the new coach told the surprisingly large gathering that he was truly excited to be at UMass, and raring to go.

"We've got to pack the Mullins Center every night. We've got to make it an event, not just a game. It's going to be something that you're looking on your refrigerators figuring out when is the next game because I can't wait," said Ford. "You're going to be talking about it in town, you're going to be talking about it on campus, and you're going to be looking forward to it.

"Because that's the type of basketball team we're going to put on the floor for you. Those are the type of players we're going to put around the campus and around the community that's going to represent you in a first-class manner. You're going to be extremely, extremely proud to call yourself a UMass basketball fan."

Ford met with the UMass players late yesterday afternoon. Most of the Minutemen who are returning next year were sitting in the Cage listening intently to what the new coach had to say.

"You can't deny his energy. You feel his energy when he talks. You just hear it in his voice that he's genuine and authentic," said UMass guard Maurice Maxwell. "There's a little unknown about what's going to happen. But at the same time, I guess it brings a little excitement. I'm kind of anxious to see what's going to happen."

In five years at Eastern Kentucky, it would be fair to say that Ford brought this program back from the dead. In his first two years at EKU, Ford won seven games twice. Then the Colonels won 11, 14 and this season's 22 games. Last season, EKU lost in the Ohio Valley Conference semifinals, and won the title this year.

The native of Madisonville, Ky., began his coaching career in 1997 at NAIA Campbellville, where he went 67-31. He joined Eastern Kentucky for the 2000-01 season.

As a player, Ford started at Missouri and was a Big Eight Conference All-Freshman selection. He transferred back home to Kentucky, and played three years for Rick Pitino.

He played for a Wildcat team that went to the Final Four in 1993, and was the MVP of the Southeast Regional that year. Ford also played against UMass twice. His UK team beat the Minutemen 90-69 in Lexington back in 1991. Two years later, UMass dropped a heartbreaking 67-64 decision at the Meadowlands.

Ford is bringing his entire staff from Eastern Kentucky, and all three of them are New Yorkers. Two of them, Steve Middleton and James Altman, were at UMass yesterday. Ford's No. 1 assistant, Tim Maloney, was still on campus in Richmond. All of them have ties to Northeast basketball, which was one area of questioning for the new UMass coach. Ford said he was confident he could recruit the region, and said he'll be working to build a network when he returns to campus on Monday.

"In the next couple of days, I'm going to try and contact every high school coach in the state of Massachusetts, in New York, in the state of Connecticut," he said. "I want to develop that relationship with high school coaches. I do have a lot of relationships with the AAU guys and those people. I'm excited about getting that relationship with the high school coaches -- and it just starts with a phone call."

Ford's wife Heather and their three children were in the audience, as were his parents Eddie and Pat Ford.

"I've been very lucky and fortunate as a player and a coach, to always be surrounded by exciting basketball and winning basketball," said Ford. "This is not going to change. I cannot wait to get started and be a part of your family."


Ford is UMass' coaching choice
By Matt Vautour, Daily Hampshire Gazette Staff Writer, 3/26/2005

All that was missing was the band.

Photo
Travis Ford takes center stage in front of new boss John McCutcheon.
Unlike the stodgy press conferences that have accompanied most of its high-profile hires, the University of Massachusetts athletic department introduced new men's basketball coach Travis Ford at an event Friday that was more of a pep rally amid balloons and cheerleaders at the Curry Hicks Cage. Athletic director John McCutcheon promised a coach who would excite Minuteman fans and followed through by inviting them to attend Ford's introduction. More than 1,000 fans filled the Cage's north stands.

Ford, 35, looked comfortable addressing the crowd, which gave him a standing ovation upon his arrival and cheered him several times during his remarks.

Ford pledged to extend Friday's excitement throughout his tenure in Amherst and invited fans to participate. He promised a hard-working team playing an up-tempo game.

''We're going to play a fun style of basketball,'' said Ford, who signed a five-year contract with a base salary of $200,000, with incentives and other potential bonuses that could push it over $400,000 annually. ''These basketball players are going to be the hardest-working team in America. I know in their minds they've worked hard before, but they're going to work harder than they've ever worked before. Harder than they realized they can work and have fun doing it.

''Every time we step on the court we're going to be the most prepared team. We're going to play a style of basketball that's going to get the ball up and down the court. We're going to showcase these guys' talent,'' Ford continued. ''Off the court you're going to be proud to call the guys your team.''

McCutcheon said the school had been interested in Ford for a while.

''We started this process really midseason when we thought there might be a possibility that we'd be looking to make a change this year,'' McCutcheon said. ''He was on our radar screen from midseason on.''

Ford's stock continued to rise when he led Eastern Kentucky to a 22-9 record, the most wins in school history and an Ohio Valley Conference championship. After UMass dismissed Steve Lappas last week after four seasons, Ford emerged as one of the leading candidates to fill the vacancy.

Ford, who was a star guard for Kentucky from 1991 to 1994, said he recalled his two games against UMass when he was first approached about the position.

''I remember seeing all the maroon in the stands and the excitement surrounding UMass basketball,'' Ford said. ''When I started thinking about being the UMass basketball coach, that's one of the things I thought of.''

Ford came to Amherst for an interview late Tuesday night and spent Wednesday and Thursday meeting with administrators and boosters. Undeterred by Wednesday night's snowfall, he accepted UMass' offer on Thursday.

Ford flew back to Kentucky Thursday night to inform the Eastern Kentucky players of his decision before returning to Amherst Friday morning, with two of his three assistant coaches as well as several family members. He introduced his wife, Heather, his three children and his parents, Pat and Eddie, who were all in attendance.

Ford met with his new team after the press conference and then spent a good portion of the late afternoon and early evening doing radio interviews.

''I told my staff the greatest thing about being on campus the past couple days is I love the excitement that everybody has for UMass basketball,'' Ford said. ''They want to get it back where we're packing the Mullins house every single night, where it's the hottest ticket in the east.

''I know my accent is a little bit different, but I know one thing we all have in common - we want exciting fun basketball and we want to be successful.''

Matt Vautour can be reached at mvautour@gazettenet.com.


Ford brings energy, up-tempo style - Players react positively after meeting
By Mike Moran, Daily Hampshire Gazette Staff Writer, 3/26/2005

University of Massachusetts men's basketball players finally met with their new coach Friday. Shortly after Travis Ford was introduced at the Curry Hicks Cage, he and his players talked for the first time. Jeff Viggiano said he was impressed as he sat, watched and listened to Ford at his introduction.

Photo
Stephane Lasme and Jeff Viggiano appeared at the event with many of their teammates.
''We love the game and want to have fun,'' Viggiano said. ''I have never heard a coach talk about having as much fun as I just heard. We understand it's going to be hard and he's going to be pushing us but we're looking forward to it. It's new for him and new for us and we're excited about it.''

Ford, who led Eastern Kentucky to the NCAA Tournament this season, replaced Steve Lappas who was dismissed March 14 after four years without a trip to the postseason.

Ford told the more than 1,000 fans in attendance that UMass is not far from being good.

''I'm taking over a situation now that's got legs,'' Ford said. ''I don't have to rebuild a basketball program - we got the legs, we just have to put the body and head on it so we can get it back to where we all want it to be.''

Sophomore guard Maurice Maxwell said, ''He's an up-tempo guy, upbeat, a lot of energy and he's hungry. I like that about him. He'll see things totally different than coach Lappas. Coach Lappas wanted to win but the way (Ford's) going about it is totally different. Sometimes you need a change that's going to be bring energy.

''It's going to take some getting used to just knowing that he's my coach. I'm looking at it in a positive way, but it's just awkward right now,'' said Maxwell, who said he believes he is the only who feels that way. ''It seems like everyone else is in love with him.''

Sophomore guard Artie Bowers is looking forward to learning from Ford, who helped lead Kentucky to the 1993 Final Four.

''That's like a dream come true for me,'' Bowers said. ''To have a coach that played at a high level, he can tell you the knicks and knacks and the shortcuts of how to make this move - the techniques of the game. He was a player and he knows different situations of the game. He can relate to you better so I think that was a positive.''

Viggiano agreed. ''He's been here before, he's played the game,'' the junior forward said. ''I think we'll be able to relate to him a lot better. He's a young guy, energetic, so it's exciting.''

Ford's quick hiring left him little time to meet with the team. Before Friday night's gathering, very few of the players had actually met their new coach.

''We have to spend some time off court first to get to know each other,'' Ford said. ''I look forward to spending some time and getting to know them and developing that relationship.''

Viggiano, who will likely be captain next season, said it's important for the team to get to know Ford as quickly as possible.

''Whether I got to help him move into his house or whatever it is, I just want to get to know him and build a strong relationship with him,'' Viggiano said.

That relationship coupled with the excitement could lead to brighter things, according to Bowers. ''We were one game away from playing in the NIT, so we know the energy he's bringing. We can definitely make the NCAAs next year. Definitely.''

Mike Moran can be reached at mmoran@gazettenet.com.


Point guard top priority
By Matt Vautour, Daily Hampshire Gazette Staff Writer, 3/26/2005

New University of Massachusetts men's basketball coach Travis Ford will meet with Craig Austrie this weekend and hopes to convince the point guard that UMass is still the right place for him. Austrie, a 6-foot-1 point guard from Stamford, Conn., who had verbally committed to the Minutemen in September, reopened his recruiting after UMass dismissed Steve Lappas last week. Austrie also is considering Connecticut, Providence and Fordham.

Photo
Travis Ford can't help but join the clapping with AD John McCutcheon upon approaching the stage.
NCAA rules prohibit Ford from commenting on any unsigned players. However, Ford acknowledged that finding a point guard is critical for the Minutemen, and believes he has a good opportunity to offer.

''For a point guard, this might be the most perfect situation in America,'' he said. ''We need a point guard. All the players around him are very good and point guards like that. You're going to be playing for a former point guard. The point guard is very important in our system. Everything is in place for someone to come in and have an incredible career.''

Ford said he is already prepared to find one.

''We have guys in mind. Without question,'' he said. ''We have some things in the fold. We have to see what happens, but there's no question, that has to be addressed.''

Ford has three scholarships available and could have a fourth if Alassane Kouyate's lingering knee problems keep him from continuing his career. Ford said he expects to be successful recruiting in the northeast despite his southern roots.

''You rely a lot on your assistants in recruiting, but I'm a head coach that does get very involved in it,'' Ford said. ''I know a lot of people in the northeast - AAU coaches and high school coaches. Even at Eastern Kentucky we were very involved in the New York area and even the Boston area. When we walk in the door, we bring an exciting style of basketball whether its someone in Boston or in Los Angeles, Calif. Players are going to want to be a part of the style of basketball we're going to play.''

Ford said he's bringing his three assistant from Eastern Kentucky with him. They are associate head coach Tim Maloney, who is from Long Island; Steve Middleton, a Brooklyn native and former Southern Illinois star; and James Altman from Rockville Center. N.Y.

Matt Vautour can be reached at mvautour@gazettenet.com.


About Travis Ford
From The Daily Hampshire Gazette, 3/26/2005

Playing career

Photo
1989-90 University of Missouri - Named to Big Eight All-Freshman team

1991-94 University of Kentucky - Played for UMass alumnus Rick Pitino ... most outstanding player in the NCAA Tournament Southeast Region while leading the Wildcats to the 1993 Final Four.

Coaching Career

1997-2000 Campbellsville (Ky.) College (67-31) - Led Campbellsville to winning record in the last two of his three seasons ... named the Mid-South Coach of the Year in 1998-99.

2000-05 Eastern Kentucky University (61-80) - Turned around a Colonels program which had been 6-21 the year before he arrived ... led Eastern Kentucky this season to a 22-9 record and its first NCAA Tournament since 1979.

Personal

Age: 35

High School: North Hopkins, Madisonville, Ky.

Family: Wife, Heather; Children, Brooks (5), Kyleigh (3), Shane (1)


Ford leaves Eastern Kentucky for Massachusetts
By C.L. Brown, The Louisville Courier-Journal Staff, 3/26/2005

While Travis Ford prepares to start over again, Eastern Kentucky University hopes it can keep going forward.

Ford was named men's basketball coach at the University of Massachusetts yesterday. He succeeded Steve Lappas, who was fired last week after four seasons and a 50-65 record. Ford signed a five-year deal with a $200,000 annual base salary, not including incentives and bonuses.

Ford, 35, spent the past five seasons at Eastern Kentucky, where he was charged with reviving a dormant program.

Ford, who played for Rick Pitino at the University of Kentucky, led the Colonels to a school single-season record with 22 wins this season. EKU also earned its first NCAA Tournament berth since 1979 and showed its mettle in a tough first-round loss to UK.

"While we regret to lose such a talented young coach, I am confident that we will continue to build on the success we've enjoyed this year," Eastern President Joanne K. Glasser said in a statement. "A nationwide search will begin immediately to find the best coach to lead our program to even greater heights of excellence."

Glasser could not be reached for additional comment. Messages left for interim athletic director Jake Bell were not returned.

Eastern had suffered through 11 straight losing seasons -- including Ford's first four -- before its success in 2004-05, the Colonels' first winning season since going 15-12 in 1992-93.

EKU could contend for the Ohio Valley Conference crown again next season with eight of its top 10 players, including four starters, set to return.

Ford may have helped change the perception of Eastern basketball. Over nearly 25 years, only Mike Pollio left the school with a winning record. Pollio, who coached from 1989-92, went 51-41 in three seasons.

Max Good, who coached from 1981-89, went 69-129. Mike Calhoun, whose tenure was from 1992-97, went 58-77. Scott Perry, who coached from 1997-2000, finished with a 19-61 record.

Ford went 61-80 but increased his win total in each of the last three seasons after duplicating seven wins in his first two.

It will be the second major athletic department hire under Glasser's tenure. Danny Hope, a former EKU football player, was hired in 2002 to replace legendary coach Roy Kidd, who retired after 39 seasons.

The Associated Press contributed to this story.


Ford's decision is no big surprise
By Nathan Hutchinson, The Richmond (KY) Register Sports Editor, 3/26/2005

In the week prior to Eastern Kentucky University's first NCAA Tournament appearance in 26 years, I was at McBrayer Arena one afternoon waiting for an opportunity to talk with the suddenly in-demand Travis Ford.

As I waited, along with a myriad of other writers and photographers who had obviously just recently discovered there actually was still a basketball program at EKU, the topic of the Ford's future came up in conversation. Much to my surprise, someone who has been closely associated with the program for quite some time got mad at me for implying that Ford would parlay EKU's success this season into a job at a bigger school, probably very quickly.

It seemed a pretty safe assumption to me, after all that's just how things work today in the coaching world. If you have any degree of success at a school in a small or so-called mid-major conference, usually doors start to open, especially if you have already have a well-known name.

Ford certainly had that name recognition and a resume that would indicate he knew a thing or two about coaching. After all, he did get the Colonels back to the pinnacle of college hoops for the first time in almost three decades.

But for some reason, my esteemed colleague, who has always been someone who I have a great deal of respect for, didn't agree with me. In fact, he grew angry at the implication that Ford's pre-NCAA Tournament media blitz was really just the beginning of the interview process.

He had been there through the really, really lean years and maybe, just maybe he was hoping beyond hope that in the end Ford would turn down the inevitable offers that would come rolling in.

I was assured that Ford would be back and that he wasn't going anywhere.

I wish that overly optimistic assessment had been correct.

But just eight days after his former team gave Kentucky all it wanted in the opening round of the NCAA Tournament, Ford was formally introduced as the new head basketball coach at the University of Massachusetts Friday in Amherst, Mass.

After three days of intense speculation, the announcement didn't come as a surprise to anyone - not even to those who less than two weeks ago thought Ford was here for the long haul.

The simple truth is that the former Campbellsville coach was never going to be a long-term fixture in Richmond. EKU was just a stepping stone on the path to bigger and better things - and in the end, there's nothing wrong with that.

That's how the system works.

Once you've proven yourself at one level, you usually get a raise, a bigger office, a company car and a fatter recruiting budget.

It's just the nature of the beast.

Trust me, if the New York Times called tomorrow I'd be on the first flight out of Bluegrass Airport.

Ford's departure isn't shocking, but perhaps the timing of the decision does make it seem like the Colonel coach was more than eager to get out of town. Even though he reportedly had some interest in the Tennessee job, it would appear that Ford took the first offer that came along.

Then again, I could be wrong. Admittedly, I really know nothing about Ford.

Even though I covered his teams for the better part of two years, I never got a good feel for him as a person or a coach. He was always distant, somewhat up-tight and did his best to be just as cordial as he had to be to me and the rest of the staff of this newspaper.

That's not a complaint. Just an observation. Trust me, I've had to work with much more difficult people than Ford.

Undoubtedly lots of things will be said about the former Colonel coach over the next few days - some good and some bad. But in the end, it really doesn't matter. Ford is now in a different place, planning the resurgence of another program and probably already plotting his next coaching move.


Ford: the man for the job
By Mike Marzelli, The Daily Collegian Staff Writer, 3/28/2005

Massachusetts athletic director John McCutcheon was searching for a passionate tutor, a fiery personality and a dedicated professional to lead the Minutemen men's basketball program into the future, and it appears as if he has found the right man for the job in Travis Ford.

Photo
John McCutcheon observes as his latest hire addresses a captive audience.
Ford was officially introduced as the successor to Steve Lappas on Friday afternoon inside the Curry Hicks Cage, and wasted little time in delivering a spirited address to the throng of supporters on hand for his baptism into the UMass family; an event that was more pep rally than press conference.

Speaking before members of the media, new colleagues and friends within the UMass family, his family and coaching staff as well as the crowd of fans that included most of the players he will be inheriting, Ford promised to produce on-court success and create the type of excitement level around his new team that has been lacking in Amherst for nearly a decade.

"UMass basketball is going to be the hottest ticket in the East,'' Ford said. "Don't wait; jump on board now, because this is going to be the most exciting thing you've ever been a part of. We are going to staff a basketball program that is second to none. Not only in the Northeast, but we're going to crack that Top 25, and I think we have the pieces to compete, without question.

"We are going to pack the Mullins Center every night. We've got to make it an event, not just a game. You're going to be extremely proud to call yourself a UMass fan.''

Ford, 35, signed a five-year contract that guarantees him a base salary of $200,000 - a number that could double if the coach meets certain incremental incentives.

McCutcheon hired Ford from a group of six candidates, all of which he described as extremely capable and qualified. What set Ford apart was his outstanding character, both as a teacher and a competitor, and what his new boss described as a "clear vision for the future."

"We did a lot of research and gathered a lot of facts," McCutcheon said. "We had a very defined and deeply researched group of people. We met with six of them individually and got to know them very well. In that process one person emerged: a person of great distinction, a great competitor himself and a great leader of young people.

"They all pretty much had the right answers, but what separated Travis from the rest was he had the backups to the answers. It wasn't just 'we've got to do this,' it was, 'we've got to do this, and this is how we'll do it.'"

Ford was recently credited with turning around an Eastern Kentucky team that suffered through seven straight losing seasons prior to his arrival. He methodically transformed the Colonels into competitors during his five years at the helm, culminating with a 22-9 record this season - one in which they captured the Ohio Valley Conference Championship and an NCAA Tournament birth.

His new job in Western Massachusetts will be to breathe life into a dormant UMass program and field teams that are perennial contenders within the Atlantic 10. In addition, he will be entrusted with reigniting the passion of a detached fan base that annually yearn for a return to glory but have yet to see such results since the departure of coach John Calipari in 1996.

"I've seen the thirst in UMass people's eyes about what they want from their basketball team," Ford said. "I'm not trying to build a program. I'm taking over a situation now that's got legs. We just need to put the body and head on it to get it back to where we all want it to be.

"How are we going to do that? It's going to take a lot of long hours and hard work. These basketball players sitting in the front row are going to be the hardest working players in America, bar none."

Ford began his playing career at the University of Missouri in 1989, before transferring to Kentucky to play for UMass graduate and then-Wildcat coach Rick Pitino. Ford led the 'Cats to the 1993 NCAA Final Four, and spent a training camp with the Golden State Warriors following his graduation in 1994.

"I've grown up everyday playing basketball, coaching basketball, thinking basketball, and it's always been a dream to be a program with the tradition that UMass has," he said. "I can't wait to get started."


UMass gets new look with hiring
By Bob McGovern, The Daily Collegian Columnist, 3/28/2005

On March 5, the Massachusetts men's basketball team played its final regular season game and its last game at the William D. Mullins Center until next season. As I walked around the court, towards the Green Room, where the press conference is held, I stopped and looked at the sea of maroon one last time.

It was one last glance at the vast silence which encompasses this arena. One last time to see empty maroon seats and hear the solemn banter of apathetic fans looking for more than a two point nail-biting victory over a lesser opponent.

A mere 20 days later the university decided that not only would this be a last time for me, a graduating senior, to see this depressing scene, but it would be the last time the Minutemen ended a season with less energy than it started with.

Enter Travis Ford.

On Friday afternoon, the University of Massachusetts introduced Ford as its new head basketball coach. Cheerleaders lined the walkway to the podium and in the middle of dozens of side-conversations throughout the stands, the familiar UMass fight song broke through, turning the heads of those in attendance to the man who will be changing the face for their program.

Forty seconds they stood. Shouts and cheers from a spirited audience filled with students and alumni rang through as Ford stood at the podium. He looked around with a straight face and tried to cut in, but the crowd wasn't having it. They stood and Ford let them cheer, this was exactly what he was looking for.

When the crowd finally sat, bringing into view a large sign in the back row which said, "Welcome to UMass Travis Ford," Ford began talking about what he wants for this program. He mentioned that it was, in essence, a time for change.

The entire time he spoke, the Curry Hicks Cage sat in silence, occasionally cheering when he would hit a nerve. He mentioned how UMass was going to be, "the hottest ticket in town," a phrase which resonated with the alumni and represented something that most of the students had never truly seen... a sense of school pride.

Most of the team lined the first row of the Cage, just behind the two sections of chairs set aside for the press. None of the players had been introduced to their new coach, or his subsequent staff, and sat in the same position as everyone else, listening and analyzing this southern man that appeared to be saying all the right things.

He told the crowd that they needed to come to games and that they had to be, "a part of the team." He spoke of how his doors were always open and how this was the community's team. For the first time in years the men's basketball team at UMass took on the image of something bigger than a maroon and white team lost in the Berkshires.

After telling the crowd what they needed to do, Ford directed attention to the men in black warm-ups sitting in those front row seats. Each hunched over figure had his eyes transfixed on the coach as he mentioned what their responsibility was. He told them that they were about to learn what it meant to truly work hard.

Each player had a straight, objective face after the initial comments, but Ford switched gears and had a few of his future pupils smiling. He said it was going to be fun, that as hard as they worked, they were going to have more fun than any other team they came across.

This comment appeared to hit everyone there than afternoon. Amidst the very heart of March Madness, the University of Massachusetts was absent, yet very much alive. Players and fans alike have been missing this fun the past few years and Coach Ford was adamant and confident that it was coming back sooner than later.

A new era of UMass basketball has arrived in the form of a hardworking southern man from Madisonville, Ky.

Perhaps it is truly time for this community to have some fun.


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