This Ford puts pedal to the metal
By Howard Herman, The Berkshire Eagle, 11/12/2005

You can get tired just listening to Travis Ford discuss plans for his inaugural season at the University of Massachusetts.

The energy level of the first-year coach is off the charts, and it's because he says he loves what he's doing.

"The first thing after our scrimmage, I walked into the coaches' locker room and said 'I can't wait until tomorrow, it's so exciting," he said. "With individual instruction, sometimes I'm out there sweating as much as they are."

Ford is unofficially 1-0 as UMass coach, after beating Division 2 Dowling 96-55 in an exhibition game earlier this week. The Ford Era officially begins on Friday when Hartford visits the Mullins Center.

"I enjoy the challenge of this job," Ford said earlier this week. "I know what the fans expect and I know what the UMass basketball tradition is all about. That's why I came here.

"I know what we do works. Now it's up to me to convince these guys."

"These guys," are the 2005-06 Minutemen, who were gathered along with Ford. The new coach said he's thrilled with how the team is picking up a style of play that is light years different from what former coach Steve Lappas taught.

"This team has been thrown kind of a double whammy. When you bring in a new coach you always have to learn a new system, learning new plays and new defenses. We're having them learn a brand new style of basketball," Ford explained. "We are playing fast. We are pressing for 40 minutes. This is totally new to them."

And while the players occasionally revert to what the Lappas staff taught them, the new coach said the players are learning what they need to learn.

"These guys have adapted better than anticipated and actually fit my system better than I thought," Ford said. "I haven't had a team that's going to press as much as this team in a while. This team has proven they can press. We actually shoot the ball a little bit better than I anticipated."

As Ford said above, he likes getting out on the floor and working with the players. That shouldn't come as a surprise to anyone, because he isn't that far removed from a quality playing career at the University of Kentucky. If you didn't know better, Ford still looks like he's young enough to be a player.

"He even gets out there and will be dribbling around and getting into drills," UMass guard Maurice Maxwell said. "It's good to see him out there. If he can do it, you know you definitely should be out there."

But Maurice, does the coach ever take you to school?

"He can't school me, I won't take it that far," laughed Maxwell. "He isn't going to be able to get a basket on me."

A typical Travis Ford day involves getting up at 6 a.m. and being in the office at the Mullins Center by 8. Often, he's back on the floor for individual instruction at 9 a.m., and works around instruction, tape sessions and speaking engagements.

"Right now, I'm either on the court, watching film or going to a speaking engagement," he said. "I'll throw some recruiting in every once in a while."

The first-year coach said that he isn't waking up at all hours of the night with thoughts or plays. But he was asked if he has pads of paper all through the office and the house.

"It's funny you mention that. I sit around all day and just jot stuff down," he said. "I'm always brainstorming. If I have thoughts in my head, I write them down and then we figure them out from there. If you saw my desk right now, its a disaster."

This summer Ford made a number of stops to meet with fans and alumni across the state. All this while recruiting and relocating his family from Kentucky, where he had been coaching Eastern Kentucky University.

"It was hard physically, but it had to be done," he said. "Luckily, I enjoy doing it. I like getting out, meeting people, talking basketball and promoting our program. It was desperate for this program to get out, create some excitement and reconnect with our fans."

One place Ford didn't get to was Berkshire County.

"I kept telling them we need to get out there. We still are, we're not done," said Ford. "It's still an area that I've visited with my wife and family. Somehow, we missed out on it. I don't know how. But we'll get there."

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