|Oklahoma State to hire UMass' Ford|
|Written by Admin|
|Wednesday, 16 April 2008 14:22|
Massachusetts coach Travis Ford, a former Wildcats guard, agreed Wednesday to coach the Cowboys. Oklahoma State confirmed the hiring and planned a Thursday news conference to formally introduce him.
Ford will replace Sean Sutton, who resigned under pressure April 1 after leading the Cowboys to first-round NIT losses in his only two full seasons as head coach.
The 38-year-old Ford led UMass to a 25-11 record this season and an appearance in the NIT championship game, where it lost to Ohio State. He directed the Minutemen to a 62-35 mark in three seasons, including NIT bids the past two seasons.
But his roots run back to Kentucky.
He grew up in Madisonville, Ky., and started his college career at Missouri before transferring to Kentucky after Eddie Sutton left the school - and eventually returned to Oklahoma State, his alma mater.
Ford then got his first major head coaching position at Eastern Kentucky and guided the losing program to its first NCAA tournament appearance in 26 years. He parlayed that first-round loss to Kentucky in 2005 into the Massachusetts job, and it appeared as recently as last week that he would remain with the Minutemen.
Ford turned down a job offer from Big East school Providence, and UMass athletic director John McCutcheon announced that Ford had agreed to a new contract. Six days later, Ford was preparing to move on.
Oklahoma State's last major coaching search also ended with a Kentucky connection, with Eddie Sutton returning home to his alma mater and proclaiming himself clean after running into trouble with NCAA violations and alcoholism.
The Cowboys went to the NCAA tournament in 13 of the next 16 seasons - including Final Four appearances in 1995 and 2004 - before the elder Sutton stepped aside following a drunk-driving accident in 2006.
The Cowboys ended that season with a first-round loss in the NIT under Sean Sutton, who had played for his father at Kentucky and Oklahoma State before becoming an assistant on his coaching staff. That season and the next two all ended with first-round exits in the NIT.
Upon announcing Sean Sutton's resignation, athletic director Mike Holder called him a victim of the expectations set by his father.
Ford, though, also has struggled to get into the NCAA tournament on a regular basis. As a coach, his only appearance in the NCAAs came in his final year at Eastern Kentucky in 2005.
Oklahoma State originally pursued Kansas coach Bill Self for the position, but he turned down his alma mater last week and instead signed an extension to remain with the national champion Jayhawks.