Travis Ford hired as UMass coach
March 25, 2005
By ADAM GORLICK
AMHERST, Mass. (AP) - 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.