STILLWATER — Travis Ford avoids most media reports, good and bad, so pointed criticisms must work their way to the Oklahoma State basketball coach.
And they eventually do.
“I hear about it all. I hear everything,” Ford said Thursday, chatting with reporters during a postseason wrap-up inside his office at Gallagher-Iba Arena.
“It doesn’t affect how I work every day. I’ve always been very, very driven, and probably overly competitive.
“Do you wish it weren’t there? Yeah, you wish it weren’t there, because you know what’s driving it is wins and losses. You want to win.”
To that end – the wins and losses part – Ford said he shares the same pain.
Expectations soared for this season, both nationally and inside the OSU program. And the result failed to deliver, with the Cowboys going 8-10 in the Big 12 Conference and suffering another first-round loss in the NCAA Tournament, with injury and incidents a part of the narrative.
Now the Cowboys are set to lose their top two players, Marcus Smart and Markel Brown, casting concern over next season.
Ford, however, casts a different outlook: optimism.
“I’m anxious to get started,” he said. “I believe in this team.”
Why? And how?
More pieces, with ongoing recruiting efforts offering a boost in depth and perhaps overall talent.
And better-fitting pieces, with the newcomers, along with the expected return to health of big man Michael Cobbins, suggesting improved versatility and more natural roles for players forced out of position this season.
“As we saw this year, nothing guarantees you. Nothing,” Ford said. “There are teams that lose a bunch of players and come back and do great. There are teams with players coming back with high expectations and things don’t go the way they want.
“But I like our basketball team. I like the pieces of it. We have good experience, combined with good freshmen coming in. We’re going to have a whole lot more depth, especially inside. I like our pieces a lot.”
The return of Cobbins allows Kamari Murphy to slide from the post to a forward spot, where his skills play better. And if Le’Bryan Nash returns, he benefits, too, with a move further from traffic.