STILLWATER — Travis Ford coached one heck of a basketball game Saturday. No Le'Bryan Nash? No problem.
Ford's short-handed Cowboys blistered Texas A&M 60-42 at Gallagher-Iba Arena. Not bad for a coach walking around with a flock of albatross around his neck.
Unrealistic expectations. A contract that became a football subplot. Following the House of Sutton, with patriarch Eddie usually sitting six rows up.
Burden galore on Ford's shoulders, independent of the makeshift roster he's coached down the stretch.
Four years into the job, Ford hasn't become an OSU staple. Fans have continued the lethargy that began under Sean Sutton (maybe 6,000 fans in the house Saturday). The winning has sputtered after Ford's two initial seasons produced NCAA Tournament trips: 20-14 (cupcake nonconference) and now 14-15 (barbecue nonconference).
Ford's tenure is proving what Eddie Sutton always said about the office he held: This is not an easy job.
“Good tradition,” Ford said, beginning a stream of consciousness discussion. “Not easy to get players here (Sutton always said that). Great fan support (Sutton always said that, too, and it was true, but not anymore).
“It has its challenges. I've had my challenges. I don't spend much time thinking about it.”
It's been a strange four years for Ford. An even stranger one year, this season, when blessings have turned to curses.
Like 10 or 11 players who could play, which only created tension over playing time and resulted in two midseason defections. Coupled with injuries, OSU was left thin at times and anorexic at others.
Like the 10-year contract awarded Ford in 2009 after State ended its NCAA Tournament drought and beat Tennessee. When football coach Mike Gundy wanted the same after the just-completed Fiesta Bowl season, Ford's contract became a topic for the public marketplace. No less than Boone Pickens declared athletic director Mike Holder knew he had made a mistake with such a generous contract.
“I have nothing to do with that,” Ford said. “I had one person mention it to me. Pretty much all I heard of it.”
Like OSU's preseason slot of seventh in Big 12 basketball. For some reason, Ford keeps talking about this team overachieving while most fans and media keep talking about this team underachieving. Ford is closer to the truth. The Cowboys were picked to finish seventh; they almost surely will finish seventh.