Travis Ford strolled onto the court that shares his name, and his orange pullover shined brightly under the arena lights.
Only time will tell if his Oklahoma State Cowboys thrive in the Ford Center spotlight.
But this much we already have learned in Ford’s maiden season in Stillwater. Last spring, Mike Holder went out and hired a coach
. Went out and hired a man who can get ballplayers to believe in themselves and believe in a system and believe they will win.
On the eve of Oklahoma City’s second Big 12 Tournament, no other verdict can be reached.
Barring the total collapse of a loss to Iowa State today and rejection by the NCAA selection committee, Ford is a success in Year One of OSU basketball.
"He’s done a great job,” said Cowboy senior Terrel Harris. "I can’t stress that enough how much change he’s brought to this team.”
And none of it easy. Ford inherited talented, veteran ballplayers, but none had won to OSU standards. He installed a new system and was shocked, immediately, at how difficult would be the transformation. He lost his two centers to transfer before Christmas.
Mightiest of all, Ford had to work in the wake of the house of Sutton. Ford didn’t replace the legend, but he replaced the legend’s son.
Ford admittedly works in a cave, oblivious to anything except midnight oil and making his basketball team better, but he had to feel the splintering of the OSU hoops foundation with the forceout of Eddie Sutton in May 2006 and the firing of Sean Sutton in April 2008.
Yet, the Cowboys have thrived. After three straight losing Big 12 seasons, they finished 9-7 and tied for fourth in the league. After three straight non-NCAA Tournament seasons, they are on the brink of an invitation.
"I’m very proud we’ve been able to do what we’ve done,” Ford said.