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. Starting with Valentine’s Day, OSU won six straight games, all must-win affairs, then took Oklahoma to the wire in Norman. That’s quite a month. Not so long ago, the big question about Ford was whether he could hold his tongue and not call his players profane names. Now the big question is whether OSU could lose him to Kentucky should it quickly tire of Billy Gillispie. "It’s a whole different mentality,” Harris said of playing for Ford. "More aggressive attitude. More confidence. We’re proud of him. We’re a replica of him.” Well, no holes in that theory. Short, fiery, great shooters. That’s the Cowboys in a nutshell. Beat 15-16 Iowa State tonight in front of Ford Center friendlies, and OSU’s long NCAA Tournament drought will be over. Missing the madness of March wore on these Cowboy veterans. "No question,” Harris said. "But with us having success this year, all that’s forgotten.” Several weeks ago at an Oklahoma City energy conference, OSU benefactor Boone Pickens said, "It will go down in history that (president) Burns Hargis and Travis Ford will be the two best hires we’ve made in the last 50 years." Well, that’s over the top. Eddie Sutton. John Smith. Gary Ward. Mike Holder himself in golf. State has its share of home run hires over the years. Travis Ford is not there. Not yet. But the early returns are good. Very, very good. Berry Tramel: 405-760-8080; Berry Tramel can be heard Monday through Friday from 4:40-5:20 p.m. on The Sports Animal radio network, including AM-640 and FM-98.1.