STILLWATER – Oklahoma State's loss to Georgia Tech in the NCAA Men's Basketball Tournament lingers with Travis Ford.
With the Midwest Regional bracket opening up, and No. 5 seed Michigan State representing that quadrant of the bracket in the Final Four, Ford can't help but wonder what might have been if his seventh-seeded Cowboys hadn't played so poorly in Milwaukee.
Sitting down for a postseason chat Monday, Ford talked about last season and next season and about the challenge of replacing James Anderson.
A few highlights:
Q: Do you think this team maximized its potential?
A: “It's an interesting question because probably more than any year in a while, I have had a tough time moving on a little bit. And I have probably hidden it pretty well, but it's bothered me, for the fact that I feel like if we had gotten by that first game, and I knew that first game was going to be tough…
“But I don't think there is any question that we over-achieved. We probably had a better season than we anticipated, especially after Ray Penn went down, to win some of the games we won and to make the NCAA Tournament and to go 9-7 in our league and to do a lot of things with the team we had.
“But for my benefit and the way I coach, and it's different than last year, we did not play enough perfect games for me. And that is not about winning. Last year, I thought we maximized. This team might not have been as good as last year's. I wish we could have played more games like the Kansas game, where we had everybody on the same page.”
How is Ray Penn?
“Ray is good. He went from cast to walking-boot cast, and now he is out of that. He had X-rays last week and what we are looking at: four weeks from playing and getting full-go again. And that is my biggest thing, because I want to get him back on the court for at least two weeks of postseason workouts before we gotta stop and then I won't get to work with him until August of next year. The trainer Jason (Miller), I call him every morning and ask him, ‘How is Ray doing?' Because he is a very important piece to our basketball team right now, a very important piece.”
After OSU got into an NIT rut, your teams have made two straight NCAA Tournament appearances. Still, are you pleased but not satisfied?
“I am not satisfied. With any new coach really, it takes some time, and I think it takes three or four or maybe five years to really solidify high expectations maybe, or to start from our end to expecting more. Nothing is good to me unless we win our last game. And that is just the way I am, and that is my personality.
“But I really haven't looked ahead and said, ‘It's only going to be a perfect season if we make it.' I didn't know if we were an NCAA team this year, and I didn't know last year. And the same for next year. It takes time.
“It was a satisfying year, but for me I am not happy unless we are winning them all.”
What is more daunting, replacing Byron Eaton last year or James Anderson this year?