Tuesday, April 01, 2008

The LSU opening...does it belong to Travis Ford?

If I were a betting man, I'd say that the Louisiana State men's basketball head coach position would go to Travis Ford. You already saw my post here on the Kentucky ties all over the Southeastern Conference when it comes to the head coaching position in men's basketball.

The Daily Advertiser reports on the current search for a new head coach. It won't be Sean Miller of Xavier. The university requires a $2 million buyout.
The coaches on that list include Virginia Commonwealth's Anthony Grant, who is at the top of the list and is the surest bet to become the next LSU coach. The others, not necessarily in this order, are Travis Ford of Massachusetts, Sean Miller of Xavier, Tony Bennett of Washington State, Jamie Dixon of Pittsburgh, Scott Drew of Baylor, Brian Gregory of Dayton, Chris Lowery of Southern Illinois and Jim Christian of Kent State.
Southern California coach Tim Floyd is not anywhere close on the list but it's been said that he's not interested in the position.

Mark Story writes of the hotbed of SEC coaches and their Kentucky ties.
An overlooked sub-theme of March Madness 2008 has been the prominent role that products of Kentucky high school basketball have played as head coaches.

Western Kentucky's Cinderella run to the NCAA Tournament round of 16 has made Darrin Horn (Tates Creek High class of 1991) one of the nation's hot names in the ranks of coaching up-and-comers -- and the new head man at South Carolina.

In his first season at Arkansas, John Pelphrey (Paintsville class of '87) inherited an underachieving nucleus from Stan Heath and produced a Southeastern Conference tourney upset of Tennessee and an NCAA victory over Indiana.

At Massachusetts, Travis Ford (Madisonville-North Hopkins class of '89) has ridden a March roller coaster as undulating as The Beast. His Minutemen most likely blew an NCAA bid when they lost an 18-point lead in the second half and fell to Charlotte in the Atlantic 10 Conference Tournament.

Relegated to the NIT, UMass went to Syracuse and erased a 22-point lead in the second half to earn a stirring win that propelled the Minutemen to New York City for a semifinal matchup Tuesday opposite Florida.

Henry Clay High School grads are central to the basketball coaching narrative in Oklahoma. Scott Sutton (class of '89) led Oral Roberts University to its third straight NCAA tourney appearance. Yet his older brother, Sean (HC class of '87), may actually have been more prominent in this year's coaching story line.
Back to Travis Ford. Here's this tidbit as to why he should be the leading candidate for the job.
In theory, Ford should have a leg up for the much-coveted opening at Louisiana State. John V. Lombardi was chancellor at UMass when Ford was hired to coach the Minutemen in 2005. He's now the president of the LSU system.

But can you sell Ford to the public for a job like LSU since he's yet to lead UMass to the NCAA tourney?

The ex-UK point guard does have one thing that seems to qualify a person to be a head basketball coach in the Southeastern Conference. Consider:

Gillispie is head coach at Kentucky; Billy Donovan (Florida) is a former assistant at UK; Dennis Felton (Georgia) is the former head man at Western; Rick Stansbury (Mississippi State) played his high school basketball at Meade County and went to college at Campbellsville; Pelphrey is at Arkansas; and Mark Gott-fried (Alabama) is an ex-coach at Murray State.

With Horn taking the South Carolina job, it means that seven of the 11 SEC head coaches (with LSU still vacant) share one thing in common:

Some significant tie to the place where coaching careers take flight, the state of Kentucky.
Now, tonight is going to be very tough for Kentucky fans. Do we root for our fellow SEC team, Florida, or do we root for UMass since Travis is a coach? Both teams are coached by those with ties to Kentucky and all you have to do is read above. Here's what Florida coach Billy Donovan had to say about Travis.
For the second straight NIT game, Donovan will face a coach with which he has personal ties. Ford played at Kentucky when Donovan worked as a graduate assistant there.

Donovan helped Ford develop when Ford sat out a year after transferring from Missouri. The two often played full-court pickup games deep into the afternoon.

"Back then, I was in much better shape," Donovan said. "He's done a terrific job, first at Eastern Kentucky and now at UMass. My bond with him is probably a little bit different because we were both point guards in similar situations. I really took great interest in him."
And Ford on Donovan:
"He was a great influence on my career and someone I could always turn to for a different perspective," Ford said.

Ford, 61-34 in three seasons at UMass, said Donovan's influence extends into his coaching.

"Just his work ethic," Ford said. "Usually as a coaching staff we divide scouting reports. One year at Kentucky, he did every scouting report that season. No one is going out-work him."

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