Travis Ford put UMass basketball back on the map.
In 2007-08, Ford continued the winning ways which he began at UMass in the 2006-07 season as the Minutemen made their deepest run into postseason in school history, reaching the NIT Championship game in New York. The Minutemen knocked off defending national champion Florida in the NIT Semifinals after rallying from 22 points in the second half to win at Syracuse. The Minutemen became the first team in history to beat Syracuse at the Carrier Dome twice in the same season. UMass finished with a 25-11 record, the fifth-most wins in school history. UMass has a team set eight school records including most points and most 3-pointers made in a season in 2007-08. UMass was in the RPI's top 30 for nearly the entire season, peaking at No. 9. UMass picked up major road wins twice at Syracuse, Boston College and No. 14 Dayton. The win at Dayton was the first for Ford against a ranked team and propelled the Minutemen into the RPI Top 20. The Minutemen was recognized for having the league's player of the year for the second year in a row as Gary Forbes claimed the honor as he tied for the league's regular-season scoring crown (20.3).
Ford is the second-winningest coach in terms of win percentage with a 63.9 mark in three seasons. Only John Calipari won more with a 73.1 mark. Ford is also the sixth-winningest coach in UMass history in terms of wins with a 62-35 overall record in three seasons.
The 2006-07 season was a memorable one for the Minutemen as they had their best season in a decade. UMass captured a share of the Atlantic 10 Regular-Season Championship with a 24-9 record. UMass won its first postseason game since the 1996 Final Four, with an 89-87 thriller over Alabama before a national television audience on ESPN.
With UMass winning Atlantic 10 Regular Season Championship for the first time since 1995-96, Ford has returned the energy and enthusiasm to the Mullins Center with winning ways. UMass made its first postseason appearance since 2000, playing in the NIT in 2007, reaching the second round with a memorable 89-87 win over Alabama on ESPN in the first round.
UMass forward Stephane Lasme was named the Atlantic 10 Player of the Year and Defensive Player of the Year as he became just the third player in NCAA history with four triple-doubles in a season. Lasme went on to be drafted by the Golden State Warriors in the second round of the NBA Draft and signed a contract prior to the 2007-08 season.
Center Rashaun Freeman earned his third straight Atlantic 10 First-Team honor, the first player to do that since Jameer Nelson at Saint Joseph's (2001-04). Freeman went to finish his career with 1,744 career points, fourth all-time at UMass and added 998 rebounds, third all-time at UMass. Freeman signed a professional contract in France.
UMass averaged close to 6,000 fans per game in 2006-07, its highest crowd since 1998. That included the first sellout since 2001, when 9,493 packed the Mullins Center for an inter-state battle with Boston College.
The year featured Ford defeating his mentor, Rick Pitino, as UMass won the Billy Minardi Classic at Louisville. The Minutemen won 12 games on the road, among the best in the nation, including ending Dayton's home-court win streak late in February.
Ford used his first season at UMass to build the base for years to come. He re-energized all of Western Massachusetts as the Minutemen increased their attendance numbers by 50 percent to its highest in five years.
Ford has done countless interviews with local and national media. In his first few months at UMass he crossed the state and New England region back-and-forth with `Meet-N-Greet' sessions. He was honored by throwing out the first pitch at a Red Sox game at Fenway Park. One thing was sure, if you wanted to meet Ford, you had plenty of opportunities to get to know the new face of UMass basketball.
When Ford was hired, McCutcheon lauded Ford: "We are extremely pleased that Travis Ford and his wife Heather have become part of the UMass family," the A.D. said of UMass' 20th men's basketball coach. "He brings exactly the kind of experience, energy and charisma that we were hoping to find in a head coach. Travis distinguished himself from an outstanding group of candidates and we could not be more excited about the impact his appointment will have on the future of UMass Basketball."
Ford has emerged as one of the brightest, energetic and personable coaches in the nation. A decorated player at the University of Kentucky, Ford earned numerous accolades as the Wildcats' point guard from 1991-94. As a head coach, he led NAIA school Campbellsville University to a 67-31 record from 1997-2000 leading the Tigers to a National Tournament appearance in his final season.
"I am extremely excited to join the University of Massachusetts, a school with rich basketball tradition," said Ford. "I am looking forward to working hard every day to bring the excitement and energy back to one of New England's finest institutions. I know our fans seek the enthusiasm and passion that I can bring to Western Massachusetts and pack the Mullins Center again."
At Eastern Kentucky, Ford guided the Colonels to their first NCAA Tournament appearance in more than 25 years as well as their first winning season (22-9 in 2004-05) in 11 years. Ford was riding a seven-game winning steak -- Eastern Kentucky's longest such streak in 40 years -- prior to losing to his alma mater, Kentucky, in the 2005 NCAA First Round, 72-64. He led the Colonels to the Ohio Valley Conference Tournament Championship, their first since 1979.
Ford, led EKU out of doldrums as they were a combined 9-44 in the previous two seasons before his arrival. His first two teams won seven games, but his victory total rose each year to 11, then 14 and finally a school-record 22 in 2004-05. In five seasons in Richmond, he led the Colonels to a 61-80 record. .
He put the EKU program back on the map in 2003-04, as the Colonels posted a 14-15 record, giving the team its highest win total since tallying 15 victories during the 1992-93 campaign. The Colonels also made their second straight appearance in the OVC Tournament. Eastern would defeat Samford in the opening round of the league tourney in McBrayer Arena to post the team's first win in the event since 1995. Ford set several personal milestones with the 2003-04 resurgence. His eight OVC wins were the most for the program since 1997-98 Ford also became the first Colonel head coach to lead his team to back-to-back OVC Tourney appearances since Mike Calhoun accomplished the feat during the 1994-95 and 1995-96 seasons.
Ford has also had a long run of producing successful players. He has had at least one player named to the all-league teams in each of his five seasons, including two at the conclusion of the 2003-04 season and Michael Haney this past season. Ford also guided Matt Witt to the OVC Freshman of the Year award in 2002-03.
Ford used his team's success to his advantage during the recruiting process, landing a class that has been ranked No. 28 nationally by HoopScoop Magazine. His class was the second-highest rated in the OVC heading into 2004-05.
Ford's success at EKU, came as no surprise to anyone familiar with basketball in the Bluegrass State. He began his bench duties at Campbellsville University, where he served as head coach for three seasons. During his tenure at Campbellsville, Ford led the Tigers to a 67-31 overall record. During the 1999-2000 season - his last at Campbellsville - Ford guided his team to a 23-11 record and an appearance in the NAIA National Tournament.
Ford's Tigers tallied a 28-3 mark in 1998-99 including an impressive 10-2 record in Mid-South Conference play, earning him MSC Coach of the Year honors. While on the bench at Campbellsville, Ford produced seven First Team All-MSC players and 10 that were voted honorable mention all-conference. Three of his players were named honorable mention All-Americans and one was selected second team.
The playing career of Travis Ford was impressive as well. He began his collegiate career at Missouri, where he was named to the UPI Big Eight All-Freshman team. During that season, Ford averaged 6.4 points and 3.5 assists per game. Ford would transfer to Kentucky prior to his sophomore year and made a big impact on the Wildcat program after sitting out a season due to transfer rules. He helped the Wildcats to NCAA Tournament appearances in each season in Lexington.
Ford went on to earn First Team All-SEC honors once, while also earning SEC Tournament MVP twice. Aside from him athletic accomplishments, Ford was also named to the Academic All-SEC team in each of his three seasons at UK. During his sophomore season (1991-92), Ford's outstanding shooting ability was on display. He connected on 32 field goals during the season and 26 of them fell in from behind the three-point arc. That season he also won the team's Student-Athlete of the Year award.
In 1992-93, Ford averaged 13.6 points and 4.8 assists as a junior and became the first player in Kentucky history to make more than 100 three-pointers in a season, which still stands as a school record (101). He led his team to the NCAA Tournament Final Four during that campaign and was named Southeast Region MVP. As a senior (1993-94), he scored his 1,000th career points (1,143 career points) as he averaged 11.3 points and 5.8 assists per game. He was honored as co-team MVP in 1994 along with current NBA player Tony Delk.
He stands sixth all-time at Kentucky in three-pointers made (190) and second all-time in three-point field goal percentage (.445). In the all-time free throw charts, he is second all-time in free throw percentage (.882). His .912 percentage as a senior also still stands as a second-best mark in a single-season in Wildcat history.
The Madisonville, Ky., native was a part of the gold medal-winning South squad at the 1990 US Olympic Festival in 1990 and later played for the US team that won a gold medal in the 1993 World University Games. Ford's playing career in high school was also stellar. Playing at North Hopkins High School, he led his team to three state tournament appearances during his career and was named to the All-State team. He averaged 31.7 points per game as a senior and was twice named Western Kentucky Player of the Year.
Ford's playing days ended in training camp with the Golden State Warriors of the NBA, but his time in California led to a new job. He landed the role of Danny O'Grady in the movie The 6th Man.
Ford and wife Heather, a former swimmer at Kentucky, have three children: Brooks (7), Kyleigh (5), and Shane (3).
THE TRAVIS FORD FILE Ford's Coaching Career Season School Overall Pct. Conf. Pct. Notes 1997-98 Campbellsville 16-17 .485 7-5 .583 Mid-South Semifinals 1998-99 Campbellsville 28-3 .903 10-2 .833 Mid-South Coach of Year 1999-00 Campbellsville 23-11 .676 8-4 .667 NAIA National Tournament/Mid-South South Semis 2000-01 Eastern Kentucky 7-19 .269 1-15 .062 2001-02 Eastern Kentucky 7-20 .259 3-13 .188 2002-03 Eastern Kentucky 11-17 .393 5-11 .313 2003-04 Eastern Kentucky 14-15 .483 8-8 .500 OVC Semifinals 2004-05 Eastern Kentucky 22-9 .710 11-5 .688 NCAA First Round/OVC Champions 2005-06 Massachusetts 13-15 .464 8-8 .500 2006-07 Massachusetts 24-9 .727 13-3 .813 NIT Second Round/A-10 Reg.-Season Co-Champions 2007-08 Massachusetts 25-11 .694 10-6 .625 NIT FINALISTS TOTALS 11 Years 190-146 .565 84-79 .515 Campbellsville Totals 67-31 .684 25-11 .694 Eastern Kentucky Totals 61-80 .432 28-52 .350 Massachusetts Totals 62-35 .639 31-17 .646
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