April 16, 2008
AMHERST, Mass. -
Wednesday evening UMass Athletic Director John McCutcheon met with the media to discuss the future of the UMass basketball program after the departure of Travis Ford for Oklahoma State. Ford will be introduced at a press conference in Stillwater on Thursday. McCutcheon announced a national search is underway to find the next coach of UMass basketball.
Here is McCutcheon's opening comment following by a statement from Coach Ford.
"Good evening everyone. I think you all realize why we are here. I'm not going to make any really lengthy statement about the situation other than the fact late this afternoon, coach Travis Ford informed us that he is going to be resigning his position here as head coach to accept another position. I'm here more to respond to your questions about where we move on from here. We are organized to do that, I will say upfront. We'll be motivated and in motion as early as tomorrow with a national search to find a replacement."
"I have greatly enjoyed my three years here at UMass. It was a very difficult decision to leave UMass, one which my family and I struggled with mightily. I wish nothing but the best for the staff and players at UMass. They have been and will always be family to me. I feel the team at UMass has a great nucleus in place and I wish them the best in the future."
Below is more of McCutcheon's press conference.
What are you looking for (in a coach)?
When you said specific type, does that mean head coach vs. assistant coach or was there some other delineation?
We're going to look for the best possible candidate we can possibly find. And as I've said before, I think we don't want to limit it in terms of specific type to any great extent because everybody has their strengths and everybody has areas where they might be a little bit more prepared. I will say that the style of play that we've been exhibiting here over the past couple of years is something very important to us. We think that that is what the current players and the team were brought here to play in that kind of a system and we think that that will be very effective for us so if we have our preferences that will be one of them, that we can pursue that kind of style of play.
I wasn't making any specific delineations other than I've said this in the past, our preference is to have someone with head coaching experience but that does not preclude us from considering someone who doesn't if they have things in their makeup that make them a very strong candidate.
Is your program in better shape to take on somebody that might be an assistant coach or somebody younger than it was last time?
I don't know how it relates to that specific question, Matt but I think our program is in much better shape right now than we were three years ago that lends itself to perhaps flexibility in a number of different areas that we may not have had before.
Here at UMass, has there been any contact from other people in the couple of hours since this broke?
The coaching network puts the internet to shame. It can happen within a heartbeat, but obviously it's a media world we're in, it's a communication world we're in and when something like this breaks even before it breaks just based on speculation there are a number of phone calls that start to happen.
Is Travis' staff still here?
I haven't had a chance to talk with his staff at this point but definitely they're still on our payroll until we clarify what their situation is.
Did Oklahoma State call you and ask permission to speak with him and how quickly did it all happen?
Travis made me aware of it that they had contacted him late Monday afternoon. I never spoke with anyone directly at Oklahoma State or associated with Oklahoma State.
Last week had to be difficult for you. Can you talk about that?
Well last week obviously was a challenge. And we felt very good as to where we were as of Thursday. We did have some very candid conversations with Coach Ford and this situation emerged very quickly. It's part of the business we're in. That's just something we have to deal with is professionalism. When you have an individual as talented as Coach Ford was, that represents an institution like he did, you'd be naïve to think you're not going to have these situations. I think it speaks to our program and the success we've had over the last couple years. UMass basketball is bigger than any one individual and it will continue to be. Our job is to put the resources in place that will enable whoever is in that role in the future to have as great or greater success down the road.
What is the time frame for hiring a new coach?
We will move as fast as we possibly can. The most important thing is to get the right person. Certainly, we are later in the process in the calendar year as we were last time around. I have already spoken to the chancellor and the assistant president. We will get in motion very quickly. We will have a consultative committee that I will organize tomorrow. For the most part this is a process that I will take a lead on with my staff. Tim Kenney, who I'm very fortunate to have as my associate director, will be very much involved in this process. We will get it going in earnest first thing in the morning, if not later this evening.
Did you have a chance to talk to any of the players?
I did. I talked to the team as a unit. Coach Ford met with them earlier this evening and I met with them just after that to tell them what the process would be. To tell them about how we will go about trying to find a replacement as quickly as possible. Obviously, this is a very emotional time for them and they responded very positively I think.
How would characterize their reaction?
I think it was typical of any team that losses a coach they are very fond of, that they have been very involved with. When you have a team like this, it is a family-type relationship and it is difficult. I think they do understand the opportunity Coach Ford was given, but still it kind of hurts, and it takes awhile to get through that. It's our job to help them through that and to let them know we are here, that we're going to find someone to fill that void that is now there that they are going to be excited to have as their head coach.
Does Oklahoma State have to pay a buyout?
They do. I think that's been public. The contract that we had in place prior to the last couple weeks is the one that will be in effect. There is a $200,000 buyout on his contract.
Why is the previous contract in effect and not the one that was just agreed to?
The conversations we had were an agreement in principle. We had not gotten to a point where they were finalized with any documentation.
Was there any effort made to entice him to stay when he was offered this latest job?
I think Travis was understanding that where we got to in our last round of conversations was a very aggressive position for us, obviously, when it was between a Big East school and ourselves. Even though he have not, and will not, release what the exact amount of those conversations were, it was a very competitive package. For us to go beyond that was not really a reasonable situation for us.