The rumors were true. Travis Ford has signed on as the next basketball coach at Saint Louis University. Ford has been a head coach at the NAIA level and with Eastern Kentucky, Massachusetts and Oklahoma State at the Division I level. His career mark of 155-111 with the Cowboys included five trips to the NCAA Tournament.
SLU's Director of Athletics Chris May was pleased to make the announcement.
"We are thrilled to welcome Travis and his family into the program," May said. "Our vision for Billiken basketball is to be nationally competitive, and Travis shares in that vision. He has had success everywhere he has coached. Travis is an accomplished recruiter and program-builder and is highly respected throughout college basketball."
It is that last part that is most telling. Saint Louis U has been sorely lacking in legitimate Division 1 talent and Ford (whose playing career included one year at Missouri and three with Kentucky) has coached six players that have gone on to play in the NBA.
With former Billikens Larry Hughes and Troy Robertson on hand, the pep band playing and several hundred people in attendance, May explained how Ford was the 'perfect fit' for SLU. On several occasions, May and Ford seemed to echo one another as they spoke of competing at a national level and recruiting top notch talent to St. Louis.
Ford is familiar with SLU's current conference. UMass and the Billikens both play in the Atlantic 10 Conference. While with the Minutemen, Ford's teams won a conference championship and participated in two National Invitation Tournaments. Ford says there is nothing 'mid-major' about the A-10.
"When an A-10 team defeats a BCS school, I don't think that is an upset," he said. "The Atlantic 10 doesn't have to take a back seat to anyone. I know where SLU finished last year, and we will never finish there again."
In 16 seasons as a Division I coach Ford's teams have played postseason basketball nine times. Six seasons they participated in the NCAA Tournament and three times they were invited to the NIT.
"First and foremost, my family and I are excited to be a part of the Billiken program," Ford said. "We are going to deliver a brand of basketball that is fun, exciting, aggressive and up-tempo, one that recruits will love playing and fans will love watching."
Ford described his offensive strategy as more of an 'NBA type of offense' and that defensively the Billikens will press and seek to upset the rhythm of their opponents.
Several influential high school and AAU coaches were in attendance and each spoke glowingly of the hire, noting there are many talented players in the St. Louis area that would like to stay close to home, and the energy Ford is bringing to the program could be pivotal in those players' decision to play at SLU.