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OKLAHOMA STATE HOOPS: Can Smart & Nash save Travis Ford?

Oklahoma State's head basketball coach Travis Ford's future depends on the two biggest recruits to ever choose to play for the Cowboys..

Denny Medley-US PRESSWIRE - Presswire

Travis Ford had the benefit of a long term contract and injuries last season.

The reason I say benefit is that he might very well have been unemployed after the season had he not had those two things in his corner.

This season could be different, in SOOO many ways.

Most coaches are given 3-5 years to build their programs. Takes a bit to work through current players and bring in talent that fits that coaches system, style of play, or personality.

The usual trend is an improving record or declining record. Sometimes there is a continuation of prior success, mediocrity, or failure. Given that, let's have a look at Ford's tenure as a head coach:

Season Team Overall Conference Standing Postseason
Campbellsville Tigers (Mid-South Conference) (1997–2000)
1997–98 Campbellsville 16–17 7–5
1998–99 Campbellsville 28–3 10–2
1999–2000 Campbellsville 23–11 8–4
Eastern Kentucky Colonels (Ohio Valley Conference) (2000–2005)
2000–01 Eastern Kentucky 7–19 1–15 9th
2001–02 Eastern Kentucky 7–20 3–13 9th
2002–03 Eastern Kentucky 11–17 5–11 T–8th
2003–04 Eastern Kentucky 14–15 8–8 4th
2004–05 Eastern Kentucky 22–9 11–5 2nd NCAA First Round
UMass Minutemen (Atlantic 10) (2005–2008)
2005–06 UMass 13–15 8–8 T–7th
2006–07 UMass 24–9 13–3 T–1st NIT 2nd Round
2007–08 UMass 25–11 10–6 3rd NIT Finals
Oklahoma State Cowboys (Big 12) (2008–present)
2008–09 Oklahoma State 23–12 9–7 T–4th NCAA Second Round
2009–10 Oklahoma State 22–11 9–7 T–6th NCAA First Round
2010–11 Oklahoma State 20–13 6–10 9th NIT Second Round
2011–12 Oklahoma State 15–18 7–11 7th

As we can see, Coach Ford has enjoyed improvement at every stop, EXCEPT Oklahoma State.

Now, before we throw the baby out with the bath water, let's give Ford a LITTLE benefit of the doubt, and this is why.

In a head coach's tenure, another battle they can face (unless you're at Kentucky) is discovering and developing relationships in the recruiting hot beds for that school, finding the talent in those hot beds that fits the system, then convincing that talent to come play for that school.

While last season (and off-season) brought a litany of premature departures, it also brought Le'Bryan Nash. Then came Marcus Smart (and his less heralded sharpshooting teammate Phil Forte). Two nationally recognized recruits, two years in a row. Likely the most heralded recruits to ever choose Stillwater as their base of operation. In fact, check out this article about Smart's time with coaches Billy Donovan and Mark Few on the US under 18 team. I really don't know how Ford talked him into coming to OSU. I would bet Travis will have to hand his soul over to Satan at some point in the future. While there are other exciting players...Brown, Williams, Olukemi, Cobbins...and more than one new recruit that we are hopeful will add to the mix, let there be no doubt that the majority of this season will hinge on Smart and Nash.

In August, I posted this as the Cowboys headed to Spain. I am definitely eager to see what Smart can do as a freshman, more eager than I was for Nash, and I am sure Coach Ford has every possible finger crossed that he will be the ingredient that turns things around for his fortunes as head coach at Oklahoma State.

There are those who would have ditched Ford, especially after last season. I have been a harsh critic, questioning his ability to actually coach.

CRFF has been hopeful in spots, but mostly critical (scroll down page 1, and take a look at page 2).

The bottom line is simple...another losing season will likely spell the end for Ford at Oklahoma State, contract or not. A winning season of ANY kind and all Ford will have to worry about is whether or not Nash departs for the NBA.

Either way, things should be intriguing.