Coach’s resolve has led him to success in MAC basketball

Chris Gates

While playing college basketball at Ohio University, Geno Ford had no specific reason for wearing No. 12.

“It was the smallest jersey when I was on the team,” he said. “So that’s what you wore.”

Standing at 5-foot-8, 180 pounds, Ford overcame his lack of height to finish fifth on the Bobcats’ all-time scoring list with 1,752 career points.

He has continued to overcome obstacles in his coaching career as well. After losing to Akron on Jan. 24 and falling to a season-worst record of 8-11, Ford and the Flashes rebounded to win 10 of their last 12 games of the season.

Here’s a look at his thoughts about the team, his job as a coach and his career as a player:

When you look back at the course the team has traveled, how do you feel about where you’re at right now?

At this time of year, we’re playing as well as anyone in our conference. We’re 10-2 in our last 12, which would be the best record of anyone in the league during that time period.

At the beginning of the season, did you have an idea of where you wanted to be going into the tournament? Is this it?

On paper, you never know how things are going to come together. It’s been a tough year. We scheduled harder than we’ve ever scheduled – not even close. We’ve also played a lot more road games, non-league, than we’ve ever played.

Six of our seven non-league losses were against teams that either finished first or second in their league . You’ve got to factor in who you’re playing and how much better you’re getting.

Do you have a greatest moment as a player in college?

I would say my freshman year, beating Connecticut when they were ranked ninth in the country and they had three (future) NBA players. We beat them out on a neutral court. It was really the first time playing at Ohio University, or a mid-Major or (Mid-American Conference) school . you really realize like ‘Oh man, there’s not really that big of a gap between us and these guys.’

Is there anything that you’ve taken from your playing career and implemented it as a coach?

I really remember what it’s like to be in that locker room. Playing college basketball, the misconception that a lot of people have is that this is some great, fun, glorious experience that’s all nothing but cake and ice cream, and everybody’s happy all the time. Those locker rooms – when you get beat, when you’re down at halftime, the timeouts, dealing with comments from the student body that you live in the dorm with, pressure from home – I think back and reference all of that stuff.

Do you have a greatest moment in your coaching career thus far?

I would say last year’s win at St. Mary’s. With it being a national TV game and it was a game against a top 25 team that we beat, it got us into the top 25 for the first time in school history during the regular season.

This year, when you guys were sitting below the .500 mark, what kinds of things were you hearing from the fans and media?

The thing that you realize is: Number one, the fans always want you to win (and) number two, every school’s fans think their team is really good. Regardless, when we win it’s not necessarily because of good coaching. When you get beat, it could be because of ignorant coaching and it could be a mistake that was made.

When someone comes to the game, when they get in their car to leave, all I want them to think is, “Man they played hard.”

Is there anything you wish you would have done differently in this, your first year as the head coach at Kent State?

I wish that we could’ve found a way to click a little bit earlier in the year. I can’t put my thumb on anything specific saying, “Man, if I would’ve just done this, this definitely would have happened.” It’s not a game of absolutes. If it was and the players were robots and could just instantly do what you told them, there would be no explanation for Florida winning back-to-back national titles and then going to the NIT. (Florida coach) Billy Donovan didn’t fall out of the shower and hit his head. They just didn’t have as good of players that they had the year before.

Contact principal sports reporter Chris Gates at [email protected]