The athletic department chose wisely

Jeff Russ

When Laing Kennedy put those two hats on Geno Ford’s head in the press conference to announce him as head coach of men’s basketball team, I knew the team made the right decision.

The decision was obvious from the beginning: Jim Christian nearly left the program last season for Utah, Ford came back to the program after being the head coach for two seasons at Muskigum. Christian leaves for Texas Christian and Ford is named head coach within a week.

For 10 seasons no program in the Mid-American Conference has had the consistent success of the Flashes – 10 consecutive 20 win seasons, five NCAA Tournament appearances, five MAC Tournament wins and four National Invitational Tournament appearances. There is a lot of pressure on Ford to continue that legacy, but seeing him answer questions at the M.A.C. Center Wednesday, I was convinced he should be the next man in charge of the Kent State bench.

“A lot of times when you get a job, you start out and you take a job that is rebuilding, or someone has been relieved of their duties and you come in and have to clean up the mess,” he said. “I’m following somebody who has cast the biggest shadow over the (Mid-American) conference in history. Coach (Jim) Christian, taught me a lot, and I certainly tried to learn.”

Listening to Ford say that said a lot about the man. It shows that he knows he is coming into a successful program, he has been a part of this program for a long time and he will not be satisfied if the program doesn’t continue to move forward.

Ford showed up at the press conference relaxed but not arrogant. I look at Ford as someone who is really humbled by his new position. He came back to the program last season; maybe he had the job in the back of his mind, but it never showed. Even Wednesday, a day that was all about Ford, he didn’t make it all about him. He was quick to acknowledge every one else in the room and thank Christian for all he meant to the program.

He also brings the ideals that make you proud to attend all the games at the M.A.C. Center.

“I’m really not interested in what I need to do to validate myself,” he said. “What I’m going to do is show up every day, show up early, leave late, work hard in between and make sure our kids go to class, graduate, and we win games.”

There is a reason this guy was the players’ unanimous choice to be the next coach of the Kent State men’s basketball team. It’s not even about X’s and O’s. It’s because he cares about Kent State. He’s the first one in the room to thank everyone else in the room for being there.

He’s been here long enough to understand the small but good crowds that show at the M.A.C. Center. He’s been here for the Akron games. He’s been here to hear the fight song, see the students, raise the banners, cut down the nets and raise the trophies.

We could have brought in someone from another school. That coach could have walked around campus wondering what we as a university are all about. He could have been confused about the fight song, the mascots, the 20 wins, the Akron rivalry and the M.A.C. Center.

Instead Kennedy hired Ford. An Ohio guy who became a Kent State man. Someone who seems to be pleased with this program, and someone who wants to be the Kent State coach.

The fans will see the cool, calm coach who made a room full of journalists, administrators and family laugh. A man who everyone agreed was the right coach.

So as the legacy of Kent State basketball continues, Geno Ford is the right man to run the show.

Contact sports editor Jeff Russ at [email protected].