The thunderous applause from roughly 300 pairs of hands greeting Geno Ford on Monday may have been as much about change as anything.
But by the time the new men’s basketball coach had finished speaking 30 minutes later, it was all about him and the hope he brings to the Hilltop.
It was energizing to see the former Kent State University coach speak. He didn’t dodge questions from the media. He wasn’t shifty. He was Midwestern in his approach to the audience. Self deprecating, but not to a fault. He was refreshing.
Ford brings good numbers to our program.
Under his leadership, the Golden Flashes won consecutive Mid-American Conference titles. His was the first team to do so in nearly five decades.
This season, his team came in second in the MAC tournament, losing a bid to the NCAA Tournament. But they won NIT contests in California and New York before losing to No. 1 seed Colorado in the quarterfinals.
That’s more than Bradley’s done since a 2006 Sweet 16 run. Eliminating that year, it’s more than the team has done in about 20.
His three seasons at Kent State gave him a 68-37 (.648) record and won two MAC Coach-of-the-Year awards.
Including his years at the helm of Muskingum and Shawnee State’s programs, he’s got six years experience and a career record of 119-69.
Especially when compared to former coach Jim Les’ zero years experience running a college basketball program and a career record of 154-140, Ford looks pretty impressive.
Truth be told, though, I’m not exactly the definition of a sports guy.
So at Monday’s press conference, I was slightly more concerned with Ford’s ability to woo the student body into the stands, and with the man’s ability to communicate effectively, not just with his team but with the community at large.
Those concerns were quelled on Monday.
Ford said in the past he’s fought for visibility on his campuses. He’s gone to fraternities. He’s gone to sororities. He’s spoken to student groups. All that in the hopes of getting them into the arena on game night.
And that’s important because he is coming to a campus that never knew his predecessor.
I’ve worked at the Scout the entire time I’ve been on campus. Counting this one, that’s 91 editions of the weekly paper.
But I never met Jim Les.
Though I’m not exactly active outside the paper, my responsibilities here require attendance at certain functions throughout the year. My responsibilities here mean I should know every decision maker on campus.
And, on the whole, I do. Or at least I’ve met them.
But, again, I never met Jim Les. And if, in my second year running this newspaper, I never met him, I’d venture a guess that the vast, vast majority of the student body never met him.
So couple his inaccessibility with the team’s generally poor or mediocre performance during his tenure, and you’ve got an apathetic student body.
I’m not saying it’s all about the coach, because it’s not. But having a coach who seems to care about students goes a long way. Having a coach who is a visible, active part of campus goes a long way.
Combine those attributes with a victorious team, and we’ve got a recipe for success on our hands.
Pat Oldendorf is a senior English major from Lockport. He is the Scout editor-in-chief.
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