After waiting more than a week, Oklahoma State basketball fans finally have closure.
Travis Ford is no longer the Cowboys’ head coach.
Ford was fired on Friday after eight largely mediocre seasons, five NCAA Tournament appearances and only one NCAA victory.
Actually, OSU issued a press release at 6:20 p.m. Friday that said Ford and OSU athletic director Mike Holder “mutually agreed … (to) part ways.”
(OSU’s announcement came exactly one hour after Oklahoma’s first-round NCAA Tournament victory over Cal State Bakersfield in Oklahoma City; the timing shrewdly minimized media coverage, as much of the state’s sports press corps was in Chesapeake Arena covering the Sooners.)
“I like Travis Ford and his family,” Holder said in the press release. “He worked very hard at his job. Unfortunately, we have to move on.”
OSU’s season ended last Wednesday in the Big 12 Tournament with a loss to Kansas State.
OSU owed Ford $7.2 million for the three years left on the 10-year contract to which Holder agreed in 2009, but it’s believed Ford settled for a reduced figure because OSU has been helping him land another coaching job.
Whatever salary Ford earns from his next job — coaching, broadcasting or anything else — mitigates what OSU must pay him, according to terms of Ford’s contract.
In an email, Holder declined to reveal clarification on Ford’s buyout.
Ford’s teams went 155-111, including a Big 12 Conference mark of 63-75 (he’s the third-winningest coach in school history). With injuries to senior guard Phil Forte and Big 12 newcomer of the year Juwan Evans, the Cowboys this season finished 12-20 and 3-15 in Big 12 play and finished out of the postseason after three consecutive NCAA Tournament trips.
It was OSU’s worst season in more than three decades, and proud OSU fans, numbering more than 10,000 per game just two years ago, protested by staying away. Attendance this season dwindled to just over 5,800 and season-ticket sales have dropped by half since Ford’s first season, according to the Tulsa World’s Mark Cooper. Attendance for Senior Night against rival Texas bottomed out at 4,023.
As for a replacement, a source said a four-man search committee of Holder, president Burns Hargis and regents Joe Hall and Calvin Anthony will wait as long as possible to get their man, even if that means waiting deep into the ongoing NCAA Tournament.
Potential candidates — some much more realistic than others — could include Virginia Tech’s Buzz Williams, Wichita State’s Gregg Marshall, Stephen F. Austin’s Brad Underwood, Virginia’s Tony Bennett, Houston’s Kelvin Sampson, Little Rock’s Chris Beard, Dayton’s Archie Miller and Mercer’s Bob Hoffman, as well as any number of current assistant coaches.
It’s also widely presumed that CBS basketball analyst and former Oklahoma State point guard Doug Gottlieb is getting a serious look from Holder for the job he helped elevate under Eddie Sutton, who publicly endorsed Gottlieb’s candidacy.