In three years as Saint Louis University's head men's basketball coach, Travis Ford has reinvigorated the program and reestablished its place on the national stage.
Hired in March 2016, Ford inherited a program that won 11 games in each of the two years prior. He proceeded to improve the Billikens' win total in each of his first three seasons, highlighted by last season's 23-13 record, an Atlantic 10 Conference Championship, and a bid to the NCAA Tournament.
The Billikens entered the 2018-19 season with high expectations, being picked to win the league despite finishing in a tie for fifth in the league standings in 2017-18.
Ford had the Billikens playing their best basketball late in the season. Saint Louis entered the Atlantic 10 Conference Men's Basketball Championship as the No. 6 seed, and SLU would go on to win four games in four days for the conference title.
SLU was a No. 13 seed in the NCAA Tournament, Ford's seven appearance as a head coach in the NCAAs and 11th in a postseason in his career.
Through the 2018-19 season, Ford's career record stood at 388-316 (22 years). In three years at Saint Louis, he holds a 52-50 record.
Ford was introduced to the St. Louis community at his introductory press conference on March 31, 2016.
“First and foremost, my family and I are excited to be a part of the Billiken program,” Ford said at the time of his hire. “I look forward to working with Chris May and Dr. Pestello in making this one of the top programs in America. We are going to deliver a brand of basketball that is fun, exciting, aggressive and up-tempo – one that recruits will love playing and fans will love watching.
“St. Louis is a great sports city and my family and I are honored to become a part of it,” Ford continued. “We have a great setting to recruit to with a wonderful city, beautiful campus, terrific school and a first-class facility. I can’t wait to engage with the student body and the fans as we work together to build a brand that everyone will be excited about.”
“We are thrilled to welcome Travis and his family into the program,” SLU Director of Athletics Chris May said. “Our vision for Billiken basketball is to be nationally competitive, and Travis shares in that vision. He has had success everywhere he has coached. Travis is an accomplished recruiter and program-builder and is highly respected throughout college basketball. We are excited about the future of our program with Travis as our head men’s basketball coach.”
“Our University strategic plan recognizes that our athletic programs increase SLU’s national visibility and institutional pride,” said SLU President Fred P. Pestello, Ph.D. “I am convinced that Coach Ford will bring the energy, experience, recruitment skills and coaching acumen needed to position our men’s basketball program among the best in the country. He is also a person who will engage our community, advance our mission and build our brand.”
In addition to his three years at SLU, Ford has had head-coaching stints at Oklahoma State (eight years, 2008-16), Massachusetts (three years, 2005-08), Eastern Kentucky (five years, 2000-05) and Campbellsville University. Ford has led his team to the NCAA Tournament seven times. He has coached six players who have gone on to play in the NBA and six who have been named a conference player of the year.
Ford came to SLU after eight seasons as head coach at Oklahoma State University, where he led the Cowboys to a 155-111 record and five NCAA Tournament appearances. He recruited three McDonald’s All-Americans to Stillwater during his tenure.
Ford is familiar with the Atlantic 10 Conference, having spent three years as head coach at the University of Massachusetts. He led the Minutemen to a pair of 20-win seasons in 2006-07 (A-10 regular-season co-champions, NIT second round) and 2007-08 (NIT finalist). UMass defeated Syracuse and Florida in the 2008 NIT quarterfinals and semifinals, respectively.
Over the span of five seasons at Eastern Kentucky, Ford engineered a turnaround that saw the Colonels post 22 victories his final year after they registered seven in each of his first two seasons. In 2004-05, EKU won the Ohio Valley Conference title to give the program its first NCAA Tournament appearance in 26 years.
Ford began his first foray into coaching in 1997 with a three-year stint at Campbellsville University, an NAIA school in Kentucky.
Ford played the majority of his collegiate career at the University of Kentucky, helping the Wildcats to NCAA Tournament appearances in each of his three seasons (1992, 1993, 1994). He was a junior on the 1993 Wildcat team that advanced to the NCAA Final Four. Ford transferred to Kentucky after one season (1989-90) at the University of Missouri.
Ford, is a native of Madisonville, Kentucky. He and his wife, Heather, have three children: Brooks, Kyleigh and Shane. Ford earned a bachelor’s degree in communications at the University of Kentucky in 1994.