By Gene Phelps/NEMS Daily Journal
BOONEVILLE – Ricky Ford’s final basketball game as women’s basketball coach at Northeast Mississippi Community College was a loss.
“That doesn’t bother me,” said Ford, who announced his retirement Tuesday after leading the Lady Tigers program for 30 seasons. “That’s not at the top of my list. I think we get too caught up in winning and losing.
“It’s not about winning and losing games, it’s about teaching young people work ethic and making them productive citizens.”
Ford, 56, who was named the school’s Dean of Student Services earlier this year, will continue to serve as director of athletics, a position he’s held for six years.
“I’ve been doing three jobs since Jan. 1,” he said, then laughed. “I wasn’t going to last long doing that. It’s time for me to do something else.
“I’ve enjoyed the Dean of Students job. The AD job will allow me to get out of the office and go to baseball, softball, football and basketball games. I’ll still be a huge part of the athletics program here.”
Ford’s record at Northeast was 588-226 and included one NJCAA national championship (1987), one national runner-up (1986), nine MACJC state championships – including one streak of six straight – 15 North Division championships and three NJCAA Region 23 titles. His 2006 Lady Tigers won the region tournament and played in the national tournament. They finished the season ranked No. 21.
Northeast’s 1986 and ’87 teams finished with a combined record of 65-1.
Evelyn Thompson, a freshman guard on Northeast’s national title team, said in a 2008 interview that Ford had a “tremendous influence” on all his players.
“We wanted to win for us, for him and the Northeast community,” said Thompson, now an assistant basketball coach for Stony Brooke University. “He believed in us and we believed we could do it.”
Ford only had four teams finish with sub-.500 records. One of those was this year’s 11-12 team that lost in the state tournament to eventual champion Copiah-Lincoln.
He coached four years at Booneville High School, where he posted an 88-27 record – coaching girls (four years) and boys (two years) – before coming to Northeast in 1981.
His combined career record is 676-253 with a 72.7 winning percentage.
“When I came to Northeast in 1981 as women’s basketball coach it was my goal that when Northeast was mentioned that the first thing people would think of was the women’s basketball program. I think we accomplished that,” Ford said.
Contact Gene Phelps at 678-1593