By Brandon Speck
Amory has a simple formula to fix its basketball problems – an 0-14 start.
“We’ve just got to learn how to win,” new coach Bobby Ford said.
Hiring Ford can go a long way in the solution. The longtime Okolona coach hung up his whistle after an all-star game last summer, but he picked it back up when Amory athletics director Ben Ashley called in need of a basketball coach – first-year coach Bobby Richardson resigned due to health concerns.
“I told him I’d been missing it a little bit and I’d come talk to him,” Ford said.
It’s a one-year deal – for now.
Ford brings nearly 500 career wins to Amory, which went 40-19 the past two seasons under Rob Browning. But Amory is now rebuilding and Browning, an Ingomar grad, went back home to Union County when he took the boys and girls head coaching jobs at Myrtle.
Ford led Okolona to a Class 2A state title in 2002 and came within a buzzer beater of another the following year. The Chieftains made five trips to Jackson.
Finding that success at Amory is now a ground-up job. The Panthers share a division with title contenders Corinth and Shannon.
Among a lot of freshmen and sophomores on the floor, Ford is hoping 6-foot-2 senior Fred Garth can establish an inside presence and senior guard Quay Whitfield can handle a bulk of the scoring.
“We’ve got to correct these little things, not boxing out well, stuff like that,” Ford said. “We’ve got to correct the turnovers. It doesn’t sound like a whole lot, but it makes a big difference.”
Ford, approved Monday, sat in on one game before doing some coaching in the Panthers’ game against Lewisburg on Jan. 3. But he’s still had less than three weeks of practices.
Amory was within striking distance of Lewisburg before a late run – that occurred as Ford was talking with Garth on the bench.
Garth had gotten frustrated and was pulled. Ford talked one-on-one with him and patted him on the shoulder after a stern, but caring conversation.
“Hopefully we’re getting to know each other,” Ford said of his new team. “They’re good kids.”