Oklahoma State AD supports hoops coach Travis Ford

STILLWATER, Okla. (AP) — Oklahoma State athletic director Mike Holder still has high hopes for Travis Ford as Oklahoma State’s basketball coach.

Holder sent out a statement Tuesday evening saying Ford would remain the coach amid speculation that Ford’s job was in jeopardy. Prominent booster T. Boone Pickens tweeted his support for Ford just before Holder’s statement was released.

Ford has a 143-91 record in seven years at Oklahoma State, but just one NCAA Tournament win. In 2009, Holder extended Ford’s contract through the 2018-2019 season.

The Cowboys went 18-14 this season and lost in the NCAA Tournament round of 64. Holder wouldn’t say Wednesday if replacing Ford was considered, and he made it clear he expects better results from the 45-year-old coach going forward.

"There’s so many things I like about him," Holder said Wednesday. "I like his work ethic. He plays by the rules, he does it the right way. I know that he cares deeply about his players. He’s invested in them as individuals. He’s a good family man. That’s all very, very, very important. And, he’s young. He’s still got a lot of days to be coaching in front of him, and I think he’s going to have a long career.

"We’ve just got to figure out the way to help him to win a few more ballgames, because he checks all the boxes leading up to that one very important component."

A buyout at this point would cost the school $9.6 million. Holder said the deal has led to unfair expectations for Ford.

"I think that contract has been responsible for a lot of angst and frustration from the fan base, and I think it had an unintended consequence," Holder said. "I thought at the time, I was trying to lock in a good, young, up-and-coming coach that I thought was going to be successful. The length of the contract — I’ve talked to a lot of people since then, and the worst thing you can do is drag anything out too long, because no one can predict the future."

Holder said the specifics of the deal aren’t Ford’s fault.

"People have kind of held that against Travis, when the focus should be on me," Holder said. "All he did was sign the contract. I’m the one who offered it to him, so I should be the one in the crosshairs, and I accept that I am. Did I learn from that? Absolutely. I don’t have any intention of doing that again in the future because I just think it puts the university and whatever coach it is in a difficult situation. But, the contract’s there, and you just deal with it."

Ford leads a program that had legendary coaches Henry Iba and Eddie Sutton. Iba won national titles in 1945 and 1946. Sutton led the Cowboys to the Final Four in 1995 and 2004, raising the bar for future coaches.

"Anytime you don’t get there (to the Final Four), it’s kind of a disappointment, as former players, and I’m sure, as fans," Bryant "Big Country" Reeves, who starred for the Cowboys during the Sutton era, said in February. "So that’s an expectation every year, is to get there and be proud of this place."

Holder said though the history raises expectations, it also should help Ford build the program back up.

"That’s never a negative," he said. "It’s always a positive. That shows you that it’s possible here. We can win a championship, you can win significant games, you’ve had success. Dreams can come true in this building. The challenge is to use it. Take advantage of it. Sometimes, we don’t. We need to do a better job of it."

At this point, Holder believes it’s up to Ford to come through.

"He’s got the resources," Holder said. "We fund his program, we support him. He’s got everything in place to be very successful."