It was a Rougher that got Jeremy Ford back in Oklahoma.
It happened when Ford left college coaching for a job at Monte Cassino School in Tulsa as an athletic director. After work, he’d commit time to train his freshman sister, Jada Ford, on how to get to the level of the game he just left.
That mission worked. A key part of three state tournament teams at Muskogee, Jada Ford is now at Arkansas State, one of three Division I players off that squad.
Now, pending approval of his hire by the school’s board of trustees, Jeremy Ford will have the task of developing the entire Muskogee program as its head girls basketball coach.
The former Wagoner Bulldog was an All-Phoenix selection in 2004. He played the next two seasons at Seminole State, reaching the NJCAA national tourney his freshman year, before going on to finish his college playing days at Midwestern State. His coaching career started as an assistant at Tulsa Edison. He switched to the college side, coaching at Seminole and then Division II Arkansas-Monticello.
“I remember like it was yesterday,” he said. “I was coming back from back-to-back road games and my dad (John) called and asked me if I would come home and work and develop my sister. I was thinking he was saying ‘come on for the weekend and work her out,’ but he was like ‘no, can you come home and put this college thing on hold and come develop your sister for the next couple of years.’”
He spent five seasons at Monte Cassino as athletic director and coach.
“My phone would ring,” Jeremy said. “It would be my dad. Jada would leave a practice and he’d be on the phone saying they were on their way to Tulsa. Sometimes it would be 3-4 days a week and the weekends were automatic.”
“My objective was to change her mindset — this is what’s going to happen when you get to a college level, if you want to get there, this is what you need to do. She worked extremely hard, anything I told her to do she did it. It’s been a dream of her since bouncing the ball as a little girl in our living room. She’s definitely taken advantage of that opportunity.”
Last season, Jeremy Ford was back in coaching full-time, leading Cascia Hall to 14 wins, a district championship and a trip to the area tournament.
“When I got there they told me it was a rebuilding year,” he said.
His path with Muskogee athletic director Jason Parker connected when he was at Monte Cassino. That path crossed again when Parker got this job.
“I thought my plan was to be a college coach. God laughs at our plans sometime,” he said. “It was a blessing to develop my sister. She achieved what we set out to do and I don’t regret that at all.
“But all along coaching to me has been about impacting lives. Even those I coach in college I’ll hear from and as we talk it always goes to a point or place in a season where something I did or said helped them get through a point in their game or life. That’s one of the deals I put a huge effort into as a coach no matter where. Every coach will come into a job and work hard to get things running but I want to impact lives.”
That, he said, is the first step in a turnaround he called a “process.” Muskogee now isn’t Jada’s Muskogee. Since his sister’s senior year, Muskogee has just 13 wins in three seasons, including 2-21 a year ago.
“I know she loved her time at Muskogee,” Jeremy said. “We’ve talked. She broke down the program, talked about summer pride and the logistics involved and it went from there. She’s excited for me.
“Going forward, it starts with a mindset. They have to be committed to being all in, committed to being a better basketball player, a better student and a better team.”