Tennessee State men's basketball Head Coach Dana Ford met with the media at Ohio Valley Conference Media Day on Wednesday.
Media: What is the feeling like as the season is about the tip off?
Dana Ford: “For us, it’s a little different than it’s been in the past. We have some expectations this year. It’s a welcoming feeling for us. Not that it means you’re going to be one of the better teams when it’s all said and done, but we’d much rather be picked closer to the top than at the bottom.”
Media: When it comes to projections, a lot of coaches say they don’t pay attention to them. When you’re picked higher are you more inclined to be interested?
Dana Ford: “A lot of that is coach talk, which is fine. In my locker room, I give a lot of coach talk. In reality it’s a testament to the guys who have been here the last two years who have been able to change the image of our program, even if it’s just for today. We still have to go out there and continue that process.”
Media: What has to happen for you guys to take that next step?
Dana Ford: “Consistency in our performance. Guys have to understand that they’re not responsible for where the program is right now, the guys that left are. They have to step in and do their job and hopefully they can do it just as well, if not better.”
Media: Is it unfair that this is only a one-bid league? This is pretty powerful mid-major conference.
Dana Ford: “I think it’s unfair because the two teams that are in our league, in terms of Murray State and Belmont, are two of the best mid majors in the country. I’ve played in the Missouri Valley, and I’ve coached in the Missouri Valley. Those two programs stack up with anyone in that league with the exception of Wichita State, obviously they’ve been to a Final Four. That puts you on a different platform, but I think our league is really good. We have a Hall of Fame coach in Coach (Rick) Byrd. We’ve got one of the winningest schools in the history of Division I in Murray State, so I think we need a little bit more respect.”
Media: What’s the key to having the consistency year-after-year that Belmont has had?
Dana Ford: “They’ve got unbelievable character. Coach Byrd is awesome. Their best players seem to be their hardest workers. You never hear about them getting into trouble. They’re always winning academic awards. It’s just consistency in being excellent in everything they do. They carry themselves in a first-class way, and I think that goes a long way.”
Media: Is it frustrating to see Belmont at the top every year?
Dana Ford: “No, I think it is two different worlds for us. They have to run their program the way they do. We run our program the way we do. I think it’s good. It gives you somebody to shoot for. It’s right down the street, and like I said a couple of years ago, if we can get our program to where theirs is, that’s a good problem to have.”
Media: Is it hard not to circle that Duke game on the calendar?
Dana Ford: “For sure. People are already asking for tickets (laughs). Duke’s going to be probably, I would imagine, the number one team in the country at that time, unless someone beats them. It’s at Cameron Indoor Stadium. It’s against Mike Krzyzewski. Let’s be real. It’s a big deal to not only our players but our university. It gives us a chance to be on everyone’s TV screen for two-and-a-half hours on a Monday night. We just need to go in there and compete as hard as we can and just enjoy the experience.”
Media: With your tough non-conference schedule including Duke, NC State, Vanderbilt and others, win or lose, how much better will it make you for OVC play?
Dana Ford: “I hope it helps our practice and our approach. When you play those teams, you have your players’ attention because they don’t want to go out and get embarrassed. That’s a habit that we need to build. We need to be very coachable from the start of the year to the end of the year. If we do that, then once we start playing teams we feel like are more on our level in terms of talent and resources, that should help us.”