Style Features

Off the Cuff with Claiborne: Travis Ford

After playing for the University of Kentucky, Travis Ford started making an even bigger mark on the world of college basketball as a coach. He started at Campbellsville University before moving on to Eastern Kentucky University and University of Massachusetts Amherst. He came to the StL in 2016 to bring new life to men’s basketball at Saint Louis University. Under his leadership, the Bilikins have been reinvigorated and re-established their place on the national level.

When did you catch the coaching bug?
My parents were both coaches. It’s in my blood. I’ve been around basketball my whole life. As a player, I considered myself a coach on the floor. I wasn’t successful just because of physical ability. I wasn’t very tall or the most athletic player, but I had been around the game and understood it. From an early age, I knew coaching was what I wanted to do.

How much has the game changed from when you started playing?
It’s harder now than it’s ever been. It seems like players want instant success. In the past, they were a little more patient, but now, it’s a sprint rather than a marathon. I tell the guys that it takes time to become the player you want to be.

As a coach, you spend a lot of time on the road. What do you do when you’re not coaching or recruiting?
I do enjoy working and being around my players every day. From September to March, it’s pretty much my life. The hardest part of being a coach is the balance, especially with your family. I enjoy things that, maybe for about an hour, can get my mind away from the day-to-day grind, such as spending time with my family, going out to dinner or watching a movie. In the off season, I also like traveling and going on vacation with my family.

If there were four extra hours in the day that weren’t devoted to family or basketball, what would you like to do?
Growing up in Kentucky, I used to hunt and fish a lot. I really don’t do it at all anymore. I enjoy golf, and I don’t get to play near as much as I would like to. I’m also a bit of a binge watcher. I can sit down in the off season and watch three seasons of a show until three or four in the morning.

When the wife is out, what do you cook?
Order pizza. I’m not a cook.

Give me your four go-to restaurants in St. Louis.
I love Cafe Napoli, especially the patio in the summer. I had a great meal at Louie the other night. I go to Capital Grille when I want a great steak. BrickTops is a constant for us.

What was the biggest surprise about St. Louis?
The high level of high school basketball. If I’m traveling and I go to a high school game, a lot of the time, there’s nobody there. Here, it’s always packed, and there’s a fun, old school feeling to the games. I’ve just really enjoyed getting to know the coaches and seeing the high level of talent. It’s been fun to be a part of.

What piece of advice would you pass on to young coaches?
Be the best at where you’re at. There are so many coaches that are trying to get ahead. Be a difference maker on a daily basis and let that be your driving force. The rest will come.

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