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The Passing of Jack Ford

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The Passing of Jack Ford Empty The Passing of Jack Ford

Post  Tuesday and Friday on Mon Feb 15, 2010 5:00 pm

I would like to thank Memorial coach Mike Fitzpatrick, Seacoast Online and Hampton Union for giving me the inspiration to put into words what Jack Ford meant to NH high school basketball.

Jack Ford passed away this weekend at the age of 66.

I do not use the term Icon too often, but to describe the coaching, the man and the life of Jack Ford the word Icon is very appropriate. He reached the state title game 6 times and won 1 championship in 1992 when the Warriors defeated Keene 48 to 43. He was Coach of the Year 3 times in Class L. On January 3rd 2006 a ceremony was held at the new Winnacunnet gymnasium to honor Jack Ford and his 31 years of coaching the Warriors basketball program. The banner said:

"Jack Ford, Winnacunnet High School boy’s basketball coach, 1974-2005. Career Record 385-310."

There is so much more to Jack Ford than wins and losses. The young boys he molded into young men on and off the court should be mentioned as Jack was a teacher of basketball and life. He felt a coach wasn’t doing his job if he just dealt with the player and not the person as well. One story that links the coaching regimes at Winnacunnet and gives you a sense of who Jack Ford was is the following:

Jay McKenna was a captain in 1993. The team that season lost a great deal of experience and height through graduation from the 1992 championship season. At one point Winnacunnet was faced with a must-win situation at Bishop Guertin.

"We didn’t win," McKenna said.

That Friday night the team received one of Ford’s most prolific post-game tirades McKenna can remember. Everyone on the bus ride home was down. When the team arrived at Winnacunnet, Ford told the seniors to stay on the bus. The rest of the team filed out after which Ford lashed into the seniors one more time.

Solemn was the parade of seniors stepping off the bus as Ford stood and watched.

Stepping off, McKenna looked at Ford, and "he looked at me, took my hand and put $40 in it and told me to call all the seniors and have them all at my home on Sunday. He told me to get some pizza, work things out, and just enjoy each other.

"I shook his hand and said ‘thank you,’" McKenna said.

Its funny how one game can lead to a nearly 3 decade coaching relationship, but in 1981 Central defeated Winnacunnet 70 to 64 to win the Class L title. Jack Ford was the Winnacunnet coach. The captain of Central was Mike Fitzpatrick. After Mike became head coach of Central, for the next 2 decades he and Jack Ford would match coaching styles and skills against each other in 32 minute battles. These 2 programs were 2 of the most elite programs during the 1990s. From 1990 to 2000 Central and Winnacunnet would appear in 6 Class L title games. Central would capture 2 titles while Winnacunnet won 1. Central would always have a gritty defensive team with 1 or 2 go to players, while Winnacunnet had the system of 9, 10 or 11 players coming at you with their full court press and a balanced scoring attack. I have been the happiest for 3 Class L Champions over the last 40 years. One is the Trinity back to back champions of 1975 – 1976. Second is the 1996 Central team that had one of my nephews on the team. The 3rd team was the 1992 Winnacunnet team. Jack Ford had his championship. I was so happy for him and the dedication he put into the Winnacunnet program.

The Winnacunnet Full Court Press. This was the most feared weapon in NH high school basketball from 1980 to 2000. Any team that played Winnacunnet dreaded the thought of their 32 minute full court assault. They cut off passing lanes like no other team. They wore you down mentally and physically. When they made you turn the ball over on the press they exhibited team skill in passing the ball and finishing to take away your will for the evening. I was at the Central at Winnacunnet regular season game in 1996 early in the season. Central and Winnacunnet were the acknowledged 2 top teams for that season. Central lost by about 20 as Winnacunnet showed everything in their arsenal to physically and mentally wear down Coach Fitzpatrick’s Little Green. I drove home with families of 2 Little Green players. Not too many things were said as the thought came over them that the Jack Ford coached club would be a difficult obstacle to get by to win the state championship. This Central team had Dan Bowen, Ryan Day, Jimmy Statires, Matt Ruais, etc. The two teams powered their way through Class L and met for the state title. Coach Fitzpatrick made some important changes in attacking the vaunted Warrior press which helped the Little Green upset the Warriors 66 to 55. Sometimes, in sports one coach needs another to excel as does a player needs another. Ali needed Frazier and vice versa. Bird and Magic were a two way street for their careers pushing each other to be better. Jack Ford and Mike Fitzpatrick needed each other from 1990 to 2000 to try to become better as coaches. They pushed each other to make their teams better. Their teams competed hard against each other and it was in this competitive environment that a long lasting bond between coaches was formed. They were respectful adversaries who talked to each other on and off the court.

Mike Fitzpatrick said Jack Ford took in many troubled kids in the community and had them live with him and his family. He did more than just “talk the talk.” He helped young people and non-athletes as well. Mike said “Jack’s coaching style forced us to become better coaches. He was some one you could call and get some coaching ideas from (which I did). He would open his book and help anybody he could. We lost a great one with his passing as Jack Ford to me is a NH coaching legend. Our thoughts and prayers are with him and his family. I hope he can watch the Class L’s from the hallowed place he is in.”

Jack Ford’s teams lost 5 times in the Class L state championship game. Sometimes, you find out more about a man in defeat than you do in victory. It’s nice to receive the accolades as a winning coach. It’s easy to come up with the words of thanks and what it feels like to be at the top of the hill. 5 times Jack Ford had to console his teams in the Durham locker room after state championship losses. He was always gracious to the victor and handled himself with the utmost class in defeat. I’m sure he was as proud of those 5 teams that were runners up as he was for his 1992 state championship club.

One of the benefits you receive as a coach is, after you’ve been doing it for some time, the boys you coached turn into men. These people that matured under your wing will run into you in a parking lot, store or a basketball court and will call you the magical word, “coach.” They will talk to you about a team that did well or a game that ended with a buzzer beater or a bus ride back from a game that was like riding on a cloud. They will also talk about their family or how life is going. Can you imagine how many times Jack Ford had these types of conversations with former players that he would meet up with from time to time? How blessed he must have been to go home to Mrs. Ford time and time again and talk with her about running into this player or that player and talking about basketball and how their lives were going. I’m sure Jack said to his wife what a fine young man this or that player turned out to be. Blessed are the players that had the honor to be coached by Jack Ford.

Jack Ford: A great coach, a great man, a mentor for youth and a NH basketball coaching Icon.

Rest in peace my good man.

Tuesday and Friday

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The Passing of Jack Ford Empty Re: The Passing of Jack Ford

Post  EBlessNHSP on Mon Feb 15, 2010 6:51 pm

Thanks T&F. From somebody who never knew anything about Mr. Ford, I now wish that I had the pleasure of being acquainted to the man. On top of everything sounds like he was a darn good coach. Thanks for posting that.

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