Coach Ford Stepping Down

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By Jay Pinsonnault

Hampton Union, Tuesday, July 26, 1005

[The following article is courtesy of the Hampton Union and Seacoast Online]

HAMPTON -- Jack Ford said he would know when the time was right to walk away as the head coach of the Winnacunnet High School boys basketball team.

After 695 games, 31 seasons, one Class L state championship, six trips to the state title game and being named Class L Coach of the Year three times, the time has arrived.

Ford, who was hired as the school’s third boys basketball coach in 1974, submitted his resignation to SAU 21 on Friday.

"I think 31 years is a fair amount of time and we have a brand-new gym coming up," Ford said. "My eyes were focused toward closing the old gym, and looking at the brand-new gym across campus, the feeling was - on everybody’s part - I didn’t want to do one year in that new gym. It’s a good transition time to get somebody in there. Just to do one year in that new facility would be an adventure, but I think it would be a better opportunity for someone who is going to be involved in a longer-range period of time.

"When they started to tear down the gym around me, I figured that was a sign. I’ve had more than my fair share."

Ford, who will continue teaching English at Winnacunnet, and his wife of 13 years, Pamela, thought long and hard about this decision.

"She really helped me make the decision by looking at how life would be different," Ford said. "We’ve been discussing this for a long time."

Ford came to Winnacunnet in 1974 after spending six years as a coach and English teacher at St. John’s Prep in Danvers, Mass.

One of his bosses at St. John’s Prep was Bryce Beattie, father of Winnacunnet girls basketball coach Ed Beattie.

"It’s a good time for him (to go), but I don’t like it," said Ed Beattie, who has been at Winnacunnet for 25 years. "The kids at Winnacunnet are going to miss him dramatically. It’s going to be difficult to replace him, probably impossible. Winnacunnet has always been one of the smaller Class L schools, and for him to take it to the level of basketball he did is truly remarkable. The things he did for the kids beyond basketball are too numerous to mention."

Ford, who was inducted in the NHIAA Coaches Hall of Fame in 1999, never thought he would be at Winnacunnet so long.

"There’s no tenure here," Ford said. "I’ve had 31 consecutive one-year contracts and to get a contract as a coach, you need approval of the athletic director, the principal, the superintendent and the school committee. And that process 31 times, to me, it’s quite an achievement."

Ford guided the Warriors to the Class L state championship in 1992, entering the tournament as the No. 3 seed.

"I remember the elation in the whole community after that win (over Keene)," Ford said.

Winnacunnet, under Ford, lost in the Class L title game in 1981, 1995-97 and 2000, and won two regular-season Class L titles in 1996 and 2000.

"There were a lot of great players and kids here over the years and it’s been a privilege to be the coach at Winnacunnet," Ford said. "I think we’ve been a very, very good and competitive team year-in and year-out. We’ve often been the smallest team. We’ve had so many fantastic young men come through the program. We always worked hard and we were always competitive, that’s what makes me the proudest. We were always competitive."

Ford, in his 31 years, missed two games because of broken ribs in 1999, but is proud to say he was never thrown out of a game.

"I have never been asked to leave the gym," Ford said with a laugh.

Ford, who played forward and guard at Merrimack College, said the one game that stands out above all the rest was the last game at Dodge Gym where the Warriors beat Keene in a Class L first-round playoff game and advanced to the quarterfinal round at the University of New Hampshire.

"We wanted to close the gym down with a win," Ford said. "We understood the 50-year history of the gym, and it was important to all of us we won that game.

"That last one took quite an effort," Ford continued. "We were doing well and then we slid a little bit, but we buckled down and got the win. The kids had to step up and they did. Michael Whalley comes to mind. He’s the one who really stepped up. He got the big baskets, the big rebounds and the big foul shots at the end."

Winnacunnet then lost to Manchester Central, which later won the Class L title.

"Getting to Durham is always the yardstick for success," Ford said. "Now you’re meeting the best and we got beat by the eventual state champs."

Ford, who also coached freshman football at Winnacunnet, said he will continue to go to the school’s games.

"It’s going to be tough to keep me away," Ford said. "I’ll be there, but I’ll be in the deep, deep background."

The biggest thing Ford will miss?

"The time with the kids," he said. "The games, the practices, the whole experience. We’ve had some great experiences, including taking the kids to Europe five times to play in the summer. We’ve had some good European adventures in the off-season."

The biggest thing Ford will enjoy with his retirement from coaching?

"Just being able to go to a game and relax," Ford said with a laugh.

Ford said there are no regrets.

"Thirty-one years at Winnacunnet was a good way to spend half my life," he said.

Legendary Coach Will Be Missed

By Ken Stejbach

Hampton Union, Tuesday, July 26, 2005

[The following article is courtesy of the Hampton Union and Seacoast Online]

Winnacunnet High School boys basketball coach Jack Ford won the 1992 Class L state championship and reached the state title game five other times during his 31 years at the school.
[Photo by Jay Reiter]

HAMPTON -- The other Jack Ford.

Jay McKenna knows that guy. Justin Coggeshall, Mike Daboul, Greg Desrochers know him, too. So do all his former basketball players from Winnacunnet High School.

"He’s definitely going to be missed," said Daboul, a former player and now colleague at Winnacunnet. "People don’t know how true and genuine a person Jack Ford is. There’s the other side of him (away from coaching). He’s always teaching. He’s one of two great influences on me being a coach now."

Daboul is presently the head coach of the Winnacunnet baseball team, an English teacher (like Ford) at the school, and a scout in the Minnesota Twins organization.

Daboul said Ford always put the players first - not only their success and development on the court, but in life in general.

McKenna, a former player, who has coached under Ford for the past 11 years, the last three as the JV coach, says Ford "gave me so much as a player."

Sometimes impressions are forever ingrained by particular moments.

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 afterwhich 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.

Though they lost its next game to Pinkerton, a powerhouse that year, the Warriors played to their ability.

Ford instilled an amazing amount of confidence in us, said McKenna.

"He made a lot of kids achieve what they believed they couldn’t do," McKenna said. "At season’s end, he was as proud of us having won seven games. Wins didn’t matter. It was effort that did."

That effort began with Ford.

"He spent more time in the gym than any coach I’ve ever seen," said Desrochers, Winnacunnet’s freshmen coach the last three years. "A respect for the game is what he gave me."

Desrochers said he was a good player, but Ford made me a better person.

"I coach today because I played for Jack."

Desrochers said it was always family first, school second and basketball third for Ford.

Coggeshall coached under Ford for 13 years, also spending time with him at summer camps and learning how to paint houses.

It was the enjoyment of the game, however, that Coggeshall learned most from Ford.

"If I learned anything about basketball it was, enjoy the game," Coggeshall said.

Coggeshall is a history teacher at Hampton Academy Junior High and the school’s seventh/eighth grade basketball coach.

"One of the things that should come out is how much he cares about kids," McKenna said, "and that gets lost sometimes above and beyond the basketball court.

Yes, there is some sadness among his peers about his retirement, but as Daboul, in so many words, said "just because he’s retiring from coaching doesn’t mean it takes him out of the lives he’s coached."

Ford Was King Of The One-liners

By Ken Stejbach

Hampton Union, Tuesday, July 26, 2005

[The following article is courtesy of the Hampton Union and Seacoast Online]

Jack Ford coached 695 games for the Winnacunnet High School boys basketball team and was named Class L Coach of the Year three times. [Photo by Jay Reiter]

HAMPTON -- I can see it now. Reporters anxiously waiting nervously in a semicircle after a Winnacunnet victory or loss like old-time expectant fathers, their pens ready to feast on Jack Ford’s first line ...

And like a faucet turned on, Ford’s one-liners just kept pouring out.

"He’s the king of the one-liner," said Mike Daboul, a player on Winnacunnet’s 1992 Class L state championship team, and now a fellow teacher and the school’s baseball coach.

Ford’s one-liners had a little so-called zing to them. They made you laugh. They made you think. Some even made you bite your lip. They made you learn.

We all learned.

You learned while you laughed, and somehow, someway you felt the better for it.

"The Lost Battalion?"

Sure, there were the standards, the ones like "The Lost Battalion" and "DNF" and "Power Failure" and "Tom Tunnel Vision" and "Heave and hope" - ones he used during practice or games.

But there were always new ones around the next corner waiting for you, ready to give you a personal touch, a friendly shove or a flying tackle.

Then there were the nicknames he gave his players. All of them had one or two.

Jay McKenna, who has coached under Ford for the past 11 years, was often referred to as the "Fastbreak Killer."

Just a message to McKenna, his point guard in 1993, reminding him to keep the game fast-paced.

"He’d come up with them right on the spot," McKenna said. "Sometimes it was hard as a player not to laugh."

Like the time he singled out Brett Durham with the one-liner: "You have the wingspan of a 747, but you couldn’t swat a fly right now."

Ryan Brandt, a former Ford player, who’s currently working in San Francisco, once created a T-shirt with 10 so-called "Fordisms."

"You can shoot or shower, but you can’t shoot in the shower," was one of the 10. In essence, it meant let’s get out of this gym.

Then there were his trips to foreign lands with his players. Ford loved to travel and he’s the kind of guy who would sit down with you and show and tell you about every moment he spent with his players abroad. He made you feel like you were there with them.

He also made you feel part of the team.

And it was always one big team regardless of your role.

I will always remember walking into Phillips Exeter Academy prior to achampionship game, and asking for a picture of the senior captains.

I will always remember Tyler Walker saying "no" to that request and linking arms with all his teammates for a shot.

That was the kind of attitude that started with Jack Ford, McKenna said.

McKenna, primarily a practice player his junior season of 1992, said he felt every bit as much a part of that championship as the rest of the players.

Former Red Sox great, Jim Lonborg, was once interviewed by this reporter. The question popped was: "Who would you like to go to war with?"

Expecting Lonborg to retort with a former Red Sox player, this reporter laughed (still does) when Lonborg said "a Marine."

It was one of those great answers, the kind of answers Ford always had.

And yes, Jack Ford is the kind of guy, too, you’d want to have on your side, next to you in war (in front would be better).

He’d knock ’em dead. And teach you his delivery.

Hats off to you coach on a great 31 years. I know I haven’t covered your team lately, but during the years I did, I learned a lot.

* * * * * * * *

"The Lost Battalion" was the name Ford gave to the underclassmen who were practicing in the gym at the same time.

"DNF" simply meant Did Not Finish.

"Power Failure" meant not getting the ball in the hoop after getting an offensive rebound.

"Tom Tunnel Vision" was given to players who looked to pass to one spot too long or too often.

"Heave and hope" was an often used phrase Ford used in describing bad shot selection.

Ken Stejbach is a sports writer for Seacoast Media Group. He can be reached at

Ford Will Leave Lasting Legacy At WHS

By Mike Zhe

Hampton Union, Friday, July 29, 2005

[The following article is courtesy of the Hampton Union and Seacoast Online]

No one who followed Jack Ford’s first basketball team at Winnacunnet High School in 1974-75 would have guessed what the next three decades would bring.

Neal Baisi may have invented the full-court press, but it was Ford - who announced his retirement last week after 31 years at Winnacunnet - who used it to make New Hampshire change the way it looked at high school basketball.

Ford brought that up-tempo philosophy with him from his previous coaching post at St. John’s (Mass.) Prep. But upon taking over the Warriors in the fall of 1974 and seeing his new players, he noticed a glaring absence.

"We had no guards," he said. "We were a zone (defense) team. We didn’t move very fast. Then we developed guards and off we went."

Did they ever.

Ford’s three-decade tenure in Hampton was marked as much by sound preparation and innovation as by good teams that loved to run you off the floor. Instead of developing players for specific positions, he wanted everybody to be a ball handler, and everybody to be able to get in an opponent’s face on defense.

"The fact that he played full-court all the time made playing his teams a constant challenge," said Mike Fitzpatrick, the coach at Manchester Central during the 1990s and one of a legion of coaches statewide who felt surprise and disappointment upon hearing Ford’s news. "I think he changed the way teams in New Hampshire operated."

Toss in a cozy, throwback gym that made visiting teams feel even more stifled, and Ford’s team gained the reputation of five guys playing with their hair on fire, even as his players saw it as the norm.

"I never really looked at it like (innovation)," said Chris Millette, a guard for Ford in the mid-1990s who is now the head coach at Division III Endicott (Mass.) College. "It was just what we did."

Winnacunnet reached the Class L finals five times between 1992 and 2000, and six times overall. The Warriors won their only championship under Ford in 1992, and two other times finished the regular season in first place. Three times Ford was named Class L Coach of the Year.

"There was the up-tempo and there was the full-court press, but I don’t think Jack got enough credit for preparing his teams," said longtime Concord High coach Bill Haubrich. "Of all the teams we played, Winnacunnet was always the toughest to prepare for because of the things he did."

The last Ford team to make a deep playoff run was the 2000-01 edition, which reached the semifinals before losing to Central. The Warriors went 16-6 and lost in the quarters in 2001-02, then slipped below .500 the next two seasons before sending Ford off with a 13-7 campaign.

Funny, blunt and self-deprecating, with a manner of speaking on the court so unique that one of his later teams printed T-shirts with their coach’s "top 10 sayings," Ford was also a shrewd strategist who thought long-term and took his advantages where he could find them.

In Massachusetts, where summer leagues flourished, Ford and other coaches could watch their players develop year-round. But upon coming to New Hampshire, where programs like that were rare, he realized he needed to be more proactive.

Rules stated that coaches could organize summer events as long as coaches didn’t make them "requirements." Five times, Ford put together a group of players to travel overseas, and in most other years he’d get a group to play tournaments in the region. Sometimes he brought in European teams for his players to hone their skills against.

"He outworked every one of us," said Fitzpatrick, who now coaches at Nashua North. "We’d see his teams in Haverhill, Burlington (Vermont), Lowell - everywhere. It didn’t matter if he had his varsity kids or not, they were always playing."

Ford always felt he had to do a little extra to keep a program that drew from four suburban communities - and had one of Class L’s smallest enrollments - on par with the urban schools. That he was able to win more often than not is something he takes pride in.

Haubrich, who guided Concord to four Class L titles in a tenure that spanned from 1980-2004 - including three straight with Matt Bonner from 1997-99 - cited Ford’s passion for basketball, how he loved talking about other teams and comparing notes, and just appreciated everything about the sport.

There was the night Bonner was at Dodge Gym in 1998. UConn coach Jim Calhoun was there. So was then-Villanova coach Steve Lappas. Haubrich remembered standing with Ford prior to the game, the two of them grinning and remarking how it didn’t get any better.

"I always thought that he’d coach forever," Haubrich said. "I’m kind of sad he isn’t."

Ford said he is touched with the way people have reacted to his decision, taking the opportunity to wish him well. He said there are a half-dozen messages on his voice-mail every time he comes home and his mailbox is filled with notes and cards.

"The most important aspect in coaching is to make sure your kids know you care about them as more than just basketball players," Millette said. "He did that very well."

"It was fun," Ford said. "I’ve spent 31 years doing something I really enjoy. It’s not utopia every day, but a lot of things about it are really good."

Ford Era Ending At WHS

An Editorial

Hampton Union, Friday, July 29, 2005

[The following article is courtesy of the Hampton Union and Seacoast Online]

Jack Ford said he’ll be attending Winnacunnet High School boys basketball games in the future, but he’l* be in the deep, deep background" rather than coaching.

And when talking about his retirement as head coach after 31 years, he said he’d now be "able to go to a game and relax."

However, for someone who has been as competitive and involved for as long as Ford, it is doubtful he’ll be able to "relax" when the score is tied and there are only seconds left on the clock.

Ford leaves with one Class L state championship, six appearances in state title games and having been named Class L Coach of the Year three times - and 695 games.

He also leaves with the respect, admiration and gratitude of hundreds of players and thousands of fans.

You can’t coach as long as he has without influencing the lives of his former players.

Fortunately, he’ll still be around to teach his English classes.

And, who knows? Maybe the new coach will take advantage of Ford’s experience and expertise, and seek advice.

In any case, he’s leaving a legacy that will be hard, if not impossible to match.

We’d like to join with the Winnacunnet community in saying, "Good luck, coach. And thanks."

-- The Hampton Union

Jack Ford Is A Treasure
At Winnacunnet High

Letters to the Editor

Hampton Union, Friday, August 5, 2005

[The following article is courtesy of the Hampton Union and Seacoast Online]

To the Editor:

Our son Bill played on Jack Ford’s basketball team back in the 1970s when Coach Ford first arrived at WHS. He thought he was a great coach and enjoyed his years on that team.

Two years ago, at age 44, Bill suffered a stroke. He lives down South and there was no way that Jack would have known about it. However, one of our son’s friends who still lives in Hampton, met Jack and told him about Bill’s situation and gave Bill’s address to Jack.

Within a week, Bill received a letter from Jack, which my oldest son informed us was the best medicine a man could get. It was a coach talking to a player. He wrote that he knew Bill could get in the game and overcome all the obstacles he was facing. He knew he was a fighter and would win.

Besides sending the letter, Jack sent Bill tapes of his 1974 team games and pictures of his teammates.

Our oldest son did not know Jack Ford because he had played for Bob Dodge, but he asked us to express his thanks to a wonderful person. These are things people would not know and we would be remiss if we did not put pen to paper and publicly thank a Winnacunnet treasure.

Mr. and Mrs. James Joiner, Hampton, NH

(See also, Winnacunnet's Jack Ford dies, leaving legacy on, off court;
and Legendary Send-off for Jack Ford;
and Obituary of Jack Ford, and other tributes)

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