Phil Jackson Ford Jr. born February 9, 1956 in Kannapolis, North Carolina; the son of two school teachers, Mrs. Mabel Ford and Mr. Phil Ford Sr. both whom were instructors in the North Carolina Public School system. Ford grew up in Rocky Mount, North Carolina and attended Rocky Mount Senior High School where he was honored with a position on the High School All-America team, before enrolling in the University of North Carolina under a full athletic scholarship under Coach Dean Smith. Ford was Smith’s first freshman player that was not on the junior varsity team to start a game during the coach’s tenure at UNC. Ford finished with a brilliant freshman year, leading the Tar Heels to the 1975 ACC Tournament championship; becoming the first freshman in league history to win the Everett Case Award as the Most Valuable Player in the ACC Tournament. After Phil’s sophomore season, he went on to earn a gold medal in the 1976 Summer Olympic Games in Montreal, Canada where Team USA included five other Tar Heels Walter Davis, Mitch Kupchak, Tom LaGarde, assistant coach Bill Guthridge and of course the brains behind all this talent, Dean Smith sailed passed the competition. Phil’s senior year proved to be his most rewarding season by far, winning the prestigious Wooden Award and averaging over 20 points per game. At one point, Phil led as both all time leading scorer at UNC with 2,290 points; and assists with just over 750. He was the second overall pick in the 1978 NBA Draft, selected by the Kansas City Kings. Ford continued to shine at the professional level, gaining the Rookie of the Year award in 1979. Ford retired from the NBA in 1985, and shortly after began a career in banking with North Carolina National Bank before embarking a career in coaching at UNC. Phil is an outstanding member of the Saint John’s Missionary Baptist Church and founded the Phil Ford Foundation that fights premature obesity.
- “I never dunked the ball in my life, not in a game anyways. I sorta half-dunked in a pep rally in Rocky Mount. But since that’s the only time I got up that high, I’m counting it!”
-Where Have You Gone?
- When asked about Fords speed on the court, Ford replied “Not in the 100-yard dash! But in a five-yard race, you’d have a hard time beating me.”
-Where Have You Gone?
- “When Dean came to visit me, we didn’t talk about basketball the whole first hour. We talked about what it meant to be a good student and to have good relations, then finally we got into basketball a little.”
-Where Have You Gone?
- “Big Phil, wasn’t it nice of the University of North Carolina to send an actual Dean of the University all the way down here to call on Little Phil?”
-Mable Ford (Mother)
- “I go to my meetings, I go to Bible studies on Wednesday nights, I go to Sunday school and to church.” “I’m trying. I’m in a position to be a better coach than I’ve ever been in my life because all of the hardships I’ve gone through.”
-Where Have you gone?
- “There has never been a guy more loyal to the Carolina Tar Heels than Phil, I can tell you that!”
- “If you ask an honest ACC fan to pick the five best players in the history of the league by position, every one of them would pick Phil as the point guard.”
- Toughness… ACC tournament 1976 “We were playing Clemson in the 76 ACC tournament when Stan Rowe elbowed me in the mouth and knocked one of my teeth out. I kept my dribble alive, walked over to the trainer and handed him my tooth and resumed play like nothing happened.” Dean Smith used this story to encourage his players for years after the incident. JR Reid loved the story so much he would tell his own version of the story, slightly exaggerated. For example “Coach Smith, could you tell the guys about the time Coach Ford jumped on a bomb while he was on the court, got his arm blown off, kept his dribble alive and still kept playing?”
NCSHAA Highest career field goal average 27.9 points per game
1978 Consensus National Player of the Year
Gold Medalist in 1976 Summer Olympics Montreal, Canada
2 ACC Championships (74&77)
1974 ACC Tournament MVP
#2 Overall Pick in the 1978 NBA Draft by Kansas City Kings
NBA Rookie of the Year (1979)
All-Time Leading scorer in UNC History from 1978-2008 2,290 points (Currently #2 Behind T. Hansbrough)
Two Time Consensus ALL-America team member. (77,78)
Three Time Basketball weekly team member (76,77,78)
Three time United Press International (76 2nd team, 77,78)
Sporting news (76,77 2nd Team,78)
Ass. Press (77 2nd Team, 77,78)
USBWA (77, 78)
1978 John Wooden Award Winner
#12 Jersey Retired at UNC
753 Assists at UNC once led UNC now 3rd behind Ed Cota and Kendall Marshall
Inducted into NABC Hall of Fame in 2012
6 ACC player of the week awards
5 Final Four appearances
Phil Jackson Ford Jr. was the second overall pick in the 1979 NBA Draft
NBA Rookie of the Year 1979
NBA CAREER STATS: 5,594 Points 11.6 Points Per Game
3,083 Assists 6.4 Assists per Game
K.C. Kings 1978-1982
New Jersey Nets/Milwaukee Bucks 1982-1983
Houston Rockets 1983-1985
Returned to the UNC Tar Heels in 1988, but this time as an assistant coach not a player, He helped lead the Tar Heels to Five Final-4’s and 5 ACC Championship appearances and One well deserved National Title in 1993. Phil was an assistant coach under Dean Smith until Smith’s retirement in 1997, both Phil and another assistant Bill Guthridge were the top two for the job. After all was said, Bill Guthridge was awarded the head coaching job but Phil could not have been more happy for Bill. In the 1999-2000 season, Phil along with Head Coach Bill Guthridge and staff left the UNC Tar Heels. Newly hired head coach Matt Doherty brought in a whole new coaching staff and wiped the bench clean of veteran coaches. Phil did something that most coaches would not do, he helped new head coach Matt Doherty and gave him the in’s and out of the team. Phil had a short career in the National Basketball Association as an assistant coach for the New York Knicks under Isiah Thomas and then held the same position for the Charlotte Bobcats under head coach Larry Brown until 2008 when Ford retired from coaching basketball.