Phil Ford recognized for success on, off court at Small Business Banquet

Phil Ford Accepts his 2014 Lifetime Achievement award.


Legendary UNC basketball player Phil Ford was in Sanford Thursday night, accepting a lifetime achievement award from the Sanford Area Chamber of Commerce that puts him in the ranks of fellow North Carolina natives Charlie Daniels, Jim Hunt and Richard Petty.

Ford said he was as honored by the award as he was by his Olympic gold medal, his NBA Rookie of the Year and the NCAA National Championship ring he won as a coach. That's because it has come later in life and is for what he has done throughout his whole life, both on and off the court.

"This is the first lifetime achievement award I've won, and it means more to me than any other award I've won because by this point in my life, I've had struggles as well as successes," Ford, who has published a children's book and started a charity foundation while continuing to work at UNC-Chapel Hill in the athletics department, said at Thursday night's Small Business Banquet.

Ford's foundation works with experts at UNC Hospitals to combat childhood obesity, a problem he said he first noticed while running basketball camps but didn't realize the scope of until he did some research — and subsequently founded his foundation, to which his $1,000 award was donated on Thursday.

"If we don't reduce this trend, this will be the first generation of kids to not outlive their parents," he said.

Chamber of Commerce President Bob Joyce said Ford also can show the local business community about the importance of taking risks. As a high school senior, Ford was being courted by both UNC and N.C. State, who had just won the national championship. He chose UNC and went on to lead his team to improbable victories over the Wolfpack, and the rest is history.

"Before he arrived at Carolina, the Wolfpack had beaten the Heels nine straight times," Joyce said.

More locally, the chamber named Carol Michael Yarborough Sr. — of Yarborough's Homemade Ice Cream fame — the Small Business Person of the year.

Yarborough's son Michael presented the award to his dad, saying he "has always given countless donations — and ice cream — to anyone who comes into his business with a need."

The elder Yarborough said he was only sorry his wife had chosen to stay home on the night of the banquet.

"She is my love, my roommate and my partner," he said. "And she is the biggest part of anything I've ever done."

That's quite a long list for the longtime businessman, Joyce said.

"The Yarborough family of course helped build this community," Joyce said.

Finally, they named me, Sanford Herald business reporter Will Doran, as the Small Business Advocate of the Year. I'm still sure I don't deserve it, and I can't give you any quotes from my speech because I don't remember it. I only found out when the far more accomplished person presenting the award, Kelly Klug (a previous awardee herself), called my name.

But since I'm advocating business in the community, here are a few things Joyce and his boss, Chamber of Commerce board of trustees chairman Brad Simpson, had to say about Sanford:

* The merger between the chamber and the Economic Development Corporation, into the new Sanford-Lee County Partnership for Prosperity, is going swimmingly.

"We've made tremendous progress in the past few months," Simpson said.

* The merger should have a new CEO hired in 60 days, and they're nearly halfway to the $1 million fundraising goal for the new partnership.

* Central Carolina Hospital showed off new CEO David Loving, who replaced Doug Doris. The hospital also is reportedly the largest single donor so far to the new Partnership for Prosperity.

1974 Wolfpack: Phil Ford powered UNC’s turnaround in series

Phil Ford Celebrates 1975 ACC Championship win.

Phil Ford can still hear the silence at Reynolds Coliseum, and he can still place himself there the day David Thompson fell. Forty years later, the image and the sounds endure.

“I thought he had broken his neck,” Ford said recently, thinking back to the day Thompson, then an N.C. State junior, fell backward on his head after he attempted to block a shot against Pittsburgh during the 1974 NCAA tournament.

Thompson, it turned out, avoided serious injury that day. He returned to the bench after a trip to the hospital, a white bandage around his head, and the Wolfpack went on to win the national championship.

As a high school senior in Rocky Mount, Ford followed the tournament closely. He was at Reynolds that day, and then he was at the Greensboro Coliseum when the Wolfpack defeated UCLA in the Final Four.

Those were different times in college basketball – a time marked by the Bruins’ dynasty and, in the ACC, by N.C. State’s supremacy. Ford, then one of the top prospects in the state, considered playing for N.C. State before deciding to play for North Carolina and coach Dean Smith.

“Yeah,” he said last week, four decades later. “I was either coming to Carolina or going to N.C. State at the end.”

End of the streak

If Ford had gone to N.C. State, perhaps the Wolfpack would have continued its most dominant stretch in history against UNC. Between Feb. 29, 1972, and Jan. 4, 1975, the Wolfpack defeated the Tar Heels nine consecutive times.

To put that into perspective, N.C. State has defeated UNC nine times – total – since 1993, and just 23 times since Ford, then a freshman, helped end that nine-game winning streak in 1975. The UNC-N.C. State series has become so one-sided it’s difficult to remember that, at one time, it was the primary rivalry in North Carolina – and one of the most passionate in the country.

“I still look at State as the rivalry,” Ford said. “It was the big game when I was in school.”

Ford arrived at UNC amid somewhat perilous times. N.C. State, primarily because of Thompson, had become the best college basketball program in North Carolina.

On a smaller scale, the early-to-mid 1970s rekindled memories of a stretch during the 1940s and ’50s when N.C. State beat UNC in 20 out of 21 games. UNC then hired Frank McGuire in 1952, and he gradually built the Tar Heels into the national power they’ve usually been since.

During the mid-’70s, with N.C. State threatening the Tar Heels’ superiority, Ford’s arrival couldn’t have come at a better time. He went to UNC in the summer of 1974, not long after N.C. State had won the national championship, and more than any other player he turned the series back in the Tar Heels’ favor.

Not that Smith paid attention to such things, Ford said.

“Man, look – we never talked about it,” Ford said of UNC’s losing streak against the Wolfpack. “Coach Smith told me I may have to play (junior varsity) my freshman year. So we hardly ever talked about beating N.C. State.

“I was just trying to get on the court.”

Ford delivers as freshman

Ford did more than merely get on the court. His freshman season still is remembered as one of the best in ACC history.

Yet the shift in power in the ACC, and the state, didn’t happen easily. N.C. State beat UNC in the Big Four Tournament in Greensboro in Ford’s first game in the rivalry. The Tar Heels endured another loss to the Wolfpack in January 1975 at Reynolds Coliseum. It would be the last time until 1983, the Wolfpack’s second championship season, that any UNC team lost twice in a row against N.C. State.

Later in Ford’s freshman season, the Tar Heels finally beat the Wolfpack by two at Carmichael Auditorium. Thompson scored 32 points but couldn’t get the ball on the Wolfpack’s final possession, which ended when Tim Stoddard missed a long jumper. Smith’s plan was to double-team the ball. Smith told reporters, “I didn’t want to sit back and watch David Thompson get the last shot. I thought Stoddard had a good shot, but I’d rather see him shooting it than David.”

The teams met again that season in the ACC tournament championship game in Greensboro. UNC prevailed 70-66, ending Thompson’s college career. Ford, who scored a game-high 24 points and handed out five assists in the final, became the first freshman in league history to be named ACC tournament Most Valuable Player. He scored eight points during a decisive 11-0 run as the Tar Heels turned a three-point deficit into a 63-55 lead.

“I think my freshman year, you have to give coach Smith the credit,” Ford said. “They had the Big Four tournament, we came in fourth in the Big Four tournament that year. I think we lost to State and we lost to Duke. I can’t remember what order.

“But by the end of the year, coach Smith had turned us into a team good enough to win the ACC tournament.”

During Ford’s next three seasons, UNC went 6-3 against N.C. State. The Tar Heels have controlled the rivalry since, and Ford expressed surprise when told the Wolfpack had beaten UNC just 23 times since he helped end their streak 39 year ago.

Ford remembers a different time, when N.C. State was every bit as formidable an opponent as Duke is now.

“I didn’t know that,” Ford said, when told just how rare N.C. State victories against UNC have become. “But I know that N.C. State was the big game when I was in school, and it was the big game when I was in high school. And it’s still a big game to me. I think it’s lost some of its luster with the Duke-Carolina game now.

“But with us old guys, we still remember the N.C. State-Carolina days.”

Written by: Andrew Carter (Charlotte Observer)
Read more here:




Why the Charlotte Bobcats' Success This Season Is Only the Beginning

The Charlotte Bobcats will never win a playoff game.

Two years ago, a statement like this would have come off as hyperbolic pessimism, a result of watching the worst team in NBA history win only seven games during the lockout-shortened season.

The statement would still sound overly dramatic. Every NBA franchise will eventually have its day, even the most poorly run ones that compete in the smallest markets. Truly believing that the Bobcats would never win a playoff game would require a high level of naivete.

That, or an extreme level of genius.

After being swept out of the first round by the defining team of this generation in the Miami Heat, the Bobcats cemented their fate as a team that would never win an NBA playoff game.

This is because the Bobcats will become the Charlotte Hornets at the start of next season.

While the name change is being embraced by fans, it is unfortunate timing for the Bobcats' namesake, which will be retired just as the team it represented was getting good.

The Bobcats' loss is the Hornets' gain, though. Now that the transition has been made, it is a gain for the people of Charlotte, its surrounding areas and the soon-to-be-sizable number of Hornets fans around the country.

Predicting bandwagon Charlotte fans admittedly requires a leap of faith, as bandwagons usually contain a few playoff wins before they start to carry people.

That's okay, though, because the Hornets will surpass the Bobcats in playoff wins—and it will happen in their first season.

The Team is Talented

Despite the popular notion that Charlotte overachieved in 2013-14 and that head coach Steve Clifford is the primary reason why, the Bobcats should have been seen as a likely playoff team from opening day.

While no one on the team has ever been an All-Star, Al Jefferson has been snubbed several times and Kemba Walker looked like a breakout candidate entering the season.

Gerald Henderson is one of the more underrated shooting guards in the league, Michael Kidd-Gilchrist appeared a lock to improve and Cody Zeller was a popular Rookie of the Year pick. Jeffrey Taylor, Josh McRoberts and Ramon Sessions looked like a solid core of role players.

What's more, the roster was perfectly constructed.
The team had a No. 1 guy on offense who could carry the load and command double-teams (Jefferson), a No. 2 option who could break down the defense (Walker), nice complementary scorers in Henderson, Sessions and Zeller and a dangerous spot-up shooter in Anthony Tolliver.

They also had a lockdown wing defender (Kidd-Gilchrist), a strong rim protector (Bismack Biyombo), a big-bodied rebounder (Jefferson) and a pickpocket point guard (Walker).

The team also had great character guys. Jefferson had been one of the league's most underappreciated leaders for years, as he carried the Jazz to three respectable seasons and one playoff appearance in the brutal Western Conference.

Walker had been known as a leader since his NCAA title at Connecticut, as had Kidd-Gilchrist since his championship with Kentucky.

While the names on this roster did not immediately jump out at most people when they were making their preseason predictions, those who spent time thinking about the specific qualities of these players and how they fit together could tell that it was a playoff-caliber group.

And Yes, They're Extremely Well Coached

Remember all that stuff about the talent on this team that people should have been aware of last fall? Half of it proved to be wrong.

Walker failed to break out. Zeller had a disappointing rookie season. Kidd-Gilchrist did not improve. Sessions was traded. Taylor tore his Achilles tendon only 26 games into the season.

And yet, the Bobcats went 43-39 and grabbed the No. 7 seed in the East. Much of this can be attributed to Jefferson being so much better than all but two big men in the conference, and the roster did fit together well, but Clifford was the driving force behind the winning season.
The first-year head coach emphasized simple principles: concede long jumpers to avoid penetration, defend without fouling, get back in transition, crash the defensive glass and do not turn the ball over.

He became known with the media and fans for preaching these concepts as the season went on and his team started winning, but the fact is that every coach in the league cares about this stuff. What Clifford did better than any other new coach—and just about any other coach—was get everyone to actually play this way.

The Bobcats unwillingness to give up easy buckets gave them the sixth-best field-goal-percentage defense in the NBA. Their focus on not fouling led to the second-fewest opponent free throws in the league. They allowed the fewest fast-break points in the association, a direct result of not turning the ball over and getting back in transition. They also led the NBA in defensive-rebounding rate.

Clifford is not a genius for valuing these areas of the game. Everyone knows their importance. But valuing them and getting your entire roster to internalize these concepts so deeply that they become habits are two very different things.

They Could Be Much Better Next Year...

The Bobcats won 43 games this season, but they went 28-16 over their final 44 games. That's not a hot stretch, that's finding something.

With no one over 30 years old and several key players 23 or younger, there will be significant individual growth, as well as team growth with Clifford returning for his second season.

More importantly, Charlotte will have $20 million in cap space during a summer in which most of the usual free-agent magnets will not be in position to make a big move.

Compared to other teams projected to have $20 million or more in spending money this summer—the Cleveland Cavaliers, Dallas Mavericks, Los Angeles Lakers, Orlando Magic, Philadelphia 76ers and Utah Jazz—the Hornets are easily a top-three destination.

While Carmelo Anthony will never play in a market like Charlotte (even though he'd be a perfect fit and make the team an instant contender in the East), they certainly have the ability to lure a Luol Deng, Eric Bledsoe, Greg Monroe, Pau Gasol or Gordon Hayward.
Their pitch should be pretty simple: "The Eastern Conference is not getting better anytime soon. We were a 43-win team last year and with you, Luol (or Pau/Eric/whomever), we could win 50 games and be a top-four seed. Look at what the Toronto Raptors did this year. Seriously this conference is terrible. Big Al draws constant double-teams, and you will be the primary beneficiary of that. Coach Clifford is great and everyone here is committed to winning first and foremost. The East is a joke."

It is hard to imagine this team not landing a quality free agent this summer, but that will not be the end of this team's growth.

...And Elite in Two Years

Huh? The Bobcats elite? No, not the Bobcats. The Hornets.

Let's travel forward in time 14 months. Charlotte, led by Jefferson, Walker and Deng, just won 51 games and lost in Game 7 of their Round 2 series with the Chicago Bulls.

The bandwagon is nearing capacity. New team, new jerseys to buy and hats to wear. A history of being the underdog. A fearless gunner and a beast down low. Michael Jordan as the owner. The Hornets enter the summer of 2015 as one of the trendiest teams in the NBA, much like the Raptors, Washington Wizards and Portland Trail Blazers will do this summer.

Fresh relevancy is the best kind of relevancy.

The team's cap situation will still be great. Even if they add a big name this offseason and re-sign Walker, they'll enter next summer with roughly another $20 million to spend. Few financially flexible teams in the league would be able to compete with the draw of Charlotte's core, coach, potential and cool factor.
Written By: Simon Cherin-Gordon

Book a Public Appearance    Motivational Speaking    Individual Instruction & Camps