KANSAS CITY, Mo. – If this was the last game of the Travis Ford era, at least no one was hurt.
Well, not seriously hurt.
Even what was left of Oklahoma State on Wednesday didn’t make it through its final, ugly, unwatchable game at the Big 12 Tournament.
The Cowboys’ coach had already lost his best player three games into the season. (Phil Forte, elbow). The Big 12 freshman of the year (Jawun Evans, shoulder) became the Big 12 freshman of the year despite missing the last 10 games.
On Monday, forward Mitchell Solomon was backpedaling in practice he tweaked his ankle. He lasted five minutes into Wednesday’s 75-71 loss to Kansas State.
“I challenge you to find any team that we’ve been through,” Ford said. “I challenge you.”
Yeah, those are easy excuses for a 12-20 season that may finish Ford. There is nothing easy is about what is ahead.
Athletic director Mike Holder will soon have to make a decision on Ford. His coach is in the middle of a 10-year contract. Sugar daddy T. Boone Pickens may or may not be more concerned with football to buy it out.
Worse than that, Cowboys fans don’t care based on their apathy. None of that other stuff matters because nothing will get a coach fired quicker than empty seats.
Gallagher-Iba Arena is one of the grand old barns in college basketball. Lately, it was good place for archery practice. In other words, you could have shot an arrow through the place and no one could get hurt.
The average attendance of 5,857 was the lowest since the arena was expanded in 2000. That average was 2,000 fewer than the previous season.
“When you lose,” said Forte, a try-hard senior overachiever from Texas, “not many people come.”
It’s not just the injuries. It’s the cumulative effect of that disinterest. This was a team that was good enough to beat Kansas by 19 in January. It then finished 2-11, including losing the seven in a row.
Ford tried to isolate the season to that series of misfortunes. But the Cowboys haven’t won an NCAA Tournament game since Ford’s first season in 2009. Forbes named him the second-most overpaid coach in the country.
That’s more than a tweaked ankle or bum elbow.
If it makes a change, Oklahoma State should get able to land someone good. You just wonder how it got this bad. Sometimes a coach hangs around too long, gets lazy in recruiting.
For all the roses that were thrown at the Big 12 this season, Oklahoma State was that dark alley after midnight. You didn’t want to go there. The Cowboys’ record was the worst in almost 30 years. That record has been worse each of the last three season.
That’s more than a sore shoulder or foul trouble.
Oklahoma State should never lose 20 games. It should never be 307th in scoring. It should never be torture to watch.
Forte wants more. He’s applying for a medical redshirt to come back for a fifth year. It has to get better, right?
“It was very difficult to just sit on the bench and watch all year long,” he concluded in a silent Oklahoma State lockerroom. “It definitely sucked.”