Phil Ford currently works for the Educational Foundation, the fund-raising arm of the North Carolina athletic department. He has been an invaluable member of the Carolina basketball family for over 25 years. As a point guard, Ford earned first-team All-America honors three times and was the 1978 National Player of the Year. In his 11-year stint as a UNC assistant coach, Ford was a tireless instructor, motivator and recruiter.
Ford's name is synonymous with his enthusiastic attitude, and it is that quality which made him stand out from many assistant coaches. Ford has been a part of five Final Four appearances, five NCAA Regional titles and five ACC Tournament titles. He has coached 10 first-round draft picks, including 1998 National Player of the Year Antawn Jamison.
Ford, Jamison and Michael Jordan are the only Tar Heel players to win the John Wooden Award as the nation's top player. Carolina is the only school to have three different payers win the Wooden Award.
Ford, a native of Rocky Mount, N.C., and a 1974 graduate of Rocky Mount High School, was a backcourt star on Carolina teams that won 99 of 124 games in his four years. Those teams went to the NCAA Tournament four times and advanced to the championship game in Ford's junior year. As a senior, Ford won the coveted Wooden Award. He was also named the National Player of the Year in 1978 by the United States Basketball Writers Association, the National Association of Basketball Coaches and The Sporting News.
Ford is Carolina's alltime leading scorer with 2,290 points. He saved what was perhaps his greatest collegiate performance for his final home game in Carmichael Auditorium, scoring a career-high 34 points in leading the Tar Heels to an Atlantic Coast Conference regular-season championship-clinching 87-83 win over Duke. Ford also held Carolina's single-game, season and career assist records until Jeff Lebo, Ed Cota and Kenny Smith eclipsed Ford's numbers.
Ford was the first freshman during Smith's tenure to start in the first game of his Carolina career. He capped a brilliant freshman year by 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.
Ford earned first-team All-ACC accolades in 1976, 1977 and 1978. He also was named first-team All-ACC Tournament in 1975, 1976 and 1977 and second-team in 1978. He was listed on multiple All-America teams in earning first-team status in 1976, 1977 and 1978. He was also a first-team freshman All-America in 1975.
In his senior season Ford was voted the ACC Player of the Year, and in both 1977 and 1978 he was given the Anthony J. McKevlin Award as the ACC Athlete of the Year. In May 1978, he graduated with a Bachelor of Science degree in business administration.
Ford was taken as the second player in the 1978 NBA draft by the Kansas City Kings and won the 1979 NBA Rookie of the Year award. He also was named to the NBA All-Rookie Team and to the All-NBA second team. Ford's tenure with the Kings lasted four seasons, and he finished his NBA career by playing one year with the New Jersey Nets and the Milwaukee Bucks and two seasons with the Houston Rockets.
Ford was inducted into the North Carolina Sports Hall of Fame in May 1991.
Although Ford has come a long way from his backyard basketball court in Rocky Mount where he learned to play the game in the late 1960s and early 1970s, it is evident that family is an important aspect in Ford's life.
"I enjoy spending time with my wife and my two kids," says Ford. "You don't realize how lucky you are until you have a family of your own."
Ford was married in July 1988 to Traci Vample, a Salem College graduate and native of Durham, N.C. The Fords have a daughter, Tyler, and a son, Mitchell.
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