The writing was on the wall after making the NIT quarterfinals in amazing fashion, not to mention taking a program handed off by Jim Christian and continuing to run with it. No, Geno Ford didn't win the MAC tournament in his three years at Kent State, but he did get two postseason appearances out of it and two conference regular season titles.
But Geno Ford is now going to try and revive that same magic at Bradley University in the Missouri Valley Conference. BU was a basketball powerhouse back in the 1950s, but their only bright spot in the last 20 years was that Sweet 16 run in 2006 — a run that to this day I still boast about having correct in my bracket.
So is going to that school better than staying with the Flashes?
Jim Les, who coached that team for nine seasons, was let go by the program after finishing 12-20. That disappointing finish was marred by an 11-game losing streak to start MVC play. Likewise, the Valley is on its own losing streak. In 2006 they hit a zenith with four tournament teams, but since 2008 they've been a one-bid conference. And the good coaches are starting to exile: Creighton's Dana Altman traveled westward to Oregon last year, and Missouri State's Cuonzo Martin was announced at Tennessee's new coach today.
This is a double-edged sword Ford is brandishing for this move.
The MAC just isn't at a place right now where coaches can head straight to a power-conference team. Climbing the ladder sometimes takes a few more rungs before hitting one of this big confernces than it does in football. If Geno Ford continued to win big at Kent State, would the Big Ten come calling? Perhaps, but it's more sensible to go somewhere else, win there too, and prove that a coach can win anywhere.
Now, I question the timing of Geno leaving now. Kent State returns everybody except Rodriquez Sherman to build upon a 25-12 season. They'd have been a beast. Maybe even a Top 25 team, and that's something the conference desperately needs. But coaches aren't here to please the MAC, even if it's someone like Ford who excelled as a player and coach in this league.
So it's a gamble, but the risk is tempered by the ultimate prize. Especially since the program will be left in capable hands. It always is. If Ford's replacement also succeeds just like Stan Heath and Jim Christian, then it's time to start labeling Kent State as one of the true successful mid-major programs of the last 10 years.