Providence | Tales from the Bench 1987 Final Four (with Ryan Ford)

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The latest installment of “Tales from the Bench” on the 19nine podcast features Ryan Ford, a walk-on guard at Providence College during the Friars’ unexpected march to the 1987 Final Four.
In this wide-ranging interview alongside The Chucker, 19nine’s resident historian, Ford discusses the coaching genius of Rick Pitino, a young grad assistant named Jeff Van Gundy, Big East basketball in the 1980s, Providence’s ahead-of-its-time brand of basketball, and more.
The rundown…
  • Thoughts on Big East basketball in 2021, including teams playing in their on-campus arenas with no fans in attendance, which Ford considers “raw” (1:00)
  • Ford’s journey to becoming a walk-on at Providence, including the counsel of future Boston College and Ohio State coach Jim O’Brien, and remembering Pitino from the famed Five Star Basketball Camp (6:00)
  • Why Ford describes Pitino as “magnetizing” (10:00)
  • Billy Donovan’s transformation from averaging 3 points per game as a sophomore to becoming a first-team All-Big East performer as a senior (13:00)
  • What Ford learned while keeping the book during the 1985-86 season, Pitino’s first at Providence (15:00)
  • Expectations for the 1986-87 season and how the debut of the 3-point shot changed everything for the Friars (17:00)
  • Why teammate Dave Kipfer started a fight against Tulsa (25:00)
  • Providence’s star-studded coaching staff, including the future NBA coach Pitino plucked from the high school ranks to be a graduate assistant – hint: it’s Jeff Van Gundy and Ford has thoughts (26:00)
  • A day in the life of the Providence basketball program (30:00)
  • Providence’s hot start to the 1986-87 season and capturing the nation’s attention with its “futuristic” playing style (34:00)
  • Tragedy strikes the Pitino family following the Big East Tournament (38:00)
  • Friar Fever nearly ends against Austin Peay – and why it didn’t (46:00)
  • “We’re doing what?” Pitino’s unorthodox game plan against Georgetown in the Elite Eight (50:00)
  • Why Syracuse was a horrible Final Four matchup for Providence (56:00)
  • The emotions of losing to Syracuse and what Ford took away from that magical season (60:00)
  • Closing out the show with Ford’s thoughts on awesome arenas, opponents on the court and in the stands, why “relentless” is the best word to describe Big East basketball in the 1980s, and, speaking of relentless, watching Billy Donovan prepare for the NBA Draft (65:00)

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