Al Ford acknowledges that he did not take the traditional path to becoming a high school basketball head coach. But that's all right, because the school that hired him has been forced off the traditional path in launching its program.
Ford, 41, announced Thursday as boys' basketball coach at the new Haymarket school, Battlefield, replaces Brett Vincent, who accepted the Bobcats job in March but resigned last month to take a college position.
Ford, who did not apply for the Battlefield spot when it initially came open, led the Gar-Field junior varsity team to winning seasons the past five years and has coached the O'Connell freshman team and the Fairfax Stars AAU team. He also is a mentor in the George Washington University men's basketball program. He is not a teacher but a Washington Post circulation manager.
"I've been preparing for this moment," said Ford, who had applied for head coaching positions at Arlington County schools Wakefield and Yorktown in recent years. "I was thinking of how the resume was attractive enough so that when I sit down and talk to a principal and an athletic director [they know], I can balance all these things and keep things going and run a program even though I'm not a teacher in the building."
Battlefield, with no seniors its first year, will play in the Cedar Run District. The Bobcats are hoping to be competitive sooner rather than later -- perennial district favorite Potomac is scheduled to return to the Cardinal District starting in 2005-06, and Battlefield might be better able to match up against Osbourn, Osbourn Park and Stonewall Jackson. Culpeper and Fauquier are scheduled to join the Cedar Run in 2005-06.
"We do want to build the confidence of players to let them know that as juniors we could . . . have some success this year and definitely look and build toward actually trying to do something in the district" next year, Ford said.
He considers the modestly talented 2002-03 Gar-Field team that reached the Virginia AAA state tournament as a squad to emulate.
"It's really something I want to use as my blueprint," he said. "If you get people to fill certain roles, and if we follow our game plan, we can be successful."
In Win, Some Good Cheer
Many of the top Forest Park girls' players could do nothing but cheer for their teammates in a 69-59 win over T.C. Williams in the Falls Church summer league championship Wednesday night after four of five starters fouled out.
But their contributions in limited minutes, and those from the players who popped off the bench, were enough to enable the Bruins to conclude the summer with an unbeaten record in the league.
The three returning starters off the 2004 Virginia AAA state championship team -- Ashleigh Braxton, Courtney Portell and Monica Wright -- scored 14 points apiece. Wright and Braxton each fouled out, as did Hylton transfer Griselda Shutermeja and Demetria Haralson. Portell and Deidre Richardson had four fouls apiece.
Forest Park summer league coach Pete Stephan said the referees were being evaluated by their supervisor that night and were calling a lot of touch fouls. That gave incoming freshman Richardson and eighth-grader Dani Jackson an opportunity to play.
Portell, who established herself as a clutch player last season by scoring 17 points in both the state semifinal and state championship, sank several free throws to preserve the win.
Forest Park concluded the winter season with 20 consecutive victories but must replace six players off that team.
"We'll lack some of the experience," Stephan said, "but they have kids coming in talented and fundamentally sound and hard workers who will buy into the work ethic that Ashleigh, Courtney and Monica have in terms of their love for basketball and trying to improve their game."