Travis Ford let Marcus Smart down


Where is Travis Ford?

Watch the video again of Marcus Smart shoving a fan at Texas Tech, but look at what happens after the actual shove.

While a minute-long video clip cannot possibly capture everything that was going on in the chaos, it certainly reflects the essence of what was and, more, what wasn't happening. There's Markel Brown and Phil Forte, escorting their simmering teammate the entire length of the court to the bench. Ford, the Oklahoma State head coach never rushes out to meet them, nor is he shown escorting his players away from a volatile situation.

A little later, there's Smart, still by the bench, standing at his seat, jawing and screaming by himself. Travis Ford doesn't tell him to sit down or, better yet, head to the locker room for the final seconds and cool off.

Where is Ford?

Ford shows up just once. He's seen, hands on hips, trying to talk to an official amid the mayhem. Standing to his left is Smart, pointing and barking at the referee, an adult and authority figure, at the same time. Ford does nothing. Doesn't point him to the bench, doesn't silence him.

And that, aside from the actual shove, is the most telling part of this whole mess.

Ford has done nothing to help Marcus Smart this season. His failure to act is as much to blame for Smart's meltdown as Smart's own immaturity and lack of self-control.

Given the opportunity during Sunday night's news conference to either own up to his blame or at least admit Smart had issues that led to this mess and three-game suspension, issues that he could have addressed, Ford demurred.

Rather, he spoke about Smart, placing the totality of blame on his player's already overburdened shoulders.

Ford insisted that he knows "Marcus Smart and knows his heart,'' and this is not that person. The problem is, this is the Marcus Smart everyone else not only has come to know but also has seen. This was a horrific single act, but one borne out of behavior that had been brewing and festering for weeks.

Whatever rose-colored glasses Ford chose to wear didn't color what everyone else saw -- a kid falling apart and a coach doing nothing to help. Ford spoke repeatedly Sunday about the mistake Smart made, about what his sophomore in college has learned and how he will come back stronger and smarter from it (not to mention an NBA plug, which was a truly pathetic attempt to stoke Smart's draft status during a news conference that had far more important implications to deal with).

"He made a serious mistake,'' Ford said. "He's proven to us many times what a great person he is, and we need to help him learn from this. Hopefully we will give him support, because I do truly think he's learned a valuable person''

What's missing is Ford saying what his mistake was, what he's learned from it, what he will do going forward to help Smart (and whatever other players he coaches) to not trip over the same live wires.

When coaches latch onto the last microcosm of idealism in college sports, they argue that they are there to help players mature, to assist teenagers in becoming men. That's why they occasionally yell, and frequently cuss; why, essentially, they make the big bucks.

Who has helped Marcus Smart mature and grow? What valuable lessons has he been given?

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