After the Stony Brook men’s basketball team endured its worst year since the 2007-08 season, rumors circulated surrounding head coach Geno Ford’s job security. But according to Athletic Director Shawn Heilbron, Ford is the long-term solution. He will have his job for at least two more seasons.
After serving as the associate head coach at Stony Brook for three years, Ford was named interim head coach in March 2019 once head coach Jeff Boals resigned to accept the same position at Ohio University. On March 26, 2019, Heilbron removed the interim label and promoted Ford to head coach.
That day, Ford signed a five-year contract that runs through March 31, 2024. His contract permitted him to start negotiating an extension with Stony Brook at the end of the fourth year, which was this past season. In an interview with The Statesman on Oct. 27, Ford said that the two sides had not yet entered negotiations.
Heilbron confirmed the same thing in an interview with The Statesman on Nov. 21.
“I really want Geno to be successful because I think he’s a really good coach,” Heilbron said. “But we’ve got to have success. We have to be good in basketball, and I’ll leave it at that.”
In a follow-up interview on March 30, Heilbron said that the sides have still not entered contract talks, let alone reached an extension. However, he gave Ford his vote of confidence.
“Right now, the goal is on having the championship team on the court next year that we expect to have,” Heilbron said. “Geno and his staff are working really hard with that. I believe that Geno is going to be our coach for a long time.”
Though Ford has not been extended, that does not mean he is a lame duck. As a State University of New York (SUNY) employee, Ford is protected by the union. If Heilbron wanted to part ways with Ford, he would have needed to issue him a notice of non-renewal by March 31, 2023. Employees who are not given a non-renewal automatically get to retain their position and get renewed for a year.
On the court, Stony Brook had a bad 2022-23 season. In the team’s first season in the Colonial Athletic Association (CAA), it finished 11-22 overall and 6-12 in conference play. Two of those wins were against non-NCAA Division I teams. Stony Brook finished in 10th place and was eliminated by Charleston in the second round of the playoffs. Injuries to several star players and key acquisitions played a role in the team’s demise.
Given the hand that Ford was dealt by the injury bug, Heilbron was impressed by the coaching job that he did and decided not to non-renew him.
“We’re coming off of a season that didn’t meet our expectations from a record standpoint,” Heilbron said. “There are obvious reasons for that, and I think we can look at the injuries. Geno and his team are doing a great job. I think even with the record last year, I thought they really coached and got the most out of this team.”
It is still possible that the two sides agree on a contract extension during the final year of Ford’s current deal. One thing that is certain: Ford will be back after next season ends due to the decision to not non-renew him.
In a follow-up interview on April 12, Ford confirmed that he did not receive a notice of non-renewal. He too expects to be on the sidelines at Stony Brook for the long haul.
“I’ve enjoyed every day that I’ve been at Stony Brook going on eight years,” Ford said. “I certainly hope that I’m here another seven or eight years. We need to win enough to justify that happening; that’s the business. So we need to win more. I think that’s something that’s going to play out and I’m not concerned about it, that’s for sure.”
Ford entered this past season with a winning record, but he now sits at 58-63 all-time with Stony Brook. With key players returning from injury and one year in the CAA under its belt, the team will hope to take a big leap in the 2023-24 season. Based on what Heilbron has said, a big year next season could finally land Ford an extension.
Mike Anderson contributed reporting.