Jason Ford had never been to Section High School until the day he interviewed for the school’s vacant varsity girls basketball head-coaching position.
But long before he arrived on campus, the former Pleasant Grove and Helena head coach was well aware of Section’s basketball reputation.
“Coaching basketball in this state, there are certain places where you know that basketball is a really big deal,” Ford said. “Historically, Section is a really strong basketball school. That was one of the biggest selling points for me. When I got (to the interview) and saw the school and the community, I was sold.”
Ford was officially hired as Section’s head coach during the Jackson County Board of Education’s meeting on June 25. He replaced Stormy Stevens, who resigned in May after three seasons to join Fort Payne’s varsity boys coaching staff.
Ford graduated from Cordova High School in Walker County in 1996 and received a football scholarship to Bethel University in McKenzie, Tennessee. He gave up the sport after suffering a serious injury and later played on Bethel’s men’s tennis team. Ford then served as a graduate assistant coach for the tennis program for two seasons while earning his master’s degree.
Ford’s first teaching job was at Henry County High School in Paris, Tennessee. He began teaching and coaching basketball, football, and tennis at Pleasant Grove High School in 2005. Ford was the head girls basketball coach at Pleasant Grove from 2008-14, turning around a program that was 3-24 his first season to one that was 24-8 with a Class 5A Northwest Regional appearance in his final season, according to AHSFHS.org. Ford was the first head girls basketball coach in Helena High School history during the 2014-15 season before coaching Oak Grove’s varsity boys basketball team the following two seasons. Ford then returned to Pleasant Grove, where he was the head softball coach the past two seasons.
“When he came in for the interview, he had a binder that had his plans for everything, I’m talking season, offseason, workouts and practices that are timed down to the second,” said Section principal Doug Haynes. “He’s very detail oriented. When I called his references, they all told me I wouldn’t find anybody that worked any harder. I’ve been around a lot of good coaches in my career, and every one of them was detail oriented and had a great work ethic. He checked both of those boxes. I think we’re fortunate to have him.”
Ford has started conducting workouts with Section players and has been encouraged with what he’s seen from the team. Because of COVID-19 (coronavirus) restrictions, teams across the state were unable to have their traditional summer team camps and play dates.
“Normally we’d have played 24 or 25 games by now,” Ford said, “so they would have some experience with the things we do and how we want to play,” said Ford, who likes to play an up-tempo style. “As it is, we’re a little behind. But everyone is dealing with that. (The players’) safety is our top priority and secondly is to make sure we’re doing the basketball part the way we need to.”
Ford likes to play an up-tempo style with full-court pressing and man-to-man defense.
Ford has been driving to Section from his Birmingham-area home each day for workouts. Ford’s drive will get shorter soon when he, wife Nikki and their two daughters move to Jackson County.
In the meantime, Ford will continue to happily make the 248-mile round trip drive to Section for workouts.
“If these kids were hard to coach, if they weren’t giving effort, it would be a difficult drive to make,” Ford said. “But they’re doing everything I ask and really working hard on what we want to do. So I’m enjoying that drive right now.”