June 25, 2011 by wcobserver
Ferrell’s 25th Season Closes Out Wednesday at Bud Walton Arena
By Rich Sanders
SPRINGDALE – The halftime horn has sounded.
For David Ferrell, athletic director and boys basketball coach at West Fork, no one knows when, or if, he’s reached the midpoint of his chosen career path. But this past season – his 25th in the business – seems like a good time to look back on some of what he’s accomplished.
Two major achievements have occurred for Ferrell in a three-month span. First, he led the Tigers to a 34-3 record and to a spot in the Class 3A State Championship game this past March. Along the way, he notched his 400th victory at West Fork in a first-round state-tourney victory over Jessieville.
Shortly after the season ended, Ferrell learned that he had been named one of only two boys basketball coaches in the state who will lead a team into next week’s All-Star festivities at Bud Walton Arena. The game, which features all-star teams divided into East and West squads, will be played on Wednesday, June 22.
“It’s a big deal,” Ferrell said. “I’m definitely excited about it.”
It’s not the first time Ferrell has been the West All-Star coach. He won the honor in 1994 when a 7-footer named John Nelson played for the Tigers.
“You know, we had a great year this season and had a lot of wins and we went to the state finals, but what makes this special is that this was voted on by the rest of the coaches in the state,” Ferrell said. “That makes it quite an honor.”
Ferrell will be pitted against Rick Wilson, the same man who was on the other bench when Ferrell’s Tigers played their last game of the 2010-11 season. Wilson’s Rivercrest Colts recorded a 63-48 win over West Fork at Summit Arena in Hot Springs.
“He’s a good guy,” Ferrell said, “and I haven’t beat him yet.”
Winning and losing in the All-Star Games is almost unimportant compared to the meaning of regular-season games. It is there that a bunch of kids – many who did not make the All-Star Game – will toil and sweat for six months in a gym, like West Fork’s TigerDome. To play at West Fork, Ferrell makes it pretty clear that hard work is an expectation.
“Over the years, my players have always had a joke amongst themselves that the bad kids – the ones who are lazy and don’t want to work – won’t hang out with us,” Ferrell said. “You won’t ever see one of my teams with 40 players. We’ll always have 10 or 12 guys and they’re all going to work hard.”
Ferrell’s peers describe him as the consummate competitor.
“His teams are always competitive,” longtime Farmington basketball coach Ronnie Davis said. “His teams are always well-prepared and you’ve got to be well-prepared if you expect to compete with his teams.”
And where did that work ethic and determination come from?
It’s a well that apparently runs deep in West Fork.
Ferrell was a standout athlete for the Tigers and played for John Selph, the former Superintendent. Selph’s son, current West Fork football coach Rodney Selph, played for Ferrell’s first West Fork teams.
The cycle continued with Ferrell’s son, rising junior Josh, playing under Rodney Selph’s tutelage.
Ferrell, however, has not always been at West Fork.
He started his career at Gravette, winning a conference title as a 22-year-old rookie head coach. He still remembers the crucial game against Elkins – a thriller in the Elks’ old gym. “I’ll never forget it,” Ferrell said. “We held the ball for one shot in the first two overtimes and they never touched the ball. We finally won in three overtimes, 39-38.”
From there, Ferrell had stops at Lincoln – where he won 20 games in his only season – and West Fork before a respite from coaching to help propel Arkansas Athletes Outreach. He ran the AAO program for two years before a friend called and asked Ferrell if he would be interested in getting back into coaching.
The friend was Gus Malzahn and Ferrell said yes. A year later, Ferrell was back home at the TigerDome.
Through all of his 23 years as a coach, Ferrell’s worst team had a record of 14-12. He’s never had a senior-high team that did not have a winning season.
No one knows for sure if he ever will have a team that fails to meet the .500 standard. Coaches who know him seem pretty sure Ferrell will always produce a winner.
“I played for him my junior and senior year,” Rodney Selph said, “and he’s a great coach, a great person and he’s a great friend. He’s definitely in this for the right reasons. He’s here for the kids and it shows.
“His teams play hard for him and they’re always very well-coached.”
Even his own kids are pretty handy:
- Daughter Jordyn will be a junior on the John Brown University basketball team next fall.
- Daughter Jassa will be a senior and defending conference champion in cross country, the 1,600-meter run and the 3,200-meter run. She was third in the state this past spring in the 3,200.
- And son Josh, a rising junior, was an all-conference basketball selection as the team’s sixth man. In all, six Tigers were named to the all-conference basketball team.
It’s the “off” season now, but Ferrell continues to work for AAO. Monday night at the All-Star Sports Arena in Springdale, the place was full of travelers from places like Alpena, Paris and Sparkman for an AAO Sports Camp. Fifty teams from 35 different schools were on hand. All the teams were guaranteed at least three games a night for a two-night event.
And Ferrell is the guy who put it all together.
“He’s got the AAO running pretty well,” Berryville junior girls coach Aaron Hall said. “He gets a large number of schools from different areas so that you don’t have to play the same teams you see during the regular season. It’s really a great thing for summer basketball.”
To get the full meaning of what Ferrell does for area basketball programs, just ask legendary Huntsville coach Charlie Berry.
“David Ferrell is an incredible asset to basketball in North Arkansas,” Berry said. “He does a lot with AAO and with the Top 25 camps and he gives the kids and the coaches a lot of stuff to do during the summer.”
And Berry, who just finished his 50th season adds that Ferrell “rightly deserves being named the All-Star coach. He almost won a state championship this year. He did an outstanding job and always does.”
So what is his secret?
While he might not consider himself a “great” coach, Ferrell has the answer that most of the great coaches have: He gives credit to the people who have played for him.
His players have ranged from Nelson, the 7-footer, to standouts like Tim Shephard and this year’s all-state selections, Jared Johnson and Cody Cone. There is no bottom of the list. If you wear a Tigers uniform for Ferrell, you’ve had to earn the right to wear the Black & Gold.
“I’d like to think our program speaks for itself,” Ferrell said. “We’ve got good kids who work hard. I’ve always been proud of all of our kids.”
Wednesday night’s All-Star Game will be another small chapter in Ferrell’s career. It’s an exhibition game. It’s one that few will expect to see his team win. He has Johnson, a JBU signee, and several other good players. His foes in Blue, though, will include three future Razorbacks, and signees committed to Nebraska and Ole Miss.
Yet, if Ferrell is coaching, you know his team is going to play hard. Right up until the final horn sounds.