High character at its finest
Chris Ford was a lot of things. A husband, father, grandfather, member of the Boston Celtics – you name it. And through all of his life experiences, there seemed to be one constant – in the game of life, there weren’t many characters better than Ford.
Ford died in a Philadelphia hospital on Jan. 17 at the age of 74. No official cause was given, but Ford suffered a heart attack earlier in January.
Ford played for the Boston Celtics and won a championship in 198. After retiring in 1982, he was an assistant coach for the Celtics for seven seasons, helping Boston reach two more championships (1984, 1986) alongside Larry Bird, Kevin McHale, and other green-wearing greats.
Years later, Ford replaced Jimmy Rodgers as the Celtics’ head coach for five seasons – beginning in 1990.
He also lived in Lynnfield for several years. One of his neighbors on Melody Lane, and retired sports medicine surgeon Jeff Polansky, said Ford was “a wonderful guy” who was always “straightforward about what’s right and what’s wrong.”
“I’m still so sad, still,” Polansky said. “I’m shocked.”
Alongside his wife Kathy, Ford has four children: Christopher, Katie, Anthony, and Michael. Polansky commented on how involved Ford was with his children, and also remembers a specific story from when Ford was coaching a Peabody-Lynnfield youth basketball team.
Regardless of what some parents wanted, Ford made sure every kid played the same amount of minutes “regardless of their ability.”
By the time the season was said and done – and despite mixed emotions on the strategy – Ford’s team won the whole thing. A chuckling Polansky said Ford took all of his players along, while other teams just brought the stars.
“He [Ford] insisted that every child be given a fair chance,” Polansky said. “The world would be better if everyone adhered to his code of coaching – or ethics.”
Jeff’s wife, Sue, also used the word “shocked” when describing her reaction to the news.
“It gives me goosebumps because it’s the end of an era,” Sue Polansky said. “[He was] very involved with the community when he was around.”
She noted Ford’s impact on youth basketball teams, adding Ford was “awesome” and “very calm” with the kids.
“They were lucky to have a professional basketball coach coaching their little 11-year-old basketball team,” Sue Polansky said.
Ford was also involved with the Wayne Embry Basketball Camp alongside Lynn native Dennis Skeadas – who said the news “was like getting hit with a ton of bricks.”
When asked about Ford, the first thing Skeadas said was “he’s like your neighbor.” Whenever there was a problem, or whenever Skeadas needed advice, Ford was his man.
“It wasn’t because he was a Boston Celtic,” Skeadas said. “It was because we just became friends, and we cared about each other’s family.”
In the world of basketball, Ford left his footprint on the game. He was credited with the league’s first three-point basket, averaged 15.6 points per game his first season in Boston, and played college basketball for Villanova before being drafted by the Detroit Pistons in 1972.
Basketball or no basketball, spotlight or no spotlight, ask anyone – Ford left a positive impact everywhere he went.
“I could count on a phone call from Chris – he became that kind of friend,” Skeadas said.