Basketball tradition runs deep at Ouachita Parish High School.
Both the Lions and Lady Lions have been churning out great players and memorable coaches even before the school opened the doors to the Madhouse on Millhaven decades ago.
Amber Obaze-Ford is also a product of tradition. Women’s basketball aficionados will remember her as a lockdown defender for Louisiana Tech in the early 2000’s, during the later days of Lady Techster legend Leon Barmore’s career.
Since moving into coaching, Obaze-Ford’s been looking to find that same tradition
Now she has it.
Ouachita introduced Obaze-Ford as its new girl’s basketball coach on Friday in front of a crowd of players and fans in the Slusher Lobby.
“I saw that tradition here as an opposing coach and really admired that and wanted to be a part of it,” Obaze-Ford. “I like the way the administration works and everyone is behind you from the top down.
“This is a great spot for me and I’m happy to be a Lady Lion.”
Obaze-Ford spent the last three seasons as the girl’s basketball coach at Rayville, leading the Lady Hornets to a 65-29 (69%) record and the 2013 Class 3A state championship. During her tenure, Ladencia Johnson was named the 2013 LSWA Ms. Basketball.
She spent four years coaching at Summerfield before moving on to Rayville.
Making his first athletic hire as Ouachita principal, Eddie Mahoney wanted not only a successful coach but someone who could seamlessly transition into the Ouachita family. The job drew applicants from Louisiana, Texas and Arkansas.
“Being as young as she is and looking at her resume it’s impressive,” Mahoney said. “What we were looking for was someone to continue to keep us successful because we aren’t rebuilding. Our ultimate goal is to play for the state championship every year and not be satisfied with just making the playoffs.”
Obaze-Ford’s teams at Rayville were characterized by solid post-play, which will be the foundation of her program at Ouachita.
“I’m always going to be inside-out. If the post kids can’t, I’m going to teach them how and we’ll get our guards involved as well,” Obaze-Ford said. “When we won it all at Rayville we had both, so I plan on making that happen and developing that as much as I can.”
Ouachita forward Keturah Bingham — a multi-year starter — returns for her senior year in 2016, along with rising junior Brandi Washington and sophomore-to-be Dee Dee Walker in the backcourt.
Obaze-Ford takes over for area hoops fixture John Merritt, who stepped down to transition into an administrative role after 12 years as head coach of the Lady Lions
“We’re going to miss coach Merritt but I think she’ll do a good job. We’re excited about the future,” Bingham said.
Ouachita has reached at least the second-round of the Class 5A playoffs every year for the last decade, competing in a district that includes perennial power Natchitoches Central and longtime rival West Monroe.
“We played those teams at Rayville and we were always right there but never could get them,” Obaze-Ford. “I got the gist of what they do and hopefully now I’ll have enough firepower to get them.”
The former Lady Techster guard played for Barmore and the late Kurt Budke from 2000-2004, earning first team All-Wac honors in 2003. In her four years at Louisiana Tech, Obaze-Ford was part of teams that reached three Sweet-16’s and the 2000 Elite-8.
Obaze-Ford was joined at the podium by her husband Daryl Ford — twin brother of Lady Techster great Cheryl Ford — and their two children.
Follow Adam on Twitter @adam_hunsucker