NASHVILLE, Tenn. (AP) -- Tennessee State started a new era Monday by reaching back to its past and hiring former Tigers assistant Dana Ford as its men's basketball coach.
Ford has spent the past two seasons as an assistant at Illinois State, but he also worked at Tennessee State from 2009-11 as an assistant on John Cooper's staff.
Ford was hired Monday to replace Travis Williams, who was fired last month after going 23-40 in two seasons.
''The one thing about this school and me is it kind of fits my personality,'' Ford said. ''I've always lived life with a chip on my shoulder, with something to prove.
''I just feel like at this point in time, that's what this university needs and this men's basketball program needs, someone to kind of, I don't want to say resurrect, but kind of bring the program back.''
Tennessee State went 20-13 and was a program on the rise during Ford's last season on Cooper's staff. Ford called Cooper his ''life mentor'' Monday during his introductory news conference. He also praised Tennessee State for its family atmosphere.
''This is a family university,'' Ford said. ''People welcomed me with open arms, even the first time I was here and definitely the second time I came back. Not a lot of handshakes, but a whole lot of hugs. That's the one thing that stands out to me about Tennessee State.''
Williams became Tennessee State's coach in 2012 after Cooper left for Miami (Ohio). Tennessee State went 18-15 in Williams' first year, but fell to 5-25 this season.
''It's time for us to introduce a new era of men's basketball at Tennessee State,'' athletic director Teresa Phillips said. ''I tell you, we are going to be in the hands of what I describe as a rising star. He's a well-rounded man with intensity, drive, magnetism and wisdom that goes beyond his chronological years. ... I think he's the right fit at the right time.''
Ford spent the 2011-12 season as an assistant at Wichita State before working at Illinois State the past two seasons. Ford played at Illinois State from 2002-06.
Ford vowed to emphasize defense and rebounding.
''The only thing I can definitely promise is we're going to defend with our hair on fire and we're going to rebound like madmen,'' Ford said.