Ford played four years of basketball at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill. After his sophomore season, Ford started for the U.S. Olympic team that won the gold medal in 1976. While a senior, he averaged 20.8 points a game during that 1977-78 season. In 1978, Ford finished his career at Carolina as the number 1 all time leading scorer in North Carolina history with 2,290 points. Ford was inducted into the North Carolina Sports Hall of Fame in May 1991. On December 18, 2008, Tyler Hansbrough surpassed Ford's total making Phil the number 2 scorer in Carolina history.
The second pick in the first round of the draft, Ford was NBA Rookie of the Year with the Kansas City Kings in 1979. In 482 NBA games, Ford scored 5,594 points, an 11.6 average, and had 3,083 assists, an average of 6.4 per game. He retired from the NBA in 1985.
Ford left the school in 1999-2000 along with the rest of Guthridge's staff when Matt Doherty took over as head coach with his own coaching staff.
Ford currently works for the Educational Foundation, the fund-raising arm of the University of North Carolina athletic department. He also briefly served as color commentator on UNC basketball broadcasts.