Jul 10, 2024

New Chadron State men's basketball coach brings successful NAIA pedigree to Eagles

Posted Jul 10, 2024 2:43 PM

By: CSC Sports Information

CHADRON – Following a national search with nearly 100 applicants, Chris Francis has been named the head coach of Chadron State College's men's basketball program. Francis will be formerly introduced during an on-campus event at the Chicoine Center Wednesday, July 17 at 2 p.m. Following his introduction, which is free and open to the public, Francis will conduct a free clinic for youth in first through eighth grade from 3 to 4:30 p.m. at the Chicoine Center.

Francis, who has a career record of 176-94, has been the head coach at the University of Science and Arts of Oklahoma, an NAIA school in Chickasha, Oklahoma, since 2015. During his time, Francis has led the Drovers to five NAIA National Tourney appearances, a Sooner Athletic Conference Championship, and a Sooner Athletic Conference Tournament Championship. His 2021 squad earned the No. 1 seed at the NAIA tourney and posted a 17-3 record. The year prior, the Drovers advanced to the Elite Eight and won 22 games. His team last season went 19-10.

"A new era has begun for Chadron State College men's basketball," said Interim Athletic Director Dr. China Jude. "Coach Francis is a mentor, educator, and highly respected coach who will passionately lead our program to the next level. I am excited about the future of Chadron State basketball."

Chadron State College President Ron K. Patterson echoes Jude's comments.

"We are thrilled to have someone like Coach Francis lead our men's basketball program. Coach Francis has consistently won at the NAIA level and made it to the national tournament five consecutive years. His experience and coaching pedigree speak for themselves. More importantly, he is a leader of young men. He is passionate about his players graduating and developing young men into successful and productive citizens," Patterson said.

Francis said he's excited, as well. And he's looking forward to coaching and competing in a premier Division II conference such as the Rocky Mountain Athletic Conference.

"[Coaching at CSC] is a great opportunity to have a chance to impact another community, impact more student-athletes, and work alongside everyone at Chadron who are all so welcoming," Francis said. "President Patterson has a great vision for CSC and hearing him and the rest of the staff talk about the excitement that the future holds, made it very clear that this is where I'm supposed to be. I've always looked forward to challenges because that's where opportunity comes from, and coaching in one of the best NCAA D2 conferences in the RMAC is something I look forward to doing, along with developing relationships with coaches in the league, and also in the surrounding high schools."

Francis, who was named the Sooner Athletic Conference Coach of the Year in 2017 and 2022, has developed multiple players, including 25 all-conference selections, nine NAIA All-Americans, and his former player, Samkelo Cele, recently signed a summer league deal with the New York Knicks.

"My ultimate goal is to leave a legacy of excellence both on and off the court. I aspire to empower my players to reach their full potential not only as athletes but as individuals," Francis said. "I hope to instill a culture of hard work, resilience, and respect within the team, setting a standard of sportsmanship and integrity for years to come. Beyond the wins and losses, I aim to develop leaders who will carry forward the values learned through our program, our college, and this community. My legacy will be defined by the growth and success of the student-athletes I have the privilege to coach and mentor because if we do it this way, championships will be won."

Prior to being the head coach at the University of Science and Arts of Oklahoma, Francis was the assistant men's basketball coach for three seasons. He was responsible for all recruiting and fundraising efforts, which he continued when he became the head coach in 2015. Francis was also an assistant coach at LSU-Shreveport for one season in 2013 when the Pilots reached the NAIA Final Four.

A former student-athlete, Francis was a starting guard and captain of the men's basketball team at Rogers State University. In 2011, he helped lead Rogers State to the NAIA Elite Eight and a 30-2 record. Following that season, Francis was named the Sooner Athletic Conference Defensive Player of the Year. A sports management major, Francis was recently inducted into the Rogers State Athletic Hall of Fame.