Last year the Jordan boys’ basketball program hit rock bottom. The Panthers have a proud history that include CIF Southern Section championships, Moore League titles, and McDonald’s All-Americans and NBA products. But Jordan finished dead last in league last year, with a 1-12 overall record on the season.
It sparked principal Keisha Irving and athletic director Lamarr Biffle to take a big swing, and bring in former Millikan coach Chris Francis, in perhaps the splashiest hire in the city in a decade.
Francis, a disciple of the great Jordan coach Ron Massey, has deep ties to the Compton and North Long Beach area–he spoke at the ceremony where the school renamed its gymnasium as the Ron Massey Court. Because of that, and because of his success at Millikan in building a program quickly into a title contender, it’s understandable that expectations for Francis at Jordan are high. Francis, for his part, is trying to temper those expectations.
“With expectations come disappointment, so we don’t have any expectations,” he said. “Our goal was to re-establish the program and get it up and running. Last year they had nine players, this year we have three levels. That was our thing: re-establish the culture. Lay down a cement foundation when it comes to basketball.”
Francis said that with the blessing of Massey’s wife, Shirley, he took down some furniture that’s been in the coach’s office at the gym since the 1980s, bolted in by Massey. That legacy hangs enormously over a gym with Massey’s name painted on the floor.
“I still walk in the gym every morning and it’s just like, wow, this is my home now,” said Francis. “It’s a surreal feeling. I can’t put it into words.”
While Francis is tempering expectations, it’s hard not to imagine Jordan taking a step forward this season, as the team returns Damian Henderson, who’s been a star for the football team and who looks bigger and stronger every week. They’re also excited about freshman Daveyon Chisom, who Francis says has a chance to etch his name in the record books with the greatest to ever play at the school. Junior Dennis Redmond will contribute, as will freshman Jaymari Redmond, and sophomore AJ LaGrone.
“We will be competitive, we will compete and play hard,” said Francis. “Are we going to try to win? Of course. But it has to be the perfect storm for us in league. What we want is to bring that culture back to Jordan.”
The Panthers will open up at St. John Bosco this week and play in the Bellflower, Serra, and South Pasadena Tournaments to help prepare them for the Moore League gauntlet.