Basketball Jordan

COLUMN: Chris Francis Does It Again, This Time at Jordan

The562’s coverage of Jordan Athletics is sponsored by John Ross, Class of 2013.

A quarter of the way through the Moore League boys’ basketball season, the Jordan Panthers are on top as the only undefeated team in the league. 

This is a squad that finished sixth place last year, and was winless the season before, and sixth place the year before that. Those same Jordan Panthers are 3-0 in the Moore League headed into 2023 after blowing out Compton by 81, beating Cabrillo by 37, and then going to Long Beach Poly and handing the 13-time defending league champions a 26-point loss. It was Poly’s first loss to Jordan since 2009, when the team was coached by the legendary Ron Massey.

Still, while the numbers may surprise, the story doesn’t. That’s because this isn’t just any Jordan team–this is Chris Francis’ Jordan team. The second-year head coach has made a habit out of this type of turnaround in the city of Long Beach. 

When he took over at Millikan a decade ago, he inherited a Rams team that had gone 4-22. Over the next five seasons he went 82-52 at Millikan, including three 20-win seasons and a CIF-SS semifinal appearance in 2014. His Millikan teams packed the gym, lit up the scoreboard, and brought a level of excitement to the league that forced other coaches to respect Francis.

The one thing he didn’t bring to Millikan? A championship. That’s a hole on the mantle he’s hoping to fill this year.

When he left the Rams program after five seasons, he took with him a reputation for breeding competitive teams overnight, as well as a relationship with Millikan assistant principal Keisha Irving.

In the intervening years, Francis focused on his work with youth basketball players at the club level, and Irving became the principal at Jordan. The Panthers program was barely holding together during the pandemic, and in the restart season posted a pair of lopsided losses to Poly, 106-36, and 71-23. Irving was looking for someone to jumpstart the team–and she knew just who to call.

After the Panthers beat Poly this year, Francis showed a text message he had from Irving, with the scores of those two losses to the Jackrabbits and the words “Never forget.” It was obvious that his competitive spirit had been stamped onto his team by the way they finished Poly off in the 86-60 victory.

“We’re going to play for 32 minutes against them. When you coming at the best, you got to beat them, and you gotta beat them convincingly, and that’s what we did tonight,” said Francis.

That being said, he didn’t take over at Jordan to try and beat Poly once in the first round of the league. He came to compete for and win a Moore League championship, something he hasn’t done yet, and something Jordan hasn’t done in 13 years. Jordan will be the frontrunners in the 2023 restart, but Francis was the first to admit his team still has work to do.

It was also obvious that his confidence was as present in his team as his competitiveness. Kane Young scored 17 points for Jordan in the win over Poly. After the game he said, “We’ve been talking about it since last year, the battle on Atlantic. We just came out here with the mentality that they’re people just the same as us, we can beat them.”

Francis’ teams in the Moore League always believe they can win every game they play. So far this season, they’ve been right.

Mike Guardabascio
An LBC native, Mike Guardabascio has been covering Long Beach sports professionally for 13 years, with his work published in dozens of Southern California magazines and newspapers. He's won numerous awards for his writing as well as the CIF Southern Section’s Champion For Character Award, and is the author of three books about Long Beach history.