Olympian, coaching legend and the first basketball coach at Oshawa’s Ontario Tech dead at 48

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Published April 3, 2023 at 4:45 pm

Greg Francis 1974-2023. Photo courtesy Ontario Tech

Canadian basketball legend Greg Francis, Ontario Tech University’s first men’s basketball coach, has died. He would have turned 49 tomorrow.

Francis honed his talents with the great Oakwood Collegiate high school teams of the early 90s, helping them to three OFSSA medals, including gold in 1993.

He then went on to great success at Fairfield University in Connecticut, becoming the school’s all-time leader in three-point shots and leading them to the NCAA tournament in 1997, almost single-handedly upsetting Vince Carter and the North Carolina Tar Heels in the first round of that tournament, scoring 26 points including eight three-pointers. He was enshrined into the university’s Hall of Fame in 2003.

Francis played for a couple of professional clubs in England and on the national team from 1998 to 2003, including appearances at the 2000 Olympic Games in Sydney, Australia.

Greg Francis being guarded by Vince Carter in the 1997 NCAA tournament. Photo courtesy of the OBA

Francis joined the coaching ranks in 2004 with the national team as a development coach, a relationship that would last a dozen years. During that time he was also head coach of the University of Alberta – where he led the team to a Canada West title and a silver medal at the 2012 national championships – and the University of Waterloo until being appointed Director of Basketball Operations for the Canadian Elite Basketball League. He also filled the role as Manager and Technical Director of Men’s High Performance for Canada Basketball at the same time, with the highlight coming in 2017 when Canada won gold at the FIBA U-19 Basketball World Cup, the best-ever result for the men’s basketball program at a FIBA tournament.

In addition to his managerial role, Francis has also served as head coach with the junior men’s national team and as an assistant with the senior men’s national team at a variety of events from 2005 to 2014. This included capturing two FIBA U18 American Qualifier bronze medals in 2008 and 2010 and serving as an assistant at the 2013 FIBA World Championship in Caracas, Venezuela.

In 2018 Francis stepped into the role as head coach for Ontario Tech, preparing for the program’s first OUA season in 2019-20.

A statement from the school said Francis “laid the foundation at Ontario Tech”, starting with recruiting the first players and eventually led them to their first OUA win on January 13, 2020.

Over his two seasons as head coach, he established a team that competed with the best in the OUA and his first recruit, Graddy Kanku, was recognized as a member of the OUA all-rookie team.

Following his time with the Ridgebacks he became director of sport development for Ontario Basketball (OBA) in 2022.

“Greg provided leadership, strategic direction and support for all high performance, youth development, and coach education programs,” the OBA said in a statement mourning his loss. “The OBA was fortunate to be able to draw upon Greg’s leadership and extensive experience in basketball during his time with the organization.”

No cause of death has been announced.

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