HOUSTON — Brad Francis chose not to follow one boys basketball coaching legend. But he couldn’t do it twice.
Francis, a Russia High School grad and a familiar figure around Shelby County League sports, was named the new boys basketball coach at Houston High School at a special board meeting Wednesday night.
Francis replaces longtime coach John Willoughby, who stepped down after a 30-year career as Houston’s head coach. Willoughby is now the athletic director at Houston, and was part of the search for his replacement.
“It was very special to have John in the interview process,” said Francis. “And he’s the one that actually offered me the position. That was really special and it made replacing him all the more special, too.”
Francis coached boys basketball at Lehman under coach Henry Stolly for two years, and at Russia for 15 years under coach Paul Bremigan, who left after a 31-year career at the school and is now the head man at Troy.
Last year, Francis joined a fellow Russia grad Eric Rosenbeck, the head boys coach at St. Henry. Prior to that, he was out of coaching for four years.
“It was great,” he said of the year at St. Henry. “The St. Henry kids were great and Eric was great to work with. It got my blood pumping again, and I knew I was going to start looking after the season ended.”
When Bremigan stepped down at Russia, Francis decided not to apply for that position. “I just didn’t want to be the head coach there, for more reasons than one,” Francis said. “It just wasn’t the right fit.”
He also opted not to apply when head coach Scott McEldowney resigned at nearby Versailles. But when the Houston job came open, it was a different story — there was no hesitation.
“I was surprised when John stepped down,” he said. “I’d heard rumors for the last six or seven years. When I saw it in the Sidney paper about him stepping down, I called Ryan (Maier, Houston principal) the next morning.”
He asked Maier if anyone in the school system was planning to apply.
“He assured me there was no one, and that put me in a better frame of mind,” Francis said. “He said why do you ask? And I said I’m interested. I prepared thoroughly for the interview and I think my enthusiasm and excitement for the job showed. Paul (Bremigan), Henry (Stolly) and Eric (Rosenbeck) definitely helped me in all facets of the program, and got me ready for this.
“It’s very satisfying to end up in the county,” he added. “Without demeaning any other league, I was really hoping to land in the (Shelby County League) or the (Midwest Athletic Conference).”
Francis was a teacher previously, but now runs an advertising business, so he will not be a teacher at Houston.
“I’m not real concerned about not being in the building with the kids, but it’s definitely something I plan to address with the kids when I meet with them on Friday,” he said.
He said the Houston kids can plan on a continuing emphasis on defense like it was under Willoughby. After that, however, Francis was playing wait-and-see.
“I haven’t seen Houston much the past two seasons and I just started watching game film from last year,” he said. “So I will most likely wait on the personnel. Right now, I need to fill out my coaching staff.
“I’m very excited and anxious to get started,” he added.
It all leads up to the season opener on Dec. 2, and ironically, Houston will open at home against — you guessed it — the Russia Raiders.
Reach Ken Barhorst at 937-538-4818