Tony Francis is entering his eighth season as the head coach of the Lindenwood women’s basketball program in 2017-18. Francis turned the women’s basketball program around in his first season, and then led the program through its transition to the NCAA Division II level. He enters the 2017-18 season with a head coaching record of 89-109.
Last season, the Lady Lions had one of their best seasons at the NCAA level, which concluded with Lindenwood making the MIAA Tournament Semifinals. The Lady Lions had six more wins despite having 63 percent of its minutes filled with freshmen and sophomores, and the team’s top four scorers all being first-year players.
The Lady Lions won 12 games in the regular season, including seven in MIAA play. Among the highlights were snapping Fort Hays State’s 25-game home winning streak, and a two-point road victory late in the year at Central Missouri. In the postseason, Lindenwood won a first-round MIAA tournament game at Nebraska-Kearney, its first MIAA postseason win. In Kansas City, the Lady Lions upset regular season champion Pittsburg State in the quarterfinals, before falling by two in the final seconds of its semifinal contest.
Francis helped Kallie Bildner be named the MIAA Freshman of the Year, and she was also named honorable mention all-MIAA. Bildner was also named to the WDIIB All-American All-Freshman team, and was twice the MIAA Player of the Week. Lindsey Medlen was named to the MIAA All-Tournament squad.
Off the court, 12 players were named to the MIAA Academic Honor Roll. Megan Foster also received the MIAA Academic Excellence Award, and Bildner was a MIAA Scholar-Athlete.
In 2015-16, Lindenwood continued its streak of MIAA Tournament appearances by making it for the third straight season. Among the team’s victories during the year was a 77-60 win over Northern State, an eventual NCAA Division II Tournament team.
Kassidy Gengenbacher earned all-MIAA honors for the third team, and Jenny Rocha was honorable mention for the second-straight season. After the season, Rocha signed a contract with the St. Louis Surge in the Women’s Blue Chip Basketball League. Academically, Gengengacher was again a MIAA Scholar-Athlete, and a total of 13 players were named to the MIAA Academic Honor Roll.
In 2014-15, Francis led Lindenwood to a perfect regular season non-conference record, including wins over regional NCAA Division II rivals McKendree and Missouri-St. Louis. The conference season included a win over No. 8 Washburn and a trip to the MIAA Tournament.
Gengenbacher was a second-team all-MIAA player for the second straight season, and Rocha earned honorable mention all-conference honors. In the classroom, the Lady Lions also continued to excel with 11 players earning MIAA Academic Honor Roll honors, and Gengenbacher was a MIAA Scholar-Athlete for the second time.
Lindenwood joined the MIAA in 2012-13 and went through a rebuilding phase that first year. The rebuilding did not last long as the Lady Lions improved by ten wins in 2013-14. Lindenwood went 14-14 overall on the season and finished seventh in the MIAA with a 9-10 mark. The Lady Lions not only advanced to the MIAA Tournament in their first season of eligibility, but hosted a first-round contest. Lindenwood also earned a postseason bid to the ECAC Division II Women's Basketball Postseason Championship. The Lady Lions recorded one of the biggest wins in program history in January with a road victory over top-10 Central Missouri.
Gengenbacher was named the MIAA Freshman of the Year for 2013-14 and was also an all-MIAA second-team selection. Gengenbacher was also named to the national all-Freshman team. Off the court, Lindenwood had the top team GPA at the school with a 3.759 for the year. Gengenbacher received the MIAA Academic Excellence Award and the MIAA Scholar-Athlete award, and Caroline Bourlioux was named the Lindenwood NCAA Female Student-Athlete of the Year. A total of 11 players were named to the MIAA Academic Honor Roll.
Francis took over a Lindenwood program in 2010-11 that had not had a winning season in nine years and promptly had one of the top turnarounds in the NAIA.
Lindenwood went from nine wins to 21, finished second in the HAAC with a 15-5 record, and just missed a NAIA Division I Tournament bid by one spot. Three Lady Lions were named to the All-HAAC squad and Morgan Harrington was named to the NAIA All-American team. Francis was also named the Conference Coach of the Year.
The next season, the Lady Lions went 17-10 as they started its transition to the NCAA level. The season marked the first time since 2000-01 that Lindenwood had back-to-back winning campaigns. After the season, three Lady Lions received postseason honors. Marissa Lehnig and Caroline Bourlioux were named to the second team all-ICAA, and Sarah Schnieders was named third-team all-ICAA.
Before accepting the head coaching position at Lindenwood, Francis spent eight seasons as an assistant coach at NCAA Division I, Saint Louis. At Saint Louis, Francis was the recruiting coordinator and he helped the Billikens land some of the top talent in the St. Louis area and beyond. He was also in charge of developing the team’s post players. In his final years at the school, he was a mentor to center Amanda Kemezys, who earned Atlantic 10 all-conference honors her final two seasons. He also signed Theresa Lisch, who was a first-team all-conference and Academic All-American at Saint Louis.
Francis helped the Billikens win 82 games. He was a member of the staff in 2002-03 when the team finished fifth in the Atlantic-10 and advanced to the WNIT. That squad had the second-best winning percentage at Saint Louis over the last 23 years.
Prior to coaching at Saint Louis, Francis was a successful head coach at Silex (Mo.) High School from 1994-2002. In eight years, he led the Owls to a 159-67 record and won five district and five conference championships. His top team came in 2001 when Silex won the Class 1A Missouri state championship. Francis coached five All-State players and nine players earned college basketball scholarships. He was named the 1A Coach of the Year after his state championship season. He was the Lincoln County Coach of the Year five times and District Coach of the Year once.
Francis played basketball at Culver-Stockton College. He then begin his coaching career there as a men’s student assistant, helping the team win the 1991 HAAC Championship. He graduated from Culver-Stockton in 1991 with a bachelor’s degree in physical education.
Francis and his wife, Rhonda, have two daughters, Lexis and Arianna.