OAKLAND CITY, Ind. (WFIE) -The Oakland City University Administration has concluded a national search and has named Ken French as the new head coach of the Mighty Oaks men’s basketball team. Coach French comes to OCU having most recently been the coach of the University of Rio Grande. He spent 14 seasons as the men’s basketball head coach at the University of Rio Grande. Prior to becoming the head coach of the RedStorm, he spent six seasons as the program’s top assistant coach.
”Oakland City University is excited to welcome Ken French as our next men’s basketball head coach,” OCU President Dr. Ron Dempsey said. “Ken’s coaching experience, his familiarity with the River States Conference and NAIA, and his commitment to discipline and excellence makes him the right person to be our new men’s basketball head coach.”
A native of Huntington, West Virginia, French is a 1987 graduate of Buffalo-Wayne High School, a 1988 graduate of Fishburne Military School in Waynesboro, Virginia, and a 1993 graduate of West Virginia State College. French received his masters degree in sports management from Nova Southeastern University in 2007.
“I am very excited to add Ken French to our staff,” stated OCU Athletic Director T-Ray Fletcher. “He brings a wealth of experience both within the conference and on the court. A man of high character, Coach French will be a great leader for our program moving forward. He will hit the ground running and I am excited to watch him lead our team.”
He began his coaching career at Bluefield College as a student-assistant, then transitioned to the high school level, spending four seasons as an assistant coach at Huntington St. Joseph Central Catholic High School before a two-year stint as an assistant at Ceredo-Kenova High School.
French’s collegiate coaching career began as an assistant coach at Tusculum College in Greeneville, Tennessee, where he spent three seasons as the top assistant and NCAA compliance officer before going to Rio Grande in 1999. Upon his arrival at Rio, French helped guide the men’s program to a pair of appearances in the NAIA Division II National Tournament, including a Final Four berth in 2001.
West Virginia University Tech’s men’s basketball coach James Long said, “Ken French is a phenomenal hire for Oakland City University. He embodies what NAIA Basketball stands for. He is a Champion of Character. When I was new to WVU Tech last year, I was lost and looking for guidance. Ken went out of his way to ensure that I was comfortable moving forward. I am thankful for his mentorship into NAIA Basketball, the River States Conference, and building a program. Oakland City, under Ken’s guidance, will represent all of the right things on and off the court. His teams compete the right way. I look forward to having Coach French back in the River States Conference.”
As Rio’s head coach, French’s teams have served as an on-court demonstration squad for Championship Productions instructional DVD’s at Nike Coaching Clinics in New Haven, Connecticut, Myrtle Beach, South Carolina, Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, and Cleveland, Ohio.
Under French’s direction, Rio Grande’s summer basketball camps - the Little Storm Day Camp and the Individual “Hard Work” Camp - saw the number of participants grow to record levels. He was instrumental in the development of the Rio Fall Basketball Academy.
French served as the school’s NAIA “Champions of Character” Initiative director for the entire URG athletic program for 14 years. He was certified by the NAIA as a “Champions of Character” instructor in October 2005. He also is a member of the Nations of Coaches organization whose mission is to honor Coach Naismith’s spiritual design for the game, by empowering men’s college basketball coaches across the country to leave a legacy of excellence.
Nations of Coaches Regional Director Mike Lightfoot, who previously served as the head coach at Bethel University where he won seven National Championships, commented, “I am very happy for Coach French as well as for Oakland City University. The OCU administration took the opportunity to fill the position with a coach who knows NAIA basketball and the River States Conference, and who will be there for the long term. I think it is a really good hire. Coach French is the right man for the job and will be the leader the Mighty Oaks need going forward.”
The men’s basketball program had a near perfect graduation rate of its seniors during French’s tenure as head coach, graduating every senior that exhausted their eligibility except for one. His teams earned four NAIA Scholar Team Awards, four NABC Team Academic Excellence Awards, and were named the 2017 Buffalo Funds Champions of Character Team of the Year. He coached three NAIA All-Americans, 12 NAIA Scholar Athletes, and 29 NABC Honors Court Student-Athletes.
French is the founder and co-director of the NAIA Classic “The Show” played in Kingsport ‚Tennessee. This premiere holiday event features some of the best men’s and women’s teams from across the country. The event will have (14) men’s teams and (6) women’s teams participate in 2021 during Thanksgiving weekend.
Coach French has been very active on the national level as well. He was elected to serve on the NAIA-NABC Executive Board where he was the vice president. He also served on the NAIA DII tournament committee, the DII All-American committee and the DI tournament committee. In addition to being on the oversight committee for the national top-25 poll. All of these duties while serving as the chair of men’s basketball and champions of character for the River States Conference. French was also instrumental in the development and selection process for the NAIA All-Star/Shoot and Slam event.
He and his wife, Tonya, have two children, son Tre and daughter Ali.
Courtesy: OCU Athletics