Don Flora, the beloved head coach who has led the University of La Verne women’s volleyball team to numerous regional and national awards, has resigned after 11 years.
Flora, who also coached men’s tennis, has accepted a position as assistant coach at New Mexico State University, a Division I school.
The two assistant tennis coaches will take over his role.
“I was excited for Coach Don Flora,” said Interim Athletic Director Julie Kline. “I think this is a wonderful opportunity for him and his family.”
“It’s a different time for both myself and the team,” Flora said. “It’s like leaving my family. The head coach (at New Mexico) contacted me, Flora said. “It’s one of these things that was out of the blue.”
Under Flora the volleyball program has enjoyed continued success.
Since he took the position following renowned coach Jim Paschal, the Leopards have captured nine consecutive Southern California Intercollegiate Athletic Conferences championships from 2000 to 2008.
During those years, La Verne won five West Region championships and four NCAA final four appearances.
In 2001 the Leopards posted their best record under Flora, winning the NCAA Division III national championship.
Flora received American Volleyball Coaches Association and Volleyball Magazine Division III Coach of the Year in 2001.
Flora is also a four-time West Region Coach of the Year.
Flora’s success as a coach has spilled over into other sports as well.
Last year Flora assumed the role of head coach for the men’s tennis team. The Leopards posted an overall record of 7-14 in his first season.
Flora said leaving La Verne is not easy.
“There’s a lot of friends and colleagues on this staff,” he said. “It’s super hard thinking about leaving the day to day interactions and support of the other staff.”
His athletes say they will miss him, but are happy for his great opportunity.
“I was surprised but I was happy for him because getting a position at a higher level is a big deal,” senior Brianna Gonzales said.
Gonzales, a standout volleyball player for the Leopards last season, was selected to the First All-American team.
Gonzales credits her success to Flora’s teaching.
“It was great, I learned so much from him,” Gonzales said. “He helped me develop to play at a high level.”
“It’s hard because Don is a great coach and he ran a heck of a program,” junior volleyball player Crista Jones said.
A a search for Flora’s replacement has not started yet Kline said, but potential candidates have contacted Kline.
“This program is bigger than all of us,” Flora said. “They have a chance to be stellar next season.”
“We all wish him continued success,” Kline said. “He’s a quality coach.”
Jonathan Smith can be reached at email@example.com.