Gerald Myers, who will retire as Texas Tech athletic director at the end of May, likely made his last coaching hire this week.
He’s confident that hire is a good one.
Don Flora, a 42-year-old California native who spent the last two seasons as an assistant volleyball coach at New Mexico State, was introduced Friday as Tech’s head coach. He succeeds interim coach Beth Falls, who took over when Trish Knight resigned on Oct. 25, and is charged with resurrecting a program that hasn’t had a winning season since 2001.
“I feel really good. I’m really excited about what I think he can do,” Myers said. “I think he can restore our competitiveness and just restore our whole volleyball program, so that recruits will have an interest in coming here.”
Flora, who won nine consecutive conference titles and an NCAA Division III national championship during his 11 seasons as the women’s head coach at the University of La Verne in California, expects to do just that.
He said the Red Raiders, who have won only three Big 12 Conference matches in the last four seasons, have the necessary resources in place to become one of the league’s elite programs “sooner than later.”
“We set our vision high,” he said. “I look at this conference and you see what we have in place, the athletes that are here, and the opportunity to get in the top echelon of this conference is right in front of us.”
Flora said he’ll keep Falls as an assistant coach, Amy Gandy as the program’s director of operations and Theresa Bowman as its administrative assistant. He plans to hire one more assistant coach.
Flora said he’s glad to inherit some talented players, namely first-team all-Big 12 selection Amanda Dowdy, and plans to recruit the best high school players from West Texas, the rest of the state and beyond.
His first order of business is establishing a winning culture within the program. The Red Raiders are 18-100 during the last four seasons, finishing last or tied for last in the Big 12 each year.
“There’s a way we’re going to walk and talk that’s going to be different than what they’ve done before,” said Flora, who compiled a 242-56 record with the women’s program at La Verne. “I think they’ll see, when they can understand and we can start to measure our growth every day, they’re going to understand how that makes sense and how that’s going to help them reach their goals individually and how we reach our goals collectively.”
Myers said Flora, the son of a volleyball coach who was a two-time all-conference setter at La Verne, was the best candidate to help Tech reach those goals. The athletic director said he was impressed with Flora’s coaching philosophy, passion and knowledge of the game, along with his network of coaching mentors.
Flora, who said he can envision retiring in Lubbock with his wife, Jeanne, and two young daughters, intends to build a program that will impress the community and outsiders alike. And he doesn’t want to waste any time.
He become emotional when talking about a conversation he had with returning players Dowdy and setter Karlyn Meyers, who want their last season at Tech to be their best.
“Our first priority is to make sure they have a fantastic senior year,” Flora said. “That’s important to them, so we’ve got to get after that right away. It’s important right away that we get this thing going.”
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