Don Flora was named the eighth Texas Tech volleyball coach in school history on Jan. 7, 2011, and immediately began to turn the program around, leading the Red Raiders to 53 victories over the past four years, two more wins than the school earned from the previous seven seasons prior to his arrival.
The 2014 season featured both elation and heartbreak for the Red Raiders. Tech swept its 12-game non-conference streak and took its conference opener against TCU for a winning streak of 13 games, the third-best start in school history. However, bad luck and some nagging injuries caught up to the Red Raiders as they finished 14-14, which was still the program’s best finish since 2001.
In his 14 seasons at the collegiate level, Flora has totaled a 308-116 overall record for a .726 winning percentage over his career which spans stops at the University of La Verne in California as well as Texas Tech. He picked up his 300th career victory on the opening weekend of the 2013 season as the Red Raiders topped Grand Canyon, 3-1, in Odgen, Utah. Flora is one of five Big 12 Conference coaches to reach the 300 career win mark, joining the likes of Ray Bechard (Kansas), Jerritt Elliott (Texas), Jim Barnes (Baylor), Santiago Restrepo (Oklahoma). Of those five coaches, Flora has had the shortest tenure as all four of the other coaches have completed at least 16 seasons at the collegiate level.
Flora's first season roaming the United Supermarkets Arena sideline brought quite a turnaround as he led Tech to its most victories (15) since 2001. He helped the Red Raiders post the third-largest win differential in the country (+11) from the 2010 to 2011 seasons after inheriting a program that went just 4-25 the year before. It was quite the start for a first-year head coach who inherited a program that had only won 11 matches over its previous three seasons combined. Flora led the Red Raiders to that total in only his second month on the job. Backed by a roster composed mainly of freshmen and sophomores,
Flora kept the momentum going in his second season as the Red Raiders picked up their first marque victory of his tenure with a 3-1 win on Nov. 17 over No. 20 Kansas State. The victory was Tech's first over a top-25 team since the Red Raiders also defeated a 20th-ranked K-State squad on Nov. 20, 2004, in Manhattan. The fruits of Flora's first two recruiting classes boosted Tech throughout the season as the Red Raiders sported one of the more-balanced attacks with six players finishing with 100 or more kills. Tech had not previously had six or more players reach 100 kills in a season since 2001 when seven players did so. Four of Tech's six leaders in kills were all listed as either a freshman or sophomore. On the back row, the Red Raiders were led by sophomore transfer Rachel Brummitt, who snapped the school's single-season dig record with 510 in just her first season wearing scarlet and black. Brummitt snapped the Tech single-match record for digs in each of the first two weekends of the season, garnering her Big 12 Defensive Player of the Week honors each time. It was just the first time a Tech player had earned a conference weekly award in consecutive weeks.
Brummitt continued to be a defensive gem for an injury-plagued Red Raiders in Flora's third season as well, breaking her previous school record with an impressive 604 digs on the year. The junior averaged 5.16 digs per set which ended the year ranked second in the Big 12 and 25th nationally. The performance earned Brummitt a selection to the All-Big 12 second team, marking just the second All-Big 12 selection for a Red Raider since 2004. The postseason accolades kept coming in for Brummitt in 2013 as she was also named to the AVCA All-Region teams. It was the first all-region honor for a Red Raider since Melissa McGehee and Colleen Smith were both recognized following the 2000 season. Brummitt eventually received AVCA honorable mention All-American accolades.
In 2014, arguably Flora’s best year at the helm so far, Tech picked up a signature win, one the Red Raiders had not seen the likes of in a decade. Tech, behind a season-high 19 team blocks, rallied from a 2-1 deficit to defeat Baylor in Waco. The win was the first win in Waco for Texas Tech under Flora, and the first for the program since 2004.
A crowd of 1,165 at the Ferrell Center watched the Red Raiders get off to a quick start, taking the first set, 26-24, behind seven total team blocks. Baylor responded in the second by holding Tech to a hitting percentage of -.027, on their way to tying the match with a 25-17 win. Baylor kept the momentum rolling in the third, becoming the first team in 2014 to take set No. 3 from Tech, 25-21.
The Red Raiders responded in a big way, taking the fourth set, 25-15, behind another seven total blocks. In the fifth set, Baylor sprinted out to a 6-2 lead, but Tech battled back with a 6-0 run to take a 9-7 lead. Baylor then went on a 5-0 run of its own to take a 12-9 lead. The Red Raiders swung the momentum back in their direction with a 4-0 run to take a 13-12 lead, before finishing the comeback, 15-13.
Under Flora, Tech has not only attracted the top players from the state of Texas - like Brummitt or teammate Breeann David - but nationally and internationally as well. Flora and his staff traveled to Canada to sign setter Emily Ruetter in 2011 and then reached the Midwest with the addition of Brianna Grant out of Illinois and Meghan Stacy from Missouri. Flora signed another international player again in 2012 with Victoria Hinneburg, a Leipzig, Germany, native. The recruiting success continued with Tech's 2014 class with the signing of California native Alyssa Ybanez as well as Switzerland native Audrey Fragniere, whose commitment marked the third-straight year where Flora and his staff have added an international prospect. Tech's success on the recruiting trail should result in continued improvement for the Red Raiders, who boasted the most experienced club of Flora's tenure in 2014.
The 2015 class combines for five All-State honors, 10 All-District selections and three state titles. Four of the six athletes were named to the 2014 American Volleyball Coaches Association Under Armour All-American Watch List. Five of the six are form Texas, and one hails from Hawai’i. This could be arguably the most complete and talented class Flora has brought to Lubbock during his tenure, full of decorated players at both the high school and club volleyball levels.
In his 14 seasons as a head coach, Flora has recorded only three losing seasons with the first coming in his first season at the University of La Verne (Calif.), where he spent 12 seasons as head coach. The Leopards went 12-14 during his first season before finishing with 20 or more wins in nine of his next 10 seasons. Flora came to Tech following a two-year stint as an assistant coach at New Mexico State where the Aggies, consistently one of the top programs nationally, compiled a 38-22 record during that span. Flora was responsible for recruiting activities, practice instruction and game strategy and was involved in the daily development of the overall program under head coach Mike Jordan.
The desire to eventually become a head coach at the Division I level was enticing enough for Flora to leave his alma mater at La Verne for New Mexico State following the 2008 season. Already the winningest coach in school history, Flora established a winning culture unmatched by many. La Verne posted at least 20 wins in nine-straight seasons beginning in 2000 as the Leopards claimed nine-straight Southern California Intercollegiate Athletic Conference (SCIAC) titles. During Flora's tenure, the Leopards were 140-10 in SCIAC matches, boasting an impressive .933 winning percentage helped in part by five undefeated 14-0 campaigns in 2002, 2003, 2004, 2007, and 2008. As the success kept building early in Flora's tenure, so did the achievements at the national level. In only Flora's fourth season, the Leopards wrapped a near-perfect 27-1 season with the 2001 NCAA Division III National Title, the second in school history.
The title run earned Flora the Division III National Coach of the Year honor by both the American Volleyball Coaches Association (AVCA) and Volleyball Magazine. He was also named the AVCA West Region Coach of the Year, an award he was presented three more times in his tenure following the 2003, 2005, and 2008 seasons. With a national title under his belt, Flora's success kept rolling as the Leopards eventually posted their first 30-win season in 2003, which began a streak of three-straight seasons where La Verne advanced to the NCAA Final Four. The Leopards posted a school-record 33 wins a season later. The Leopards posted 27 wins in each of Flora's final three seasons at the school, which culminated in another national title match appearance in 2008. Unlike 2001, however, La Verne was topped in the championship match, falling to Emory in four sets. The match marked Flora's final appearance leading the Leopards, wrapping a successful tenure that included a 25-8 mark in NCAA Tournament matches. La Verne wrapped the year ranked in the top 10 nationally for the ninth-consecutive season, a feat only accomplished by two other programs during that span. During his tenure, Flora coached two national players of the year in Ryan Winn (2001) and Amy Smith (2003) along with seven SCIAC Players of the Year and numerous AVCA All-America selections. Flora actually got his start in coaching with the La Verne men's program in 1993, leading the squad for five seasons while also assisting with the women's program that was under renowned coach Jim Paschal at that time. He would take over as the head coach of the women's team prior to the 1998 season.
A significant weekend for @TTUVball in seeing quality future Red Raiders! So many positive stories of this program in the club VB world!
As if coaching was not enough, Flora was also involved with another significant arm of the athletics department - fundraising. He was named the Assistant Athletics Director in charge of development in 1994, a position he would hold until 2007. Flora graduated with a degree in social sciences from La Verne in 1990 before later returning to the classroom to earn his masters in the Leadership and Management curriculum in 2000. While volleyball is his main focus now, Flora chose to be a three-sport athlete collegiately, competing on the football, tennis and volleyball squads where he was a two-time all-conference setter.
In his spare time, Flora is heavily involved in the USA High Performance along with various club circuits and junior development programs in the southwest region and across the nation. His multi-faceted summer camps are among the nation's finest youth programs and have become a popular event in Lubbock since his arrival.
Flora, a native of Covina, Calif., and his wife, Jeanne, currently reside in Lubbock with their two daughters, Annika and Alexis. Jeanne Flora is a highly-regarded professor in the field of Family and Interpersonal Communication. She currently teaches via video teleconference for New Mexico State.
THE FLORA FILE
Hometown: Covina, Calif. High School: Charter Oak '86 Alma Mater: La Verne '90, '92 Bachelor's Degree: Social Sciences Master's Degree: Leadership & Management Wife: Jeanne Children: Annika, Alexis
2011-Present: Texas Tech Head Coach 2009-11: New Mexico State Assistant Coach 1998-08: La Verne Head Coach (women's) 1993-97: La Verne Head Coach (men's) 1993-97: La Verne Assistant Coach (women's)