After years of coaching women’s college basketball, Jason Flores decided to take the dip into administration.
Flores, who has served as head women’s basketball coach of Fort Lewis College since 2012, accepted an assistant athletic director position with the Durango-based college and began his new role Thursday.
He had been a finalist for the athletic director position in April before Brandon Leimbach was named the new athletic director in place of Barney Hinkle. Flores’ official title is assistant athletic director – external relations, a new position created by Leimbach and second-year President Tom Stritikus. He will be part of FLC’s push to find more funding for the athletic department and form partnerships within the community as well as alumni across the country. Leimbach said Flores blew away the search committee and put himself in front of a quality pool of applicants.
“I want to hire great people who are hard working, and I truly think he is a great guy, a hard worker and a good fit,” Leimbach said. “We’re both on the same page of how we want to make Fort Lewis College athletics better. We share the same passion for creating opportunities for our student-athletes to have success, and we are trying to take FLC athletics to the next level.
“Jason understands building relationships and has experience in the community. Besides being a good basketball coach, he successfully raised money on the corporate partnership side, and he’s connected with individuals philanthropically and matched their interest to the college. Even as a coach, he was doing some of this external role for the past several years, and that has prepared him for the new role.”
Flores went 123-75 in his seven seasons leading the Skyhawks, including two 20-win seasons. His teams made six RMAC Tournament appearances, and in 2016, his squad became the first in RMAC history to knock off a No. 1 seed in the conference tournament as the No. 8 seed, as the Skyhawks went to Golden and beat Colorado School of Mines before later falling in the conference championship game at CSU-Pueblo.
Flores also was an associate head coach of FLC from 2000-04 on the staff of Patty Patton Shearer. During those years, FLC went 60-49 after the staff inherited a team that had gone 3-23 the previous season. Flores then left FLC to serve as the assistant coach at the University of Nebraska-Omaha for eight seasons.
He got his coaching start as an assistant at Catalina Foothills High School in Tucson, Arizona, shortly after he graduated from the University of Arizona in 1995. At Catalina, Flores was part of the school’s Class 4A state championship in 1997.
“It’s been a long time in coaching, and I’m going to miss the uniqueness of coaching,” Flores said. “You start every year with a ground point, and you’re constantly building the entire season. Every year goes a little different, but you always have those close-knit relationships and the daily competitiveness of trying to be better. It’s stressful being a coach. It might be one of the only professions where there’s a scoreboard and people write about it. That’s also the fun of it and the challenge of it. It’s always, ‘How good can we get?’ It’s about being successful and learning life lessons.”
Flores and his wife, Allison, have two young daughters, Mackenzie and Macy. As a coach, Flores instilled one lesson above all else to his assistant coaches, and that was to take care of the players as if they were their own children. It was one of the first conversations he had last season with assistant coach Orlando Griego, who Thursday was named interim head women’s basketball coach.
“I never really understood what that meant until my daughter came into the world last season,” Griego said. “With Coach Flo, it was about pushing (the players) to be good students, pushing them to be great people and then great basketball players. Make them do their best and require them to be great in anything they do. It was more the life lesson of being a good person. For me as a coach, it was about finding good people, bringing them here and helping them be great.”
It is that lesson Flores hopes to now bring to the entire FLC athletic department.
“We are going to do things for the greater good,” Flores said. “It was a hard decision to take this job because I was doing something I loved and have a passion for. The thing that overrides that is having the chance to hopefully make an impact for everyone. The servant-leadership style is important to me, and that means to help all the coaches and hopefully do good things for them and the student-athletes. That’s something I’ve wanted to do for a while now. Giving up coaching is hard, but doing something for the greater good makes it an easy decision.
“I wouldn’t have applied or accepted this if I didn’t know that our administration was going to be one the same page with that. We will have a good, working relationship, and we really need that.”