Alma's Stan Flenor reflects on changes during his basketball coaching career

George "Clay" Mitchell
Fort Smith Times Record

The Stan Flenor era reached the end of its chapter at Alma.

Flenor has seen many changes to high school basketball, and two of the biggest ones for him were basketball becoming a year-round sport and the skill development around the three-point line.

Under Flenor's guidance, the Airedales finished 457-348 during his 31-year span with two state titles at Alma. The Airedales won six of its first seven games of the 2020-21 season and led 2-1 in 5A-West play. The Airedales finished the year by losing six of their final 10 games by eight points or less, including a pair of last-second shots.

Early on, he was also an assistant football coach splitting his time between the two sports. He didn't become a full-time basketball coach until 1998. By then, basketball was becoming a year-round sport.

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"At first, there were no AAU teams as far as summer goes. Kids would play football, and in November, we would suit up for basketball," Flenor said. "As basketball evolved in the 90s, we started to spend more time at it, which improved the players and the coaches. By 2000, players were getting better, and their skills and shooting. 

"From my standpoint, players today are so good now and well versed in the game."

Flenor said teams practiced a couple of nights a week in the early days of the off-season. When he moved over to coach basketball full time, Alma schools and Flenor knew to build a successful basketball program. They would have to change their mindset and address basketball as a year-round sport.

The school district eventually took over the youth basketball program. Players often served as coaches, and the coaches were officials. Flenor said it allowed him to form a   bond early on with the many players who came through his program.

Alma won just 102 games in the first decade of Flenor's career, but since 2001, the Airedales had 17 winning seasons and a 356-199 record.

"We had outstanding players and ones who were willing to commit to what we were trying to do. They started to buy into the program and provided us with great leadership," Flenor said. "We were so fortunate to have guys who were skilled and believed in the program. We built this program together. Watching them grown and become great adults... that's one of the biggest things in my life. We were able to change their lives and continue to be a part of theirs."

The other change, which developed alongside the players' skills evolution, was how the play began to develop around the three-point line.

"You could be a great coach and not really pay much attention to the three-point line because of how basketball was played at the time," Flenor said. "But once players and teams started to spend more time on the skill and developing plays around it, either you worked on it, or you were going to be left behind."