David Flom, the Eden Prairie boys basketball coach whose suspension for reading a racial slur to players caused controversy and whose reinstatement led to protests, resigned Friday afternoon from his coaching position.
Eden Prairie Schools suspended Flom as coach Dec. 8 after complaints about a racial slur he read to players from a social media post during a classroom session. He was reinstated in late January. The divided viewpoints about that decision showed clearly: He received a loud, 20-second ovation in Eden Prairie's gym upon his return. That was followed by protests at home games and at a school board meeting Monday.
"I have decided it's time for someone else to take leadership of the Eden Prairie basketball program," Flom said in a statement emailed to Eden Prairie basketball families. "Unfortunately, in the past several months, some people have made comments and characterizations about me that are not true and that do not accurately represent my track record at Eden Prairie. As a result of all of this, I have decided that it is best for me to step aside."
In the statement, Eden Prairie activities director Russ Reetz said:
"We have received Coach Flom's resignation as head boys basketball coach.
"Our focus now will be on providing the team with the best possible support and finding ways to heal after a difficult season."
The statement included a request to the families for "feedback from you and our players" as the school seeks a new coach.
Michael Minta, parent of an Eden Prairie player on the sophomore team and supporter of the group behind the protests, said Friday that a forum to involve parents in choosing the next coach would be welcome.
"We're relieved," Minta after about Flom's resignation. "It's a good first step in the right direction to helping the players heal. And also a good first step in terms of helping our community heal."
Flom will remain an elementary school teacher in the Eden Prairie district, where he has taught since 2006.
"As an educator, I know one of the best ways to learn is through mistakes," he said.
Where it began
An email sent to players, parents and alumni in December indicated Flom, who is white, read a racial slur aloud during a classroom session with players and assistant coaches focused on the use of social media. His suspension raised the question, familiar in academics, of whether an educator can ever be permitted to use a racial slur as part of teaching.
"In December, I inadvertently read aloud another person's use of a racial epithet in the context of teaching a lesson about the long-lasting and damaging impact of racist language and irresponsible use of social media," Flom said in the statement. "My reading of another person's words caused harm, and I am truly sorry to everyone I hurt."
Flom said he "can only ask for grace and forgiveness."
After his reinstatement, some players of color quit the team. Their families hired a lawyer who alleged Flom's language had made the basketball team hostile to Black players, and those families protested at home games late in the season. At Eden Prairie's final game of the season March 8, one sign in the crowd said, "Do you inspire each? No." Another said, "We need a uniter, not a divider."
At the school board meeting Monday, senior Jermell Taylor, a Black player who left the basketball program, said he hoped the protests would make a difference for future Eden Prairie players. "If this isn't fixed, how would other kids growing up be able to trust their coach?" he asked.
One team chose not to play Eden Prairie after Flom's reinstatement. North St. Paul canceled its Jan. 27 game at Eden Prairie; a school official said the players voted unanimously not to play.
Others familiar with Flom have said his approach is good.
"He has been outstanding with our basketball program and in the community," Sam Remus, president of the Eden Prairie Boys Basketball Association and father of sophomore player Jackson Remus, said in December. "He has a great reputation.
"He is a strong advocate for diversity and inclusion in our program."
Intentions vs. results
Flom said his intent as a coach was to teach.
"I tried to be more than just a basketball coach," he said. "I took great pride in attempting to teach life lessons to my players. Unfortunately, my execution of this particular lesson was regrettable."
He said he understands that "mistakes, even those unintended, have consequences."
Former Minneapolis North coach Larry McKenzie, who participated with Flom in a podcast in 2021 called "Racial Inequality Revisited," said Friday he hoped the situation at Eden Prairie would lead to change.
"I don't know when it will be, but at some point, we have to be able to have tough, courageous conversations," said McKenzie, who is Black.
Flom accumulated a record of 393-165 at Eden Prairie. The Eagles went 28-0 in 2020, and Flom was selected the National High School Coaches Association Coach of the Year that season. No state tournament was played that season because of the COVID-19 pandemic, but Flom coached the Eagles to eight state tournament appearances, including a runner-up finish in 2011.
"The Eden Prairie basketball program has meant so much to my family and me," Flom said. "I am hopeful Eden Prairie boys basketball continues its strong tradition under the direction of new leadership."
Staff writer Josie Albertson-Grove contributed to this report.