Jim Flowers was given a mission when he assumed control of the Army softball team 16 years ago (1991). He was tasked with converting a successful Division II program into a flourishing Division I program as a member of the newly-formed Patriot League.
Flowers enjoyed immediate success during the program's transition period. He led Army to both the regular season and tournament titles during his first two years in the Patriot League in compiling a 30-2 mark
The transformation was completed in the new millennium when Flowers led the Black Knights to their third Patriot League championship and the automatic bid to the 2000 NCAA Tournament, in the process picking up his 200th career win. It was Army's first-ever trip to the NCAAs, but not its last. The Black Knights recaptured the Patriot League title in 2002, claiming their second championship in three years and fourth overall, along with a return trip to the NCAAs by a senior-laden squad that was part of the 2000 contingent.
Flowers took the program a step further that year with its first-ever NCAA win in school history following Army's 2-0 tournament upset of No. 5 Utah in a Region 5 game. The victory was just the second by a Patriot League school, equaling Lehigh's success at the same site (Norman, Okla.) in a 2-0 win over Seton Hall in 2001.
The Army mentor guided his squad to 31 wins, a school Division I mark, shattering the former record of 29 set in 2000. That number is the second-highest victory total in school history, encompassing Division I, II and III levels, trailing the 33 wins set in 1988.
Flowers' effort was rewarded with a pair of coaching honors. He was named the Patriot League's "Coach of the Year" for the third time, while he and his assistants were tabbed the 2002 Mid-Atlantic "Coaching Staff of the Year" by the National Fastpitch Coaches Association (NFCA), a first in his career.
In his 15 years of guiding the Black Knights, the program has averaged over 20 wins per season. Army's all-time winningest softball coach with 327 victories, Flowers joined an elite cast of present-day Army coaches - Jim Crews, basketball, and Glen Conley, volleyball - when he reached that milestone Feb. 26, 2005 at the George Washington Tournament. Flowers is the only one in that group to collect his wins on the Army sideline.
The affable mentor registered his 250th victory in Army's 2-1 "walk-off" victory over top-seed Lehigh in the championship game at the 2002 Patriot League Tournament. Two years prior, in a similar script, the Black Knights pulled out an extra-inning 12-10 decision over Lehigh for the league title and their first NCAA bid.
Throughout the 2002 campaign, Army ranked among the Top 10 teams in the Northeast Region, culminated with its highest placing of fifth. The Black Knights ranked 19th nationally in ERA at season's end and at one point stood 25th in batting average. Individually, Nicki Robbins ranked among the nation's leaders in batting along with pitchers Shauna Evans and Ashlie Christian.
Army reached the championship finals of the Patriot League Tournament the last four years, winning it in 2002 and finishing runner-up in 2003, 2004 and 2005. When the Black Knights advanced to the finals as the No. 4 seed in 2003, it was just the second time in league history that a low seed accomplished that feat. Overall, Army has advanced to the finals 10 times in the tournament's 15-year history.
Army broke its school mark for Patriot League victories in claiming 15 in 2004 along with a record seven all-star selections highlighted by Lindsey Gerheim's "Freshman of the Year" accolades. Gerheim was also selected to the Louisville Slugger/National Fastpitch Coaches Association Mid-Atlantic Division I All-Region team after earning a spot on the second team as the DP.
The Black Knights broke their league mark for all-star picks with eight selections last year as the 2005 squad broke several marks en route to being the hottest hitting team in school history. Lindsay March and Lisa Huntington picked up their fourth straight certificates, along with repeat performances by Lauren Gobar, Nikki Posey and Gerheim, bringing Army's all-star certificates to 64, with 33 first-team selections.
Army finished first in the nation in doubles in 2005, the second time in five years that the Black Knights held that spot. The squad also ranked seventh in double plays per game, 12th in stolen bases, 16th in batting average and 19th in scoring, the second straight year Army finished among the nation's leaders in double plays and stolen bases.
Flowers, whose squad reached the championship game of the Patriot League Tournament for the fourth straight time last year, has consistently ranked among the NCAA leaders, team and individually. Darcy Wilson leads the latest group, finishing seventh in doubles per game lin 2005 with 17. Lauzon ranked 15th in batting average (.420) and March closed out her career among the national leaders placing 21st in toughest to strike out. As a freshman she ranked seventh in that category and was 16th in sacrifice hits her junior year. Ashlie Christian, the school record holder for saves, ranked among the national leaders in that category in 2003 and 2004 along with placing in the Top 50 in ERA in 2002.
As a rookie coach in 1991, Flowers guided his team to a 28-13 mark, including a perfect 12-0 league record. The Black Knights placed among the national leaders in eleven offensive categories.
Army continued its winning ways in 1992, posting an 11-1 Patriot League mark while winning the league tournament and finishing just two wins shy of 30 for the second year in a row. The Black Knights (28-15) recorded their seventh straight 20-win season that year. They once again placed among the national leaders, ranking third in stolen bases (2.35), 11th in scoring average (5.14) and 24th in triples (19).
Flowers was rewarded for his efforts in earning back-to-back "Coach of the Year" citations in 1991 and 1992.
From 1993-98, Flowers went through a rebuilding stage that set the stage for the success he and his players now enjoy. With only one winning season in that span (1994 when the Black Knights reached the tournament finals for the third time in four years), Army gained valuable experience and developed several players who would later go on to win a number of league and regional awards.
During Flowers' administration, four Black Knights have won league MVP honors, and seven have been selected as regional All-Americans. Robbins was selected in both fields along with being the second Black Knight (the first was Michelle Schmidt) to garner ECAC honors.
Robbins is the first three-time MVP in league history and just the fourth player (but second Army athlete) to garner four first-team certificates. She was also a four-time first-team Mid-Atlantic Region pick.
Robbins broke just about every offensive record on the books before graduating in 2002. She ranked nationally in batting and doubles her last three years, leading the nation in doubles (0.47) and finishing sixth in batting (.443) in 2001.
Shauna Evans, a pitcher, left her mark in the Army record books in several categories to include wins, strikeouts, ERA and innings pitched. She set a Patriot league mark for wins (60) and finished second in strikeouts (556). She was named the league's "Pitcher of the Year" in 2002, the second Black Knight to earn that honor since the league went to that format in 1993, joining former teammate Sarah Hatton who was chosen in 2000.
Evans was named to the Mid-Atlantic Region second team in 2003, Gerheim was selected to that unit as the DP in 2004, then repeated next year following switch to outfield. Veronica Lauzon joined that elite group last year as the DP, becoming just the second player to earn first team honors.
The first to garner Division I Northeast Regional honors under Flowers was outfielder Jackie Patten, named to the second unit in 1991. Three years later another outfielder, Allison Miller, was selected for Mid-Atlantic second-team honors.
Flowers coached five All-Patriot League selections in 1999, headlined by Robbins, who became the first player in Army history to be a first-team selection to the Mid-Atlantic team.
In the new millennium, Jennifer Knowlden was named the MVP of the 2000 tournament after Army walked off with six league certificates. The Black Knights had five first-team picks in 2002, with Robbins also garnering tournament MVP honors.
The 2001 squad broke or tied 12 school marks, and the 2003 team earned runner-up honors at the league tournament for the third time.
In recognition of his success, Flowers was selected in 2001 and 2002 to participate in high performance seminars for the elite 18-under national softball team sponsored by the U.S. Olympic Committee.
Prior to accepting the head reins at Army, Flowers coached the varsity boys' baseball team at nearby James I. O'Neill High School in Highland Falls, N.Y. In 1988 he was named "Coach of the Year" after guiding his team to the Orange County National Conference title. He led the Raiders to runner-up honors at the sectional tournament that year.
The Army mentor enjoyed a highly successful military career which spanned 24 years. He broke into the coaching ranks during that period as a volunteer working with soldiers and children in baseball, basketball, softball and football.
In 1967 he led the men's and women's softball teams to runner-up honors at the Fifth Army Tournament. The following year (1968), he coached the men's fast pitch softball team to the Mediterranean Sports Conference championship in Adana, Turkey. In 1976, while stationed in Germany, he just missed an opportunity to coach in the Little League World Series -- losing in the semifinals.
Flowers spent a tour in the Republic of Vietnam, while his stateside assignments included Ft. Benjamin Harrison, Ind., Little Rock, Ark., Ft. Sam Houston. Texas, and West Point. He concluded his military career at West Point as the Garrison Commander.
Flowers starred at Trinity University ('65) where he earned three letters in baseball and was an All-Southland Conference pick.
One of the most respected coaches in the college softball ranks, Flowers will be on two NFCA committees this year, serving as a member on the national poll, and as the Patriot League's head coaches representative.
He married his high school sweetheart, the former Nancy Rahl, while in college. They are the parents of four children - Craig (41), Chris (37), Carrie (34) and Cliff (27) - and six grandchildren.
His oldest son, Craig, is a Lt. Col. in the United States Army assigned to DCA at West Point. Flowers' middle son, Chris, is a major in the U.S. Army Reserves stationed at Fort Polk, La. His youngest son, Cliff, a U.S. Air Force Academy ('00) graduate, is a captain in the Air Force and is currently stationed at Offutt Air Force Base in Omaha, Neb. Chris and Cliff completed tours in the Middle East. Daughter Carrie is a mental retardation specialist in San Antonio, Texas.