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Suspension over, Eden Prairie boys’ basketball coach David Flom seeks to make amends

Wayzata visited Eden Prairie on Tuesday with a 10-3 record as the heavy favorite. Still, the Eagles, despite being outgunned and understaffed to enter the boys’ basketball game, received the first cheers of the night.

The gymnasium was far from full, but when Eden Prairie coach David Flom was announced during pregame introductions, he received a partial standing ovation and loud cheering for about 20 seconds.

Flom is back on the sidelines after being suspended for six weeks as the school district investigates his use of a racial slur to players and coaches as he read a post while discussing responsible use social media.

While trying to make a point that day, Flom got it wrong and sparked a controversy.

“It means so much and you don’t really know until you’re gone,” Flom said. “Never take anything for granted in that regard, when you’re in front of them. You realize how much you miss them, you miss it, you miss all the things.”

Racial slurs were not allowed in our home. My dad stressed to me and my sister and brother the importance of speaking clearly and professionally — and not swearing — in public. Hanging out with friends was OK to cut. But racial slurs were not part of our lexicon.

It’s not about being awake. It’s about being polite and respectful to others. And don’t use words you wouldn’t want to be told. It doesn’t matter what race you are, the word should not be used, especially in a school setting.

Flom shouldn’t have read the message verbatim. He could have stopped before he got to that word. But he didn’t and made a mistake he had to pay for. What’s troubling is that someone with authority on teens sent a mixed message: “Don’t use that word, even if I just used it.” I don’t know what lesson is taught there.

Flom, 390-156 in his coaching career, was candid and remorseful Tuesday as we sat in the stands and talked during the junior varsity game.

“I’m glad to have been reinstated,” said Flom, who was briefed on Monday and met with the team immediately. “I am grateful. I want to look to the future. At the same time, I know the harm I have caused and luckily I was able to start this process when I stood in front of the players and honestly shared how I was sorry for my mistake.

“I would love to be a part of any future discussions, from an education perspective and for my own learning. I have changed in terms of grace and judgment. I am excited to move forward now and to do it about the kids and the game.”

Three players left the program as Flom’s job security was in question. Two players, including Joey Flom, the coach’s son, are expected to return to the team. A third, forward Chiddi Obiazor, graduated early and headed to Kansas State, where he signed to play football. There was a chance that Obiazor stayed for the rest of the season without Flom’s suspension.

In the end, it was the Eagles players who lost the most because of Flom’s mistake and an investigation that should have taken no more than a week. But it’s time to move on and take care of the kids more and play again.

With top scorer Max Lorenson injured, Eden Prairie trailed Wayzata 49-41 at halftime. The Eagles had no answer for Trojans guard Hayden Tibbits, who buried six three-pointers while scoring 24 points in the half. Wayzata, ranked No. 6 in Class 4A, won 112-71 as Tibbits scored 33. Flom shook hands with fans and hugged the young players as they left the field. But all was not yet back to normal.

“I think in a few games it will feel normal,” Flom said. “I say this because I haven’t had the chance to be with them. We have to reorganise.”

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