For those not from the South, it might come as a surprise to learn that the oldest city in America is St. Augustine, Fla., a small town rich in history.
At the heart of St. Augustine is the beautiful and quickly growing campus of Flagler College, whose main building sits on King Street, appropriately named since Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. once protested and walked the downtown streets of St. Augustine.
Across the street from Flagler’s entrance, a nondescript white building sits to the right.
With its red, Spanish style shingles, the building is in architectural keeping with the rest of the city. On the façade of the building are the etched words “Flagler College Gymnasium,” the home of the Flagler College Saints.
And it is a shame that too few people have heard of this city, this college, and this gymnasium, for—like so many other unknown names, cities, and teams—a great story sits behind them.
Now an independent NCAA Division II team, Flagler was formerly a member of the Florida Sunshine Conference (FSC), an NAIA conference, for 14 years.
But times have changed.
The Flagler College basketball program has continued to grow over the years, and much of that progress can be traced to one man: Head Coach James “Bo” Clark, who recently wrapped up his 22nd season with a 20-7 record and yet another Coach of the Year award.
Outside of being a hard-working and demanding coach, Bo Clark is better known to his players and the St. Augustine community as gracious, funny, humble, and—perhaps most importantly—a man of faith.
Not only has Clark compiled 399 wins and three FSC Coach of the Year awards, he has been a mainstay at Flagler—the face of Flagler College basketball, if you will. He has also been a mentor and father-figure to literally hundreds of student-athletes who have had the opportunity to play under Clark’s tutelage.
Assisting the Flagler program is Clark’s lone assistant coach, Jimmy Link, a former Flagler player who graduated in 2003. Link played point guard for the Saints for four years and helped lead the team to an FSC Tournament Championship as a senior.
Previous to his coaching stint at Flagler, Link coached at NCAA Division III Washington College.
Link’s youth and energy have given Clark’s staff a renewed spark and improved recruiting. Coach Link has been virtually everywhere over the last two years, constantly scouring for players that would fit the Flagler bill.
A Gainesville, Fla. product, Link’s University of Florida connections—combined with Clark’s longstanding relationship with Billy Donovan—secured an exhibition contest with the two-time defending national champions, giving Flagler the distinction of being the first team to face the revamped Florida team this season.
Additionally, Coach Link’s older brother, Art, who is currently the defensive coordinator at Campbell University, lettered for the Gators’ football team and was a member of the 1996 National Championship team.
Clearly, though, what makes the Flagler train go is Bo Clark.
In 1982, at only 25 years of age, Clark took over the Flagler program, which was then a part of the NAIA District 25, a conference of 20-22 NAIA teams from Georgia and Florida.
Unmarried and with only one year of high school coaching under his belt, Clark inherited a 6-18 team and only two scholarships with which to work.
That was no matter to Clark, whose first season was the turnaround Flagler was seeking, as his team ended the year with an 18-12 record and a budding student fan base.
Today, Clark is no longer the young, single coach manipulating two scholarships—but the same intensity from 22 years ago is still there. Now married with three children, Clark has taken Flagler to new heights.
Since the 1994-1995 season, Clark’s teams have registered ten 20-win seasons—including two trips to the Sweet 16 of the NAIA National Tournament.
The good news for Flagler College is that more is in store.
In the next month, Flagler will find out if its bid into the NCAA Division II Sunshine State Conference has been accepted.
If the bid goes through, Flagler will gain many benefits: increased exposure, increased scholarships, great competition, and many other improvements.
Ironically, Flagler’s addition to the Sunshine State Conference would bring Clark full circle to his college playing days, as Clark played all four years of his college ball in the Sunshine State Conference.
Although he was offered by both Florida and Providence (among others) coming out of high school, Clark chose the Divison II route, where he became a three-time All-American.
Clark led the country in scoring with an average of 31.6 points per game in 1977, including a 70-point outburst where he went a mind-boggling 33-of-47 from the field.
And had the three-point line been a part of the game at that point, he might have gone for more than 80.
Clark still holds 13 scoring records at his alma mater, and his number 23 jersey was retired at the end of his senior year.
The school Bo Clark played for: The University of Central Florida (UCF). His coach: Eugene “Torchy” Clark, Bo’s father.
This father-son combination (and others) will be chronicled in Tim Pollock’s next Flagler College Basketball article.
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