Carla Fles Inducted Into the Grand Rapids Sports Hall of Fame
by Allison Todd (B.A. & B.S. ’18)
Fles coached at CU from 1999-2012. As a first-time coach, she had immediate success leading the Golden Eagles to the WHAC Regular Season title in her first season 1999-2000 and WHAC Tournament title in 2001 which qualified them for the NAIA National Tournament for the first time in school history.
And her career didn't end there. Throughout her time at CU, Fles led the women's basketball team to the NAIA Division II National Tournament eight times and accumulated a school record of 301 wins. She was also awarded WHAC Coach of the Year three times during her 13 seasons.
"The experiences I had as an athlete gave me the desire to pursue a career in coaching," Fles said. "It was a perfect fit when I was given the opportunity to coach at Cornerstone University and be a part of building a nationally recognized NAIA program in Grand Rapids."
Those successes added on to an already excelling athletic career that began at South Christian High School where she led her team to an undefeated season and the Class B State title in 1988. From there, she went on to become the second all-time leading scorer and leading shot-blocker at Central Michigan University before pursuing a professional career overseas.
"Being inducted in the Grand Rapids Sports Hall of Fame is a huge honor," Fles said. "As an athlete, winning the 1988 Class B high school state championship is my favorite sports memory. To be able to achieve a team goal, winning a state championship, with your friends is a very special moment.
"I am humbled that the committee chose me to be honored in this way and it's also special that I am the second Sterk to be recognized by the GRHOF along with my sister Valerie Sterk Kemper who was a 2007 inductee."
Along with the Grand Rapids Sports Hall of Fame, Fles has been recognized at other schools for her achievements. In 2015, she was inducted into the CU Athletic Hall of Honor for not only her distinguishing awards on the floor, but also as a mentor to the student athletes off the floor.
"You aren't going to find too many people who are in the Grand Rapids Sports Hall of Fame that didn't have a huge career in sports, but I think once you go on and what you do after your sports career and the impact you have on the community, that's the important thing," Aaron Sagraves, assistant athletic director for external relations and communications, said. "We are in higher education to bring students along at a very critical time in their lives, and Carla was a huge part of that. When you are in the moment, you don't necessarily see it, but then you see all the people who are coming back for alumni games and the Golden Eagle Club. They all were coached by Carla, and she's still connected to their lives."
The Grand Rapids Sports Hall of Fame is a large recognition for any individual and in the last five years Fles is the second inductee to have ties with CU, along with current women's basketball head coach Katie Mattera.
"Carla has been such a great connector of the past and the present," Sagraves said. "She's still involved in all of our alumni relations of women's basketball, the Golden Eagle Club, she sits on our Hall of Honor committee and she knows and understands the past and how it paves the way for the current student athletes. That's the legacy she has."
Fles continues her passion for coaching today, but at a different level leading her fourth-grade son's basketball team. She resides in Byron Center with her husband Ron and two kids, Joshua and Ellie.