Irons in the Fire (Again)

The legendary ex-Vashon High School basketball coach may be in trouble with the FBI.

The Federal Bureau of Investigation is looking into the actions of former Vashon High School varsity basketball coach Floyd Irons, Riverfront Times has learned.

According to an FBI source, the probe centers on Irons' dealings in the St. Louis real estate market and began late last year. The investigation originated following "a culmination of different things," says the source, who is not authorized to speak to the media about the case.

Numerous subpoenas have been issued, and the investigation remains open because there are "a lot more people" to scrutinize than the FBI had originally considered, according to the source. It is unclear whether the nature of the probe has expanded as well.

Times are still troubled for ex-Vashon coach Floyd Irons.
Jennifer Silverberg
Times are still troubled for ex-Vashon coach Floyd Irons.

When asked about the investigation, Irons would only say, "I have no comment about that." He then hung up the phone. Irons' St. Louis attorney, Jerome Dobson, did not return phone calls requesting comment.

Irons' foray into real estate began in early 2006, during what would become his 33rd and final season coaching the Vashon Wolverines. During a five-day period in the middle of basketball season, Irons purchased three homes in different parts of the St. Louis region for a total of $1.5 million. At that time, Irons was pulling in a salary of $90,000 a year as Public High League athletic director for the St. Louis Public Schools and the head Vashon coach.

The St. Louis Post-Dispatch documented the transactions in a December article, to which Irons' response was: "I smell a rat. Somebody's trying to find something out that isn't there."

According to city and county property records, Irons purchased a four-family south-city home at 3138-3140 Michigan Avenue on January 27, 2006, for $190,000. Its previous owner had picked it up for $125,000 six months prior.

Three days after the Michigan Avenue purchase, Irons bought a four-bedroom, 3,922-square-foot, contemporary Wildwood house on 3.4 acres at 18433 Woodland Meadows Drive for $450,000. It had previously sold for $260,000 in September 2004.

On January 31, 2006, one day after acquiring the Wildwood estate, Irons bought a five-bedroom, 3,200-square-foot home at 11 Arundel Place in the highly sought-after DeMun neighborhood of St. Louis/Clayton for $830,000. In 1998 the house had been purchased for $240,000.

Irons, at the time of the purchases, lived with his wife in Normandy.

All three of Irons' new holdings went up for sale shortly after he bought them. Prudential Select Properties put the Wildwood home on the market for $519,900 on February 1, 2006, the day after Irons purchased it, according to property history reports in the MLS, a nationwide real estate database. The house was re-listed on April 17, 2006, with a price of $499,000.

On April 29, 2006, the DeMun home was listed for sale by First Midwest Realty at $895,000. And the Michigan Avenue four-family went on the market on May 9, 2006, for $219,000.

The latter listings came three months after Irons purchased the homes.

Banks foreclosed on all three properties last fall.

A 2004 Missouri Sports Hall of Fame inductee, Irons is himself a Vashon alum who racked up 802 wins and 10 of Vashon's 11 state titles in a 31-year head-coaching career that saw one player, Anthony Bonner, reach the NBA. Irons' 2004 boys' team was ranked number-one in the nation by USA Today.

Just two years later, the life of the iconic coach — once called an "urban institution" by the Post-Dispatch — was upended. In July 2006 Irons lost his duties as Public High League athletic director and coach during a highly public ouster by the St. Louis Public Schools Board of Education.

He received a teaching assignment at a middle school for the 2006-2007 year but went on a paid sick leave, where he's remained all year, after suffering chest pains during a summer workshop.

In another turn of events — viewed as retaliation against one of Irons' toughest critics, former school board president Veronica O'Brien — the board in March voted to reinstate Irons' coaching duties.

Dobson, Irons' attorney, subsequently held a news conference that began with the statement: "We're pleased to announce once again that Floyd Irons is the head coach at Vashon."

The district's public relations office quickly fired off its own press release, which said Iron had not been rehired at Vashon.

Bonner, Irons' former player, took over as Vashon's basketball coach last fall.

As for the FBI investigation, if any charges are filed, they are not expected to come before the beginning of summer.

 
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