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Twitter – @wbbcoachfinch
Brianna Finch joined the Boston University women’s basketball staff in June, 2021 as the program’s assistant coach and recruiting coordinator.
Finch previously served as Davidson’s director of player development for one season where she assisted with opponent scouting, film analysis, player development and recruiting efforts. Prior to her time with the Wildcats, Finch spent a year as an assistant coach at Florida International University and spent the prior three seasons on staff at Barry University.
Finch additionally led the New Mexico Highlands University program for two seasons and got her first head coaching position with the Lemvig Basketball Club in Denmark in 2013. Brianna started her collegiate coaching career at Santa Rosa Junior College in 2002.
Finch was selected as one of 30 participants for the 2019 Women’s Basketball Coaches Association’s NEXT UP program.
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Grab a notebook and pen before you listen to this episode with Brianna Finch, Women’s Basketball Assistant Coach and Recruiting Coordinator at Boston University.
What We Discuss with Brianna Finch
- Coming to the game late at age 13 by playing at recess with a friend
- Winning a free throw contest as kid…shooting underhand
- Her Dad asking her how good she wanted to be at the game
- Writing to Tara VanDerveer, Jody Conradt, and Pat Summitt asking for their workouts
- Her high school buzzer beater
- Her Mom’s list of 75 questions for the coaches that were recruiting her in high school
- The adjustment from high school to college as a player
- Coaching for the first time with a 7th grade AAU team
- Making less than $10,000 for the first 6 or 7 years of her career and not really caring because she loved coaching
- Balancing your personality with your coaching
- Her experience as a young head coach at Mt. Hood Community College
- The methods she uses to learn and grow as a coach
- How to develop a coaching philosophy
- Her belief in empowering players and giving them freedom
- Letting players make reads and decisions as an integral part of her practices
- Practice advice: Always have a defense, try to make it competitive, teach out of game situations, give specific feedback
- Teaching, Training and Competitive Drills each should be coached differently
- Why she takes notes during practice
- The need to be intentional when it comes to feedback
- The learning curve for players to adjust to her approach in practice
- Building trust with players
- Three characteristics she values in assistant coaches – loyal, creative, and autonomous
- Two characteristics she values in a head coach – give assistants freedom to use their experience and challenges them to grow
- The joy of watching her players improve
- The challenge of dealing with the pandemic
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THANKS, BRIANNA FINCH
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TRANSCRIPT FOR BRIANNA FINCH – BOSTON UNIVERSITY WOMEN’S BASKETBALL ASSISTANT COACH & RECRUITING COORDINATOR – EPISODE 518
[00:00:00] Mike Klinzing: [00:00:00] Hello and welcome to the Hoop Heads Podcast. It’s Mike Klinzing here without my co-host Jason Sunkle tonight, but I am pleased to welcome to the podcast, assistant coach and recruiting coordinator for Boston University, Brianna Finch, Brianna, welcome to the Hoop Heads Pod.
Brianna Finch: [00:00:15] Thank you. Thank you so much for having me. I’m excited.
Mike Klinzing: [00:00:19] We’re excited to be able to have you on and talk some basketball, learn a little bit more about your career. You have been in a lot of places, so I’m excited to dive into sort of the, when the, why the, how of your career. Let’s start though, by going back in time to when you were a kid, tell me a little bit about how you got into the game of basketball when you were younger.
Brianna Finch: [00:00:38] Yeah, I it’s funny, actually, I started later than most. I didn’t actually start playing basketball till I was about 13 years old. And it was kind of by chance, my best friend in fourth grade wanted to play during recess one day. And so I was like, okay, [00:01:00] let’s play back, it really was at recess in elementary school.
And we started playing and you know, I thought it was kind of fun and I didn’t really think anything of it. You know, I was more of a bookworm growing up. You know, didn’t really have athletics in my brain, even though my dad was a minor league baseball player for 10 years. And yeah, we played at recess and I was like, oh, that’s kind of fun.
And then we played a couple more times and then. Kind of started to get into it. My dad and ended up putting up a hoop on our garage. It was probably only eight feet. It was slanted because of our driveway. But I, from that point on, I was hooked. I kind of I just became enthralled in it and playing and spent hours in the driveway and then played in my first like organized league at the Y YMCA.
I was the only girl. And that’s kinda where it all started.
Mike Klinzing: [00:01:57] Your dad did your favor by having a lower basket [00:02:00] probably. Right. He didn’t did it at fit it by accident, but maybe he did you a favor?
Brianna Finch: [00:02:04] Well, I actually have a funny story about that. Yeah. So my dad, my dad taught me he was my first coach and he taught me how to play.
And obviously he was a great athlete and but I, when I was learning how to shoot, he wouldn’t let me. He wouldn’t let me shoot overhand, like too far out, otherwise it would sacrifice my form. And so I did I did a free throw contest when I was about probably 12 or 13, right when I started playing and I did it underhand old Rick Barry style and I won.
So go figure you didn’t stick with it though. I didn’t know. I, I kind of, I perfected my shooting form and kind of from then on kind of went overhand and normal shooting form, but I did win a contest, shooting underhand.
Mike Klinzing: [00:02:56] Do you think anybody besides the Berry grandkids, do you think [00:03:00] anybody will ever shoot that way again?
Brianna Finch: [00:03:02] No, probably not.
Mike Klinzing: [00:03:04] It seems though, like somebody you just think about guys who really struggle or females who really struggle in the game and the shooting free throws and. It just seems like somebody would be willing to sort of swallow their pride and at least give it a shot. Like couldn’t Ben Simmons, give it a try.
And just, I mean, if you’re shooting 34% from the free throw line, it’s obviously in your brain and that’s has nothing to do with his physical capabilities, it’s obviously all mental and it just seems like somebody would take the plunge and give it a shot. But you’re probably, you’re probably right. We’re probably not going to, if we haven’t seen it yet, we’re probably not going to see it.
But it seems like a solution that if you were struggling as much as the guy like Simmons, is that why not give it a shot?
Brianna Finch: [00:03:52] Yeah, no, I agree. I mean, you’re like you said, what can it hurt? I mean, yeah, you can’t do much worse.
[00:04:00] Mike Klinzing: [00:04:00] You could shoot blindfolded, I think, and maybe shoot 34%. It seems like he could probably get up, get up there and do that.
But how long was it after you had that first experience at recess until. You started to take the game more seriously? Was it nearly instantaneous to take you six months? Was it just a, how long was that process where you went from, Hey, this is kind of fun to, Hey, I really want to get good at this game.
Brianna Finch: [00:04:25] I kind of became infatuated with the game pretty quickly.
I mean, I kind of went from that first league that I played in at the YMCA. And then from there I got picked up for an AAU team or I got asked to play on an AAU team and then just kind of never looked back. But I do remember, like I said, I probably started playing when I was 12 or 13.
And I remember in the back. [00:05:00] Probably eighth grade end of my eighth grade year, maybe. You know, so not too much later, maybe a year or two later, my dad kind of having a conversation with me and was just like, well, how, like, how serious do you want to take this? How good do you want to be? You know, what what, what do you want to put into it?
You know, not, not in a pressure way. My parents never pressured me. But it was just kind of more like people were realizing I had the potential to possibly play in college. Is that something I wanted? And you know, if it was kind of what, what that trajectory would look like, and if you know, it was, I willing to put in the hours, was I willing to do the extra strength training and things like that, which was not anything like it is today.
I mean, this was, I don’t want, they met how long ago it was. It was a much, much, much different era. You know, I only played for one a team, my entire career, which is [00:06:00] unheard of these days. So but yeah, I mean, it was probably a year and a half, two, maybe, maybe two years at the most kind of a transition from picking up a ball to, yeah.
I want to play in college. I want to be pretty good. I want to see what I can do with this game.
Mike Klinzing: [00:06:17] You did get serious. How did you figure out what to work on? What to practice, what to do? Obviously today we know players just either they have a trainer or they have a coach or they’re on YouTube and they can find things.
But back in the time when you were growing up and certainly the time when I was growing up, I just had to kind of figure it out and put stuff together. So how did you, what did your workouts look like and how did you figure out what they were going to look like when you were working on your game by yourself?
Brianna Finch: [00:06:45] Yeah, that’s a good question. I, I kinda I was very creative, made up a lot of stuff I, and I entertain myself and kind of I [00:07:00] watched a lot of basketball you know, whatever, whether it was college or MBA. I I tried to watch it on TV as much as I could and as much as it was on at that time you know, and tried to pick up things that way.
I actually, I can’t remember when, how old I was, but I wrote to I wrote to pat Summitt at Tennessee. I wrote to Tara Vanderveer at Stanford. I wrote to Jody Conrad at Texas. You know, I didn’t realize, I don’t know, by the time I did time. Nope. I went right the top. I think I had a book. Somebody had given me a book on women’s basketball and they were all in it and that’s how I kinda came up with my list.
And Stanford was always my dream school. I grew up in Northern California. And so but anyways, I wrote to them and I asked like would you send me what your [00:08:00] strength training, you know summer St strength training, booklet look like, or would you send me sample workouts and whatnot.
And actually both Stanford and Texas. Responded and sent me their, their workouts. And so I kind of use those as some of my guide. And for many years I kept them. I think I finally in all my moving around for coaching, I probably don’t have them anymore, but you know, that I, that was pretty cool.
And that was kind of one of the ways I I used that and just like, I kind of like you, I just, I was very creative. I had to be creative. We didn’t have, like you said, I didn’t have a trainer. I didn’t have the internet. I didn’t have YouTube videos or anything like that. It was just me and the driveway and my dog would play defense on me.
And my dad would coach me and rebound, my mom would rebound like whoever, whoever was there would rebound. And that was kind of how, how it went.
Mike Klinzing: [00:08:59] Exactly. [00:09:00] That’s amazing. Just the difference. In the way that players had to work on their game at that time versus the way that players have, what they have the opportunity to be able to do today.
What’s your favorite memory from playing high school basketball?
Brianna Finch: [00:09:15] Ooh, high school. I probably, we, so I tr I played at one school high school my freshman year, and then our family moved and I played the last three years at a different high school. And right after I transferred and was at the new school, I was acclimating to a new team and I was just sophomore coming in, playing on varsity.
People were still trying to figure me out and not, I wouldn’t say threatened by me, but just kind of like, who’s this, who’s this player coming in. And people knew who I was and stuff like that. And we were playing in a team. And it was up in lake Arrowhead in California and we were camping.
[00:10:00] We were camping. We were playing in a tournament. We were camping. Okay.
Mike Klinzing: [00:10:03] So what’s the best combination for
Brianna Finch: [00:10:07] team bonding? I guess supposedly, I don’t know if that’s was, like you said, smartest idea with 15 girls, but no showers or one shower or whatever it was. But anyways, we were playing in that tournament and played in our championship game and I hit a three to at the buzzer to win it.
And everybody like dog piled and everything like that. And it was just, it was it was a really good memory just because of, like I said, I was, I was a new person. I was coming into a team that had been together two years or three years of players. And they all grew up in junior high and stuff like that.
And you know, I just kind of was a, it was a welcome and kind of an opportunity where we just kind of all came together and you know, the program we did really well, the last the three years I was there. And but I, I do [00:11:00] still remember, I could, I could even tell you where the shot was.
It was in the right corner. It was a corner three. I don’t remember the play. However, I don’t know how I remember how I got the shot, but I just remember it was the right corner. So
Mike Klinzing: [00:11:12] you don’t have a, you don’t have a tape of it, huh?
Brianna Finch: [00:11:14] No, no. That’s stupid. If people there’s, I think there’s one VHS tape of one of my college games and that’s probably only the only video of me playing.
Mike Klinzing: [00:11:28] It’s funny. I like, I have, I have a buzzer beater from high school that I have video of, and I probably remember, I remember more the video, like I have very few, like I have maybe one tiny mental picture of what it was actually like being there. And I’m, I’m more remember now the video, cause I’ve watched it so many times that, that, that has sort of supplanted, whatever real memory I had has been [00:12:00] supplanted by.
The video, but there’s nothing better than a buzzer beater as a player. It’s it’s just, I, again, it’s so much fun. And obviously as it stood out for you as one of your favorite memories, anybody who gets a chance to do that, you think about all the people that play basketball and very few get the opportunity to, at whatever level, to be able to make a buzzer beating basket.
So it’s always a, it’s always a fun one. What was your recruiting like?
Brianna Finch: [00:12:26] It was vastly different than now, especially as being someone who’s on the other side of it. It I mean, it was exciting at the time. I mean, I don’t know. I really don’t know how I would describe it. It was
Mike Klinzing: [00:12:47] Did you ever realist, were you realistic about where you were going to go?
Yeah. Were you realistic about where you thought you could go? Did you have an understanding of the process? That’s what I always feel like that I was completely in the dark when it came [00:13:00] to a level that I could play at because my high school coach didn’t really ever have a player that was kind of on my level.
My parents had never been through it. I had never been through it. There wasn’t really anybody necessarily around me. So it was kind of just flying by the seat of my pants. And that’s how I felt like if I was being recruited today, even if I was the exact same player, things would’ve gone differently because I would have had a better understanding of what it was that I should have been expecting and should have been looking into to try to do to better my opportunity.
Brianna Finch: [00:13:32] Yeah, no, I think and that’s a really good point. I mean, it was, I was very fortunate, like you’re right. My, my, my, I mean, my dad had gone through it with baseball in high school a little bit. So he kind of understood the process in some capacity. You know, my AAU coach though had, had, had a player oh gosh, she was three or four years older than me.
She was like my [00:14:00] idol growing up. She went to Texas and played at Texas. And, and then there were three or four other players on my AA program that also played high school for him who were going through the process who were division one players as well. And about low, low, mid major level, like I was, and so he had a pretty good understanding and could kind of, but I mean, he didn’t influence the decision.
And so, I mean, I, I guess I had a realistic, I I realized pretty early on I wasn’t going to end up at with you know, I did actually get a few letters from factful schools, but but not Stanford. And, and that was okay. My mom did a bunch of research. She read, I mean, that was just kind of her personality, but she read a bunch of books.
She had, I do remember when we had probably three or four home visits and my mom had a list of like 75 questions. Like she had typed out. [00:15:00] And again on the typewriter, cause this was a long time ago. She had typed out you know, all these questions and I was thoroughly embarrassed. Anytime the coaches would come visit, but they were I look back now and they were great questions.
I mean, she asked like how long their contracts were and what would happen to my scholarship. If I were to have a career ending injury, like things, I mean, 20, was it 23 years ago, whatever people wouldn’t have even really thought to ask. And she had those on her list and I was like, wow. But I mean, yeah, I, I, my, my process was pretty, like I said, it was pretty straightforward, pretty realistic.
I went on three official visits and you know, made a decision. I kind of knew where I wanted to go based on the coaches and who I talked to on the phone a lot. And you know, went on my visit there really enjoyed the team and that’s I ended up committing to the university of Portland.
Mike Klinzing: [00:15:57] What was the adjustment like when you get to college? Both as a [00:16:00] student and as a player.
Brianna Finch: [00:16:02] Oh, it kicked my butt. It as a student, it was not that bad. I was as a pretty good student being, I mean, I didn’t go that far from home, but that was an adjustment for me. Again, just because as a student, like you don’t, I mean, once I was there, I didn’t get to go home again until Christmas.
And even then it was like for three days. So I was, I was pretty homesick. My first year, especially the adjustment basketball wise I thought I was prepared. I had done everything I’ve followed the summer schedule. You know, I had done the running, I had done the weightlifting, like I, I thought I was prepared and I was not it was faster than anything I thought And all in all facets, physically, mentally like every, you had to be able to react so much quicker.
Thanks so much quicker. Everybody was strong. Everybody was, you [00:17:00] know, just on a whole nother level. And, and I didn’t realize you had to be ready to perform every single day. And I think that was the biggest, or one of the biggest challenges for me was you, not that I I thought I worked hard in high.
I was dedicated you know, you can, obviously you can take days off or you can take games off or things like that and still be the best player in the gym. And when I got to college, like if I took a day off mentally or kind of like, didn’t, wasn’t ready to perform at my best, like I was just going to get blown away and we had five seniors.
That my freshman year, who were three of them were all conference and they had no sympathy for us freshmen. And they took it to us anytime they could. And I mean, they were great. They were great leaders, but on the [00:18:00] court, like they challenged us to be better. And I just remember, like, they, I thought they hated, I thought one of them hated me.
And I learned probably midway through my sophomore year that she was like that she thought I was like, great. Like, she was like, you are one of my favorite my favorite freshmen. It’s funny. I was like, really? Cause I, you hated me. And like, and she was like, no, like I appreciated how hard you worked and how hard you committed to everything and things like that.
So go figure.
Mike Klinzing: [00:18:37] Do you use those experiences? As a coach, obviously they’re a little bit further in the past than maybe when you were a younger coach, but do you still use stories of your own personal experiences with players when you see something maybe similar happening on one of the teams that you’ve coached?
Brianna Finch: [00:18:55] I, a little I think at this point in my [00:19:00] career, I have so many more coaching experiences that that’s what I referenced most of the time. And, and like we’ve talked about it, was it just such a different era in every way? That I don’t know if my experiences would necessarily translate as well.
You know, to the players, I’m coaching now or the players I’m recruiting now. I mean, in some capacity maybe, but I like I said, I, I tend to draw more from my coaching experiences just because. I’ve been doing it quite a long time now.
Mike Klinzing: [00:19:35] Absolutely. How, when did coaching get on your radar?
Brianna Finch: [00:19:40] In grad school or right before grad school?
I didn’t really know what I wanted to do. Like a lot of college students you know, I started in one major a it wasn’t what I thought it was going to be. I ended up changing my major. I went into business and marketing, [00:20:00] honestly, because my roommate and best friend was in that and I didn’t know what I wanted to do.
And she was a marketing major and I was like, oh, that sounds cool. Thought I’d go work for Nike and live happily ever after doing that and graduated from started thinking about what am I going to do after college? And wasn’t really ready to. Go into the workforce or work in marketing and doing cold calls.
So I went to grad school and when I, my first year of grad school, I coached a seventh grade AAU team. And I honestly don’t remember how I grew up roped into coaching them. But it was, it was hilarious for starters because they were not like they had no interest in really actually playing basketball.
It was just like a social hour for them. But I tried to teach them a little bit of basketball and a little bit of time I got with them and in our little local tournaments that we played in, I [00:21:00] loved it. I would literally run up and down the sideline with them, trying to coach them because they had no idea what they were doing.
And apparently whatever I was teaching in my practice was so no, it had to be much more, yeah. Hands on in a game. So I w I would run up and down the sideline pointy and I, the first tournament I coached in, I lost my voice just because I was probably I was doing the play by play as I was coaching them.
And you know, from there, I was like, oh, that’s kind of fun. Like, I kind of enjoyed that, even though, like I said they weren’t, they were not basketball players. They were just seventh grade girls who were hanging out with. And maybe playing a little bit of basketball, but mostly sort of make it hang out with each other.
But I loved it and I had fun. And then I from there, I kind of our men’s coach at the school, or I was doing my masters, his wife had just gotten [00:22:00] the junior college job in the area and needed an assistant. And I, she actually played at Stanford ironically kinda come full circle. And she, I went and met with her and got along.
And I was her assistant for two years while I was in grad school. And I been coaching ever since.
Mike Klinzing: [00:22:21] Did you see that right away as your career path? And once you got into coaching at the college level, were you right away? Like, oh, this is what I want to do, or they did take a little bit of time for it to grow on it.
Brianna Finch: [00:22:35] It was pretty quick that that’s what I wanted to do. I didn’t, I didn’t really, I just kind of did it and I kept doing it and kept finding out or figuring out ways to make it work so that I can keep doing it as far as like financially and things like that. I mean, I will tell you the first [00:23:00] six, let’s see.
When I first started coaching maybe the first six years, seven years I was in coaching. I didn’t make more than $10,000. And so I had to figure out how I was going to survive and pay my bills and things like that, but I didn’t really care. Like I all, I, like, I just knew that I liked it. I enjoyed it.
I was pretty good at it. And. Nothing else interested me. I didn’t really necessarily think of it as a career, I guess, cause I was young and I was just kind of taking it one day at a time and one year at a time kind of thing. But I knew that that it was what I liked best and what I enjoyed and I really just couldn’t see myself doing anything else to be honest.
Mike Klinzing: [00:23:47] What advice do you have for young coaches who are in that same circumstance of survival tips when you’re a young coach and you’re not making any money, what are some of the little tricks of the trade that you learned during that time that [00:24:00] helped you to make it through?
Brianna Finch: [00:24:02] I mean, I guess, I mean maybe just not having the expectation of that being why you do it.
Right. You know, I, I’ve never. I’ve never been in coaching because I ever thought I was going to make money or have jobs a year anything like that. I mean, if I had that opportunity great, but it was never my why. And it was really never on my radar. Like I said, it was more of like, I get to go to work every single day and this is my job.
And like how many people get to do this? Every single day. And that’s just kind of where my head always was. And I, I think if, if that’s your approach, then you know, you make it work however you can. And there were times where I, I worked three other jobs in order to get to coach You know, I, [00:25:00] I, that’s a, that’s a whole nother story, but whatever whatever I had to do in order to make it work, that’s just what I did.
And you know, like I said, if, if that’s what your passion is, I think you just find a way absolutely.
Mike Klinzing: [00:25:14] What’s something that you were, you were good at, right? From the beginning as a coach, or what’s a piece of coaching that you took to naturally. And then second part of that would be what is something that maybe was a struggle at first or something that you feel like you needed to put a lot of time into get better at, so a strength and maybe a weakness as you started your career?
Brianna Finch: [00:25:37] Oh, that’s a good question. I think a strength was just kind of my IQ. I’m very analytical. I was always as a kid, I was very analytical. You know, and I, I saw the game that way. My whole career playing wise you know, I was an Xs knows IQ [00:26:00] kind of hoop junkie. And so for me, that transition to coaching was pretty natural.
I think from a weakness and then, and this is all has been a continuous journey for me as a coach. And I think all coaches really balancing kind of my personality with coaching you know, I’m, I’m pretty quiet by nature. I’m kind of an introvert. People would not believe that. And now that I’ve been doing it as long as I have, but especially when I first started coaching I I was trying to figure out how to.
Be more of a leader, more of a vocal person when that just wasn’t necessarily my Mo and even as a player, like I was never one of those vocal leaders, I was very much somebody that was just kind of lead by example. And so I think that [00:27:00] kind of has taken it took me a while and I mean, I feel like I’m pretty, pretty good with it now, but you know, it took me a lot a while, and obviously it changes too with your roles when you become a head coach and stuff like that.
So you know, that’s always been an, or has continued to be a journey for me, for sure.
Mike Klinzing: [00:27:20] So after two seasons, as an assistant, you get your first head coaching job, correct?
Brianna Finch: [00:27:25] Yeah.
Mike Klinzing: [00:27:26] That, how does that quickly, what was that like to go from? Okay. I’m an assistant and I’m a very young assistant and now suddenly I’m the head coach.
And if you’re talking about. Being able to develop as a leader and those kinds of things, just talk about what that transition was like and, and how it helped you throughout the rest of your career.
Brianna Finch: [00:27:50] Yeah. I that was, that was a crazy year. I will put it that way. And I at the time I was like, [00:28:00] oh, I’m totally ready to be a head coach.
I did not now looking back 18 years later, but realize how, how not easy it normally is to get a head coaching job and how random and lucky I was to get that job in some way. Now, there was a reason it was a very difficult job. I was a part-time coach. I made a $5,000 stipend. That was the job I had to work three other jobs in order to make it work financially.
I had no team. I literally had to take players off from other teams in order to feel the team that year. I recruited a player who was on the treadmill. She was tall. So I was like, do you play basketball? She was like, I played in high school. And I was like, would you like to play for our junior college?
And she was like, sure. So needless to say it was a rough year, but you know, I, I just got [00:29:00] thrown into the fire to be honest, and it was kind of sink or swim. And you know, like I said, all these different challenges, I I tried to lean on some people that I knew in coaching to help me like, I mean, cause again, excuse me.
I was. I was all there was, I didn’t have a strength coach. I didn’t have, I had, you know basically a volunteer assistant because I was a part of it coach. You know, and I, I I had never done conditioning really. Like, I mean, I kind of helped out with it when I was in assistant and stuff, but like I had never been in charge of that.
And like you said, running a, running a practice and you know, just everything, oh, scheduling games. Like I had never done a lot of that stuff. And you know, like I said, I, I just tried to lean on people who I knew who had done some of that and could give me some advice. And, and then a lot of it was [00:30:00] just me taking ownership of the responsibilities and doing the best I could.
I made a lot of mistakes. I am fully I fully admit that I made a ton of mistakes. And it was like I said, a really, really tough year just because of the situation, but I wouldn’t change it just because it made me again, every experience I’ve had is helped me and shaped me who I am in some way.
And like I said, if nothing else, it made me look back and realize how lucky I was to get a head coaching job three years into coaching.
Mike Klinzing: [00:30:36] When you look back on that time and you think about the things that you learned as a head coach, and then you go back and you continue on in your career and. You’re an assistant again, what did you learn in that year as a head coach that made you a better assistant coach when you got the next assistant coaching position?
[00:31:00] Brianna Finch: [00:30:59] Honestly, that one, I probably didn’t learn that much. I’m going to be completely honest later. I did later when I went from being an assistant to a head coach to an assistant, again was a much different transition and absolutely made me a better assistant. That one, I, like I said, I’m not sure. I’m not sure how much I learned that year.
Maybe because I didn’t really have an assistant. So I didn’t like I said, I had a very, very part-time assistant and I didn’t really. Experience what that dynamic was like on the other side. So for me, I I, I’m not sure I fully understood. I may have, if, if anything that I took away, I may have, I just learned or [00:32:00] realized how much I still needed to learn.
I thought I knew a lot and I probably went into my next assistant position, still thinking I knew a lot, but I think I also had a little bit better understanding of there’s still a lot. I don’t know. You know, and most of it was not basketball related. Most of it was how, how to run a program, how to do, like I said, all these stuff outside of X’s and O’s that I never really had to worry about as an assistant previously,
Mike Klinzing: [00:32:33] Learning those things like over the course of your career, as you see, obviously you want to continue to develop and have that growth mindset and continue to get better and improve. So what has been your methodology for learning? Is it through mentors? Is it through reading? Is it through, is it through talking to colleagues in the coaching community?
How do you [00:33:00] go about day to day, year to year improving your craft and getting better? What’s worked for you over the course of your career in that aspect.
Brianna Finch: [00:33:09] You know, I think it’s evolved and it’s changed over my career in how, how I’ve gone about it. You know, I think early on a lot of it was me reading books and you know, just trying to, I went to Camps and, or, and clinics I worked when I did the whole camp circuit for a couple summers you know, just working any, any college camps that would have me.
And you know, I went to the different the old Nike clinic that they used to have in Vegas, anybody out there members you know, I went to that and looking back I’m like, I don’t know if I really learned too much, but it was but it was just kind of any, anything I can get my hands [00:34:00] on.
So to read and learn, I tried to do you know, I, I had a few mentors and people, like I said, that kind of showed me different. They were all very different. Every, every person I worked for. You know, taught me something very different along my path, which again, I’m, I’m thankful for. And then over the last, probably five or six years, I’ve just truly, truly been thankful.
And, and I’ve really tried to put myself out there, but just colleagues all over the world who have, I’ve been able to connect with and have really good conversations around coaching and, and every part of coaching Xs and o’s to mental health, to player development and just.
Just amazing and not all, not all of them are in [00:35:00] basketball, they’re in very various different sports and just a really good, strong network of colleagues who I value and I value their input and I can share with, and you know, I’m, that’s kind of become my support system. Like I said, the past five or six years, but it’s, it’s definitely evolved over the 18 years I’ve been coaching.
Mike Klinzing: [00:35:22] When did you start to, when did you get to the point in your career where you started this develop a philosophy of coaching? If that makes, if that question makes any sense where you started to think about what you believe in, in terms of how to play offensively and defensively, how to structure practices, those kinds of things.
When did you start to get a handle on it? The way that you like to coach the game and obviously the game is ever evolving and it changes. And there’s probably not one answer to this question, but just when did you feel like you had a grasp on your career where you started to develop a philosophy? Was [00:36:00] that something you had early on or did it take you awhile to get there?
Just how do you come to sort of the way that you coach?
Brianna Finch: [00:36:05] It took me a while. I, and it’s evolved a lot a lot over the years, I would say I didn’t have a firm kind of approach or process or ideology until probably my hoof, maybe C 2000. I’m trying to think of where I was. Maybe. Eight or nine years after I started coaching is when I kind of started I started to get the itch to be a head coach again.
You know, like I said, I had that brief stint three years into my career, but I don’t necessarily count that as a real, I mean, I counted as a very [00:37:00] valuable experience, but as far as like, I, I really had no idea what I was sounds
Mike Klinzing: [00:37:04] like. It sounds like that year was just a tornado, that things were just swirling and swirling around you.
And by the time it was over, you’re like, what just happened to me?
Brianna Finch: [00:37:13] Yes. And I was happy to get out alive and still in coaching. So but like I said, every you learn from everything. And so I would say, yeah, probably about eight or nine years later. I again, I started to get the itch.
I kind of, I had been an assistant at, by that time at division three or to NAI D two and D one and kind of started to. You know, watch other people and see the game through more of a head coaching lens. I guess, if that makes sense, where I was trying I’d watch the game and I’d be like, okay, what adjustments would I make here?
What would I do in this scenario? And and that’s kind of where my, [00:38:00] you know, my thought process started to go you know, I was running workouts, I was doing player development. You know, I hadn’t really, I wasn’t really running practices or anything like that, but I was running full workouts and stuff like that.
And I think that’s like I said, it took me a while. And then from there I just kind of kept trying to put myself in that position where I was thinking along those lines like, I mean, I obviously would bring suggestions to the table and it was ultimately my boss’s decision. I was also trying to think about how I would teach things or I would take notes from practice and I would always always read-write pre notes and post notes you know, what we were doing and that’s kind of where it all started.
And then in 2000, what was it? 2013 is when I went to Denmark and had the chance to be a head [00:39:00] coach. So yeah.
Mike Klinzing: [00:39:02] How does that opportunity come to pass? Is that a connection with someone that was connected to that club in Denmark? Or how do you get the opportunity to go over there and overseas and be a head coach?
Brianna Finch: [00:39:13] Yeah. Pure luck. No it was, yeah, I mean, I had recruited some international players at that point. So I had kind of started to develop international ties. I understand. The club system you know, I was familiar with it all and kind of how it worked. And a colleague of mine knew somebody who was living in the U S but had played for that club and knew that they were looking for a head coach and head women’s coach.
And that’s just kind of how it was just kind of through that through somebody who knew somebody who had played in that club. And like I said I was my fiance at the time and I, we didn’t have kids. And, [00:40:00] you know, we were able to make that journey and do that and uproot our lives.
And it was by far, the best decision I could’ve made professionally is as far as developing as a coach absolutely 100%. But yeah, I was, it was just kinda. Right time, right place. Right, right. Person to know. And you know, the opportunity was there and I, I, okay.
Mike Klinzing: [00:40:24] What were one or two things that you did as the head coach that you had kind of had in your mind, as you had watched and worked with other coaches at these different programs at different levels that you were thinking, Hey, when I get my opportunity to be a head coach, I’m going to try to implement these things.
Can you point to one or two things that you knew you wanted to do when you got that head coaching opportunity?
Brianna Finch: [00:40:52] I knew I wanted to empower players. And I know that’s a very general of [00:41:00] thing. I’m not sure if that’s what you were asking with that question, but I had worked for a lot of coaches. That were very restrictive.
And, and players played a lot out of fear and I didn’t want to be that way as a coach, I really wanted to empower my players and give them the freedom. And I wanted that to be a staple of my philosophy and my program and you know, and, and that reflected, or was integrated into my philosophy as well and how we play off offensively.
And you know, how I teach the game of basketball and whatnot. Like I’m very much. You know, I let the players make decisions. I let the players make reeds. You know, I don’t even always know what’s going to happen offensively because I I, we trade [00:42:00] in in practice all the decision-making and we play out of actions and a lot of it is based on what the players see and how they understand the game and what I’ve taught them.
And hopefully I’ve taught them in practice or rep them in practice or prepared them for so that we get the game it’s their time. And I, like I said, I knew that that was how I wanted my approach to be and how I still want my approach to be and how, how I teach the game. And you know, when I had that opportunity in Denmark, that was absolutely again, it’s a little bit different when you’re coaching approach team and you have you know, players who are been playing pro for 10 years and stuff like that.
Regardless, that was that was definitely something that was the most important thing to me
Mike Klinzing: [00:42:50] look like in a practice setting. So if we have coaches out that are listening, saying, Hey, I believe in that same thing. I want to get my players the opportunity to make decisions and [00:43:00] play free and flowing on offense.
What does that look like when you design a practice? Can you give us a concrete example or two of something, maybe a drill, or just a way that you set up your practices to allow the players to have that freedom where it’s not you as the coach dictating, Hey, you have to go here and you have to go there.
What does the practice look like for you when it comes to allowing your players to have that freedom?
Brianna Finch: [00:43:25] Yeah. Chaotic sometimes. You know, and I’m okay with that. You know, I that’s what I, I say that all the time, I’m like you have to be comfortable with chaos. As a coach, I think if you’re going to be successful because it’s going to look messy and it’s going to look ugly and that’s okay.
Like if it was all wrapped in a nice, pretty bow, like that would that would be too easy. And and so, I mean, for, for us and how I would like get some concrete examples a lot of small sided games [00:44:00] very competitive. Almost everything with defense. You know, I would do very little on air you know, five on O or anything like that every once in a while.
I mean, there’s a time and a place. But you know, if possible we’re always having some kind of defense, whether maybe, maybe there’s still an offensive advantage we’re, we’re playing with a small offensive advantage, or if we’re working on a small defensive advantage and whatnot.
But you know, it’s going to be competitive. It’s going to be three on three, four on four, building it up to five on five. And, and really teaching out of using the game to teach and using the moments in practice to teach. I am a very, very, the other thing that you, that kind of going back to the question before, like that integrated into my program is I’m very.
And I’ve become much more over the last few years, very specific on [00:45:00] feedback. And how often to give feedback and what kind of feedback and what does that look like for me? What does that look like for my assistants? I don’t want I want the players kind of struggling and learning and trying to figure out the solutions on their own.
So there will be drills where we, I don’t give feedback or and I would break up when I was a head coach, like I would break up our practice plan would say okay, this is a, this is a teaching drill. This is a training drill. This is a competitive drill. And based on that, Information.
That’s how we approached our feedback. So if it was a teaching drill, we could give more feedback to the players and, or have more debriefing sessions if it was a competitive drill, like we played out the drill and I didn’t give feedback and no matter how ugly it got, no matter how many turnovers we had no matter how great it was, maybe it was great.
And, but we would hold all of our [00:46:00] feedback. And you know, like I said, that’s just kind of it’s a way for us to be on the same page and the players to kind of understand as well, like what we’re doing and why we’re doing it. And and also for them to take some ownership too, and have the moments in practice where they can self-organize and give each other feedback.
And because I just. Personally, that’s a philosophy. And I think it’s extremely valuable in the game. And it’s what it’s just what I believe in.
Mike Klinzing: [00:46:33] I’m assuming you have to be very intentional with discussions with your assistants about, Hey, this is how we’re going to do this. And then you also I’m sure have to be very intentional because I know for any coach that’s been on the sidelines or been in a practice environment, It’s a challenge to be quiet and let players figure things out.
Because as coaches, as teachers, we oftentimes want [00:47:00] to show, demonstrate, tell what it is that we saw or what we think the players should have done. So how did you train yourself or how do you go about making sure that you’re intentional about the things that you want to do within the practice setting, both for yourself, maybe internally in your own mind, and then having that discussion with your assistants, what does that process look like for you?
Brianna Finch: [00:47:23] I think as a head coach, again, being very specific, what I want that to look like and going through that and being open with my assistants and the reasoning behind why, why we want the players to be able to explore and self-organize and learn and come up with their own solutions and figure things out.
And then again, being very specific with what that looks like to that practice and you know, going through each drill and kind of talking out like, [00:48:00] again, like I said this is, this is a training drill, so we’re going to give feedback pertinent to this but otherwise we’re going to hold, we’re going to wait until after the drill.
And then we’re going to debrief you know, this is a training or this is a competitive drill, so we can, we’re going to let them play it all out. And then we’ll debrief at the end. And this is why and you know, so for me personally, it’s, it’s something I I’ve evolved with. I’m very aware of I try I go into practice with those ideas and kind of an understanding.
Where I may and may not give feedback, but I think just from my experience and that multiple years that I’ve kind of had this approach now I tend to just kind of read it and go with as I see fit within the structure practice, I will say it’s honestly, it’s much harder to be in that, [00:49:00] in in that philosophy as an assistant now, again after being a head coach and kind of knowing what I want it to look like, and now being an assistant for coaches who may, may or may not have that same philosophy and origins may not understand, or be as specific, be as specific.
And intentional with it as I am. You, yeah, there’s times I’m like, no, no, like in my head I’m like, no, just let them play through it. Just let them play through it and yeah know they’re stopping and I’m like, okay. But you know, again, I, I understand and that kind of goes back to way back to Vienna having gone from an assistant to a head coach and assistant, I understand my role and I understand that’s, that’s my personal philosophy and my personal approach, and I’m not trying to push that on anybody else.
And I understand that that’s just kind of how I do things and other people may or [00:50:00] may not. So, and that’s fine. So what I do, and you know, now as an assistant is I, I always have a pen in my pocket. You know, I’m always, I’m taking notes during practice on my practice plan. You know, just for my reference to give feedback you know, if there’s not a space in practice for me to give feedback or if I find that the feedback that I would want to give may not be the right time or place kind of thing.
Whether it’s on my perspective or the head coach’s perspective or timing or whatnot. So you know, I, like I said, I just, I do think you know, there there’s a lot of intentionality with it, like you said. And I, and I think you have to be pretty confident with who you are as a coach in order to be able to kind of navigate that space.
And, and, and that philosophy because it, like I said, it can look chaotic and it can look ugly and and you know, you’re [00:51:00] opening it up for the players to ask a lot of questions. And as a coach, you have to have a lot of answers. And at the end of you and if you’re not confident yet, or you don’t have that Ability to hot or have the confidence to have those discussions with your players or be open to have those discussions with your players.
You know, it’s challenging for sure.
Mike Klinzing: [00:51:25] What’s the learning curve for players, especially players who maybe haven’t played for a coach that has that philosophy that maybe they’ve played for a coach. Who’s more of that micromanager style for lack of a better way of saying it. But for a coach who’s constantly intervening and correcting and teaching and coaching all the time and doesn’t leave that space.
What, what have you found with players in terms of their ability to adapt, adjust and maximize that particular coaching style? Oh,
Brianna Finch: [00:51:58] it’s challenging. And I, and [00:52:00] that is the exact scenario of when I took over as a division two head coach. The prior coach was very much very. Very everything was a set play.
There was very little freedom. There was very little empowering and decision-making and everything was five on, oh, and this is how we’re going to go from point a to point B and just very different again, I’ve I’ve learned I’m not critical and they were successful a little bit for a few years.
And and the players, when I got there, I was obviously very, very different. You know, and, and that I try to warn players now, and even now I’ll go into an individual workout we just, we just got to Boston to be you. And I inherited this team and then my very first things to them are like, I ask a lot of questions.
I, when I ask questions, I’m not [00:53:00] asking no, they’re not rhetorical questions. I really, I want to know what you’re thinking, what you’re seeing, so that I can gauge where the learning needs to happen going forward and kind of what feedback to give you and things like that.
And so I always try to preface it with players, but it is, it is very much a learning curve and some embrace it a little bit quicker, some take a little bit longer and more are more resistant. And I don’t think they’re resistant because they don’t want to be in that environment.
They just have never done it before. It’s new. It’s it’s new, it’s different. It can be uncomfortable. It can definitely be uncomfortable for players that are again, used to being very structured and told what to do and you know, that kind of. I don’t know what the right word is kind of, there’s a little bit of a sense of being lost.
I [00:54:00] think for them if, if maybe their IQ isn’t as high or there’s, there can be, there’s a very, there’s a very large range of learning curves. And that’s kind of what I learned when I, that first year, like I said, when I took over and inherited a team, I had on one end I had players who embraced it very quickly and caught on very quickly and were able to thrive in it.
And I had others who took several months to fully grasp what we were trying to do and what I was trying to implement and were resistant to it initially. But ultimately, and even one of them, it didn’t even happen until after the season. And after she graduated and left, did she realize. How beneficial it was.
So I, I there’s, it’s kind of all over the place. I don’t know if that answers your question,
Mike Klinzing: [00:54:57] but I think the other piece of it too, [00:55:00] that correct me if I’m wrong, but I would think that the relationship that you build with the player in terms of the trust that goes back and forth has to be pretty strong in that the player has to trust that they can ask those questions.
Because I think about my experience as a player at the college level. And I don’t remember asking too many questions of my coaching staff, and it was a different era obviously, and there were a lot more coaches that were of the, my way or the highway type of coaching. But nonetheless, I think that as a coach now, When I think about being able to do some of the things that you’re describing, what I’ve been able to have success with, that it’s with players, with kids that I’ve had that kind of relationship where they can ask without worrying about what the implications of those questions are, what those answers are.
So how do you, [00:56:00] how do you weigh or value the relationship in terms of helping what you’re trying to do with the player and giving them that space to, in order to, to make it successful?
Brianna Finch: [00:56:11] Yeah, no, you’re absolutely right. You have, you have to have that trust. And it has to go both ways. You know, I being honest with them from the beginning.
And, and I just think being consistent with the message of what we’re what I’m trying to do and what we’re trying to do and why why we want to do this. I especially on the women’s side, I don’t know if it’s like this as much on the men’s side. But women want to know why they want to know the why’s and, and I’m okay with that.
I’m okay with giving the wise, I was like, you, like, I grew up in an era and I played a narrow, I, I don’t remember asking questions either. I don’t remember being in an environment that was open to questions, but [00:57:00] I now as a coach, I I’m fine answering why and explaining why and helping them understand that, but you’re right.
It has to start with the trust and knowing that This is why we wanted to do this, and this is how it’s going to benefit you. And this is how it’s going to benefit us as a team. And and then just like I said, being consistent with that, and that’s one thing I, I tried very hard as a head coach to do is to, like I said, integrate the empowering piece, not just in how I approach coaching, but just how we approach our whole program.
And just reiterating that through and the, hopefully that kind of builds the trust too. Absolutely.
Mike Klinzing: [00:57:45] It makes a ton of sense. All right. Let’s kind of look at the overarching path of your career and talk about just how, when you think about being a head coach, what are one or two qualities [00:58:00] that you would want in an assistant?
And then let’s flip the question around and say, when you’re an assistant, what are one or two qualities in a head coach that make you. More enjoyable, easier, better for you to be an assistant coach to kind of look at it from both sides of the coin and just give us one or two things that you think are important when you’re in one position or the other.
Brianna Finch: [00:58:22] Yeah. So from a head coach, what I would want in an assistant, I, I learned loyalty you know, and people, people do say that and I, I didn’t fully understand it until I was, I was a head coach. You know, but it does knowing that you have somebody who has always has your back is just so, so very important and is gonna support you regardless of whether they agree or disagree or that is it like they’re going to bring, they’re going to bring ideas to the table, but at the end of the day, like they’re going to [00:59:00] have your back.
And then I, I want I try to encourage assistants to be creative and autonomous. Like I want them to be self-starters. I want them to explore and find solutions in the same way I encourage players. Like I want to empower my assistants to, to find solutions, find new ideas, five and something out of the box that I may not know about.
You know, and try to foster that environment as an assistant kind of, and the flip side, like what I value in a head coach, same kind of thing. Somebody who will give me a Tonomy again, especially just because of the years of experience I have now you know, somebody who will allow me to continue to grow in my role.
You know, and. And, and give me the freedom to use my experience to help the program. [01:00:00] And then also somebody that’s going to challenge me to be better. You know, I, I want to be around other people that make me continue to think about things differently and challenge my thinking and we can share ideas and whether or not we agree is irrelevant is as long as we’re able to respectfully share in discussions.
And you know, sometimes it’s led to me changing my thinking and sometimes it hasn’t, but I want to be able to have those discussions on a daily basis. Yes,
Mike Klinzing: [01:00:34] absolutely. That makes a ton of sense that I think when you look at all these different spots and all the different places that you’ve been, and you’ve picked up lessons all the way at every step, And you probably have a pretty good idea.
You’ve worked with a lot of different coaches, I’m sure. Right? Of course the time be hard to probably total them all up. But by doing that and working at all the different levels, I’m sure that it’s brought you a perspective [01:01:00] that not many, not many coaches have. I want to wrap up by asking you one final two-part question.
That is when you think about where you are now in your career at Boston university and you wake up in the morning, what’s the biggest joy that you get from what you’re doing day to day. And then number two, what is the biggest challenge that you see in the year ahead, whether that is specific to basketball career?
However you want to frame that question. So your biggest joy and your biggest challenge.
Brianna Finch: [01:01:33] Whew, man. My biggest joy, I just. I love, I love seeing them improve. Like it’s, I mean, it’s very simplistic, but I love seeing them improve. I like seeing the light bulb go on. You know, and no matter how small [01:02:00] that is, I mean, even in the six weeks we just worked with our players in the summer.
Like we had one player and she, I, it was a very small improvement from one workout to the next and in just her understanding of a couple of terminology things, but like, it was massive for me. Like it was just her making that kind of little shift was, was so. Exciting. And you know, I, I value that.
I, I get excited about that and I cherish that and that’s why I continue to do what I do after all these, the challenge. I, yeah, I think the challenge, I think for all of us right now is just continuing to stay in the moment. You know, with all of the uncertainty going on with COVID over the last [01:03:00] year and a half and not knowing going forward and what that looks like for any of us is just trying to stay present.
And that’s always been a personal goal of mine too. Like something I struggled to work. Like I always look into the future and wonder what if, and I’m a planner and stuff like that. You know, I’m trying to stay in the moment, not only for myself, but for our players and you know, and the program and my head coach and things like that, because it’s just, there’s so much uncertainty all around us that I think if we, if we, if we get lost in that, it becomes really, really negative, really fast.
So just trying to stay present,
Mike Klinzing: [01:03:41] it is amazing that we are trying to figure our way through and nobody has any idea what’s going to happen. I think if you look back, even you look back three weeks. And I think everybody that I was talking to at that point felt like we were headed towards a pretty [01:04:00] normal season where it seemed like that was the trajectory we were on in, in the last three weeks.
It seems like things. Completely flipped. So who knows what’s going to happen? So I can definitely relate to the fact that that is a huge challenge, not just for you, but for a lot of people out there, including myself and everybody in my own family, trying to figure out where, to what what’s going to happen with school.
One that like, and where, where are we going to be? And are we going to wear masks? And is there going to be remote school? I’ll just, there’s so many things to incorporate before we wrap up. I want to give you a chance to share how people can find out more about your program at Boston university, how they can reach out to you whether you want to share email website, social media, whatever works best for you.
And then I’ll jump back in and wrap things up.
Brianna Finch: [01:04:45] Yeah. I love to talk hoops. So I mean, my email is just it’s BFinch@bu.edu It’s also on our school website. I honestly, I don’t even know the word. [01:05:00] I know, I know that’s terrible, but you can email me. My email is pretty S and B Finch at BU and then on Twitter, I’m on Twitter all the time.
So you can DM me or just message me on Twitter. And my handle just @WBBcoachFinch is probably the easiest, but and if you do that, I’ll probably share my cell phone number and have a conversation anytime. Cause like I said, I just, I like to share it. I like to learn and I’m always down to talk hoops.
Mike Klinzing: [01:05:32] Thank you enough for taking the time out of your schedule to join us. I’m very glad that Brian McCormick introduced us and thankful to you for spending some time with me and with our audience to share the things that you’ve learned over the course of your career. So thank you very much for that. And to everyone out there.
Thanks for listening. And we will catch you on our next episode. Thanks!