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ODU hires Hampton High grad Finwood as its baseball coach

Chris Finwood is coming home to lead Old Dominion's baseball program.

A 1984 Hampton High graduate, Finwood has coached Western Kentucky the past six seasons, guiding the Hilltoppers to a pair of NCAA tournament appearances and producing 14 Major League draft picks the past three years.

Sources confirmed his hiring Tuesday, and an official announcement came Wednesday.

"My wife, Annette and myself are really looking forward to getting back to the Hampton Roads area where we grew up and there are so many people who we can't wait to see again," Finwood said in a statement. "The support and love for baseball in Tidewater Va. is one of the things that makes this such a great job."

Finwood, 45, interviewed at ODU on Friday and spent that evening at the Peninsula Pilots' game in Hampton. There he reunited with area friends and watched several Western Kentucky players on the Pilots' roster.

ODU athletic director Wood Selig served in the same capacity at Western Kentucky for 11 years and hired Finwood for the Hilltoppers prior to the 2006 season. Finwood compiled a 190-154 record at Western, 33-24 this past season.

"Obviously I have great admiration and respect for coach Finwood having hired him at WKU six years ago while spending five of those years working together to grow WKU baseball," Selig said in a statement. "Coach Finwood and success are synonymous. His teams represent themselves exceptionally well academically, athletically, and within the community.

"He preaches defense and plays a scrappy and exciting brand of baseball that will be very popular among baseball fans. Coach Finwood and his family will quickly become visible and vital members of our community and we look forward to welcoming them back home to Hampton Roads."

Western Kentucky athletic director Ross Bjork confirmed Finwood's departure in a statement Wednesday.

"Chris Finwood and I just finished a conference call with our baseball student-athletes to inform them that he submitted his resignation to me on Tuesday to accept the head coaching position at Old Dominion University," Bjork said. "Coach Finwood did an outstanding job as our head baseball coach over the last six seasons. Chris and I discussed his future here at WKU many times and again once the season concluded. We held a shared vision and high aspirations for our baseball program to excel in our conference and nationally.

"Over two weeks ago, we offered him a contract extension that provided more financial and long term security for him and the program. We also committed a significant increase in the assistant salary pool to achieve the goal of staff continuity. On Monday of this week, we presented new terms and additional incentives to his contract and our hope was for him to accept this extension and move ahead as our coach for a long time to come.

"In the end, we did everything in our power to retain Coach Finwood, but we could not compete with his deep family ties and previous coaching experiences within the state of Virginia. I respect Chris and Annette's decision and this unique personal opportunity was one they could not turn down. Coach Finwood has built a great infrastructure for WKU baseball to flourish in the future and we wish the Finwood family all the best."

The Hilltoppers reached the 2009 and '10 NCAA tournaments, and this year's roster included six MLB draft picks. Among them were former Pilots Kes Carter, a first-round choice of the Tampa Bay Rays, catcher Matt Rice, ninth round to Tampa, and shortstop Logan Robbins, a 10th-round selection of the Atlanta Braves.

Finwood's players also excelled academically at WKU. Last year, 71 percent of the Hilltoppers recorded a GPA of 3.0 or better, and this year the team's 3.12 combined GPA was the highest of any WKU men's program. Catcher, Matt Rice had a perfect 4.0 in mechanical engineering and was named the Capital One (CoSIDA) Academic All-American of the Year.

Finwood was a four-year starter at shortstop for VMI from 1985-88 and coached his alma mater to a 52-97 record from 1992-94. He inherited a Keydets team that had won two games the previous season, and in 2003 the school inducted him into its Athletics Hall of Fame.

In a statement released by ODU, VMI athletic director and former baseball coach Donny White said: "Chris was the hardest working player I had. Wood Selig was smart to hire him at Western Kentucky and even smarter hiring him at ODU."

After VMI, Finwood worked as an assistant coach at VCU and Auburn before going to Western Kentucky.

Finwood is the second head coach with Peninsula ties to join ODU this month. Newport News native Karen Barefoot is the school's new women's basketball coach.

Finwood's wife, Annette, hails from Newport News and graduated from Warwick High.

ODU was 30-26 this season and reached the Colonial Athletic Association championship game under interim coach Nate Goulet, who also interviewed for the full-time position. A former Monarchs assistant, Goulet was elevated last summer when head coach Jerry Meyers resigned unexpectedly to return to his former job as South Carolina's pitching coach.

Copyright © 2014, The Baltimore Sun
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