ODU's new baseball coach is 1984 Hampton High grad

Chris Finwood was hired as ODU's baseball coach on Tuesday, June 21, 2011. (contributed photo, Daily Press / June 22, 2011)

With a Hampton High diploma, a wife from Newport News and friends throughout the region, Chris Finwood is 757 to the core. But those aren't the ties that lured him home to coach Old Dominion University's baseball team.

The decisive connection was ODU athletic director Wood Selig, who in the same position at Western Kentucky six years ago hired Finwood to guide the Hilltoppers' program.

"I told Wood, 'You stuck your neck out for me (at Western), and I'm not ever going to forget that,' " Finwood said Wednesday. "When Wood says something, I believe it. I asked him if the commitment to baseball is here. When he told me it was, I told him he had a new coach."

ODU announced Finwood's hiring Wednesday, five days after he interviewed with Selig and other administrators on the Norfolk campus.

"Our aspirations are for a top-25, perennial NCAA tournament program," Selig said. "In order to make those realistic goals, we have to invest heavily in improving our baseball facility."

The Monarchs opened Bud Metheny Stadium in 1983 with few renovations since. Meanwhile, the school has built the Constant Center basketball arena and state-of-the-art complexes for tennis, crew and football.

"I told (Chris) soon it will be baseball's turn," Selig said.

Finwood graduated from Hampton High in 1984 and VMI in 1988 and was an all-star shortstop at both. He was VMI's head coach from 1992-94 and an assistant at VCU and Auburn before Selig hired him at Western, where his teams were 190-154 and reached two NCAA tournaments.

"It makes you feel like you did it the right way when they're sad to see you go," Finwood said by phone from WKU.

Selig applauded "the discipline (Chris) instilled and the academic expectations he established. … He was a relentless recruiter."

This year, baseball's 3.12 combined GPA was the highest of any WKU men's program.

"It is something that makes you proud," Finwood said of the academic achievements. "That starts with recruiting. We're going to recruit good students, period. … I like coaching smart kids."

Finwood, 45, inherits a program that hasn't reached the NCAA tournament since 2000 and hasn't won a CAA championship since a three-year reign from 1994-96. The Monarchs were 30-26 this season under interim coach Nate Goulet, a late fill-in after Jerry Meyers resigned unexpectedly to become pitching coach at national champion South Carolina.

So why leave more established Western Kentucky for ODU, even if it's a homecoming?

"The … belief that I have, and that I know (Wood) shares, in the Tidewater baseball community and the place Old Dominion can play," Finwood said. "I want to be the guy running that ship and the face of the program."