If you didn’t get a chance to catch the East Lansing Varsity Boys basketball team this past season — be sure to mark your calendars now for the 2011 season. The EL Boy’s program is back in large part to the fact that the players bought into new head coach Steve Finamore’s philosophy. I had the opportunity recently to ask Coach Finamore a few questions about his first year . . . enjoy!
Q: Describe what it was like coming in to the East Lansing basketball scene. How were you received overall? By administration etc…? By players?
A: It was a great opportunity to be hired as boys varsity basketball coach at East Lansing. I have lived here for the past 14 years and I always knew about the passion and interest the community has for basketball. The Trojans family has reached out and have told me how happy they are to have me as coach. The administration has been great; I see them often around town and they always have a positive comment regarding our team. As for the players and their reaction to me, it’s been wonderful. At the start they were a bit curious just like everyone else, but after spending so much time with them, they have learned I am here for them.
Q: What strategies did you employ to gain the buy in of players into your philosophy?
A: Trust and confidence were two avenues I explored. I encouraged them to be themselves and play with confidence. No one was going to be screamed at for taking a shot or turning the ball over. Our four-man workouts in pre-season was a great way to get to know the players and it was a chance for them to see what I was all about. My coaching staff has also been an influential part of the process too. We conducted upbeat practices, worked on fundamentals and at times played a sport other than basketball at practice (i.e., Football, Whiffle Ball and Tug of War).
Q: What challenges did you face initially and how did you overcome them?
A: One challenge was turning the perception around. There was much talk of how the parents were too involved. Now what that means, I have no idea. The parents have been fantastic; I did not have one problem with any parent the entire season. Most of the time you hear gossip from afar but I do not judge people on their experience with others. I ask myself daily, how would I want to be treated? The challenge of implementing a new offense was a piece of cake. We taught what we wanted and the players bought in.
Q: Describe your defensive philosophy?
A: On defense we like to pressure the ball, trap when possible and always help a teammate. We play a lot of man-to-man but also switch to zone. We like the 1-3-1 and 1-2-2 matchup zone. At times we will full court press by applying man-to-man pressure and we will also play a 1-2-2 zone. Playing defense is all about desire. You don’t have to be a talented player to be effective on the defensive end of the floor. It takes heart, a willingness to go the extra mile and the courage to be able to get past being scored on, you will not stop your offensive player every time. We want to teach things like closing out, helping and having active hands. Our slogan is, ‘Never Relax’.
Q: Describe your offensive philosophy?
A: On offense we like to run and shoot 3’s. I want our players to be on the attack every time they catch the ball. That can be 50 feet from the basket or you can be in the paint. Always think offense. We want to play uptempo as often as possible. Late in the game we have to know the time and score; we need to be smart with the ball, especially late in the game. Shot selection is major; we need to know what’s a good shot and what’s a bad shot. Sharing the ball is very important. We harp on hitting the open man.
Q: What’s the most important thing a youth player should take away from a basketball or sport experience?
A: It’s hard to name one but team work, by far. It’s all about getting along with others and helping the player next to you. You need to be willing to share the ball. A youth player should also learn the basic rules of the game. Learn how to dribble and always listen to their coach. There will be a time when you are not the best player on the team or even good enough to be a starter. Your only concern should be to work harder, improve and hope you get an opportunity for more playing time. Players are not entitled to playing time. Don’t complain or whine, just work harder.
Q: What things will YOU be doing in the off season to prepare for next year?
A: We will play at two team camps (Michigan State and Central Michigan U). We will also play in a summer league in Lansing. Four-man workouts, strength and conditioning and of course every player’s favorite form of training; running. We will work hard on our stamina and speed.
Q: What things will you have your PLAYERS doing in the off season to prepare for next year?
A: The most important aspect of the off-season is improving both on and off the court. Getting the players to be active is on our agenda. We always stress, “do something every day to get better”. That can be running on the track at school, lifting weights, shooting, working on your dribbling or even sitting down watching a game. Many of our players play AAU basketball in the Spring and Summer so that always helps. You can learn so much from observing other players. A golden nugget that many people fail to realize is players are made in the off-season.
I feel East Lansing is a great place to coach basketball. The kids are wonderful and they want to compete. The East Lansing Basketball Club is a great organization that is so helpful in getting the young players in the community ready for basketball. The fans have been wonderful too. We had some very good crowds at home games. I can be in Meijer, Starbucks or the mall and there will always be someone who congratulates me on our season. I want to keep improving as a program daily and some day would love to win a State championship at the Breslin Center.
Coach Finamore is starting his second season as boys head varsity basketball coach at East Lansing High School. He has been coaching since the age of 16. His coaching experience extends from middle school, high school, college and AAU. He received his start in Brooklyn, New York at Bishop Ford High School where he was the boys head freshman coach and made stops in Jersey City, New Jersey as an assistant coach at Saint Peter’s College. He was a student-assistant coach at Michigan State University in 1999 and 2000 and helped MSU win a National Championship in 2000. He spent one season as boys head varsity coach at Portland High School in 2004 and from 2007 to 2010 he was the men’s head basketball coach at Jackson Community College in Jackson, Michigan.
This past season at EL he finished (17-4, 10-2 in league) for co-champions of the CAAC Blue. He was named Class A Coach of the Year by both the Lansing State Journal and Bank Hoops High School basketball website. The A.P. voted him special mention in Class A.
The Trojans have truly made a brand new start of it with a little bit’ of Brooklyn baby!!