In just three years Chris Finwood, the 2014 ABCA East Region Coach of the Year, has put the Monarch program back into the national spotlight. ODU won 36 games in 2014, finished fourth in Conference USA, reached the league semifinals, and earned an at-large bid to the NCAA Regionals, ODU's first since 2000.
ODU posted a 36 RPI and played one of the nation's strongest non-conference schedules, beating No. 1 Virginia and C-USA champion Rice. The 2014 Monarchs turned a school record 68 double-plays, which ranked third nationally. The team fielded .976, which was good for a top 20 national ranking.
Senior reliever Dean Ali was named to C-USA's All-Academic squad, while two Monarchs were selected into the MLB draft, led by Ryan Yarbrough who went in the fourth round to Seattle.
In 2013, the Monarchs won 30 games and placed third in the school's final season in the Colonial Athletic Association. The Monarchs finished the season strong, winning seven of their last 10 games. ODU swept three-game series from NCAA tournament participant William & Mary and a road series at James Madison. Team MVP Ben Verlander was a semifinalist for the Gregg Olson award and two Monarchs were selected in the 2013 MLB draft.
Not only have the Monarchs produced on the field, the team has also had much success in the classroom. The 2013-2014 team had a GPA of over 2.9. The team earned better than a 3.0 GPA in the fall of 2013 and 2014.
Player development has always been a big part of Finwood’s success. In his coaching career he has coached over 60 players who have been drafted by Major League Organizations and 6 of them have played in the Major Leagues.
Prior to coming to ODU, Finwood guided Western Kentucky for six years as head coach and was named the 2009 Sun Belt Conference Coach of the Year.
In six seasons, the Hilltoppers witnessed unprecedented success under Finwood, a Hampton, Va. (Hampton High) native. Magical postseason runs in 2008 and 2009, both in the Sun Belt and NCAA Tournaments, highlighted the Finwood era, as he compiled a 190-154 record at the Bowling Green, Ky. school. His 2009 squad reached the regional final in Oxford, Miss.
"Obviously I have great admiration and respect for Coach Finwood having hired him at WKU and ODU," said Selig. "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 is very popular among baseball fans."
WKU captured the 2008 Sun Belt tournament championship. In 2009, en route to notching the program's first 40-win season in 21 years, the Hilltoppers won the Sun Belt Regular Season championship. In those two seasons, WKU earned with back-to-back trips to the NCAA Tournament, including the program's first at-large invitation (2009). The 2009 team made it to the final game in the Oxford regional and finished the year ranked 23rd in the country.
Finwood-coached squads pride themselves on defense and his 2009 team was no exception, finishing third in the nation in fielding percentage (.979). WKU's fielding percentage was nine percentage-points higher than the next-closest conference foe, and the Hilltoppers made 17 fewer errors than second-place Troy. The 2011 squad had a .976 fielding percentage which tied them for first in the Sun Belt and 15th nationally.
The 2011 squad won 33 games, beating NCAA participant Illinois twice. WKU also defeated Louisville, Ole Miss and Kentucky, which was Finwood's fifth straight win against the Wildcats.
The 2010 Hilltopper team played one of the most ambitious schedules in school history, as 24 of the team's 56 games were against teams that played in the NCAA tournament. WKU had significant non-conference wins against Baylor, Texas A&M, Tennessee, Vanderbilt and Texas State and notched a pair of wins over the University of Kentucky. The Toppers' 24-8 win over Kentucky on April 20 at Bowling Green Ballpark came in front of 6,183 fans, the largest crowd to ever see a college baseball game in the state of Kentucky.
The 2009 team finished with a 42-20 record and a 21-8 mark in the Sun Belt Conference, earning a conference championship along the way, the first in Finwood's WKU tenure. That squad won three games in the NCAA tournament, which equaled the total NCAA games won by the Hilltoppers in the 100 years. WKU beat Missouri twice and host Mississippi, before losing to the Rebels in the Regional finals. The Hilltoppers were an impressive 27-3 at home, setting a new WKU record for home winning percentage in a season.
The 2008 squad went 33-27 and captured the Sun Belt Conference Tournament championship and it marked the schools first winning season since 2004. The nine-game turnaround from 2008 to 2009 is tied for the fifth-best improvement from one year to the next in the 100-year history of Hilltopper baseball. The 2008 squad also had a .976 fielding percentage which tied them for first in the Sun Belt.
After winning just five Sun Belt Conference games in 2006, the Hilltoppers finished 15-15 in the league in 2007. The 10-win turnaround marked the biggest one-year improvement in the history of the conference. The Hilltoppers also qualified for the eight-team Sun Belt Conference Tournament all six seasons under Finwood.
In his last three years at Western Kentucky 17 Hilltoppers were drafted, the most in the Sun Belt Conference. This includes the school’s first 1st round draft pick.
Academics were also a priority for Finwood's student-athletes at WKU. In 2009-10, 71 percent of his players recorded a GPA of at-least 3.0 and four earned a perfect 4.0. In 2011, the Hilltoppers catcher, Matt Rice had a perfect 4.0 GPA in mechanical engineering and was named the Capital One (CoSIDA) Academic All-American of the Year, and was also a First Team All-Sun Belt catcher. The Hilltoppers team had the highest GPA of any WKU men's squad at 3.12 in 2011.
Prior to his stint at Western Kentucky, Finwood served as an assistant coach at Auburn for five seasons and helped lead the Tigers to four NCAA Regionals. During his time at Auburn, Finwood was responsible for all aspects of the Tiger defense, while also coordinating the program's recruiting efforts. In his five seasons, Auburn posted five winning campaigns and combined for 181 victories. The 2003 team, earned a top-seed in the NCAA tournament and hosted a regional after a 42-21 season and second-place finish with the West Division of the Southeastern Conference. Auburn again advanced to the regionals in 2005, falling in the finals to host Florida State.
In his five seasons at Auburn, he oversaw a defense that posted the two best fielding percentages in school history, finishing at .970 in 2002 and .968 in 2003. The 2002 fielding percentage also ranked second in the SEC and 12th nationally.
Prior to joining the staff at Auburn Finwood spent six seasons at Virginia Commonwealth -- four seasons as an assistant (1995-98) before serving as the Rams' associate head coach in 1999 and 2000. Finwood helped guide VCU to a 219-139 record in six years in Richmond. In his six seasons, VCU claimed Colonial Athletic Association regular-season titles in 1997 and 1998. The Rams also earned trips to the NCAA Tournament in 1998 and 1999, winning 40-plus games both seasons, including a school-record 46 victories during the 1998 campaign.
Finwood began his coaching career at his alma mater -- Virginia Military Institute -- serving as an assistant for three seasons before taking over the head coaching duties from 1992-94. After inheriting a VMI team that had won just two games the year before, Finwood led the Keydets to a school-record 21 wins in 1993 and 1994 and a berth in the 1993 Southern Conference Tournament championship game.
A four-year starter on the field at VMI from 1985-88, Finwood was named to the Southern Conference All-Northern Division team three times. A career .300 hitter, he posted a .399 batting average as a senior -- the sixth-best average in school history. He was also named team captain during his senior season and finished his career with the Keydets ranked second in hits and runs scored. Finwood was inducted into the VMI Athletics Hall of Fame in the summer of 2003.
Finwood was introduced as the Monarchs head coach on June 28th, 2011 and is the 13th head baseball coach in ODU history. He and his wife Annette have two children -- a daughter, Riley, and son, Greyson.
What Others Are Saying About Coach Finwood
"Chris Finwood is one of my all time favorite VMI baseball players. I recruited him out of Hampton High School to play shortstop for us and he became a four-year starter, All Southern Conference selection, and was inducted into the VMI Sports Hall of Fame. 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."
"In my opinion Chris is one of the best five college baseball coaches in America. I'm excited for ODU and baseball."
THE FINWOOD FILE
FINWOOD TEAMS IN THE NCAA
HEAD COACHING RECORD
WKU 190-154 (6 yrs)
VMI (52-97) 3 yrs