TV20 sit-down: UF women’s basketball coach Kelly Rae Finley

Gators 21-11 this past season, made the NCAA tournament
Florida won 21 games under Finley while she was interim coach
Updated: May. 5, 2022 at 11:35 PM EDT
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GAINESVILLE, Fla. (WCJB) -One of the more intriguing developments in Florida Gator athletics has been the rise of Kelly Rae Finley. In less than a year, Finley has gone from assistant coach of an under .500 program to interim head and now full-time leader of an NCAA tournament squad. TV20 Gator Insider Steve Russell presents a sit-down interview with the Florida women’s basketball coach. The conversation begins with those life-changing last few months.

(STEVE RUSSELL)

“It’s a shame nothing’s happened over the last year or so, really boring, Not a lot going on. But as you look back over this last year or so, what are your thoughts, have you had time to reflect on everything that’s happened?”

(KELLY RAE FINLEY)

“Oh geez, great question. Not just yet. We’ve been recruiting. We’ve invested quite a bit of time in in our staff and our program since we stopped playing. Our student athletes just completed all their coursework. So that’s exciting, and so now on to summer vacation.”

(STEVE RUSSELL)

“As far as your roster for next year, with the transfer portal and those things, how does it shake out now?”

(KELLY RAE FINLEY)

“Good, good. I think we’ve made some very strong additions in the offseason already. With the signing of Leilani Correia, KK, Deans and Shay Kyle, we filled some gaps potentially, and those three will allow us to, in addition to our current roster, compete with a lot of different styles of play and make us just that little bit more versatile.”

(STEVE RUSSELL)

“How was it coaching the group you had last year?”

(KELLY RAE FINLEY)

“It was the best. It was like a coach’s dream, that team will forever hold the most special place in my heart. They’re talented young women, they’re courageous and they’re everything that you could hope for in a team that’s selfless and willing to sacrifice a but that’s what our program is built on, and will look to continue that moving forward.”

(STEVE RUSSELL)

“Given what’s happened in your program given recent revelations here, how important is mental health with with your kids individually and as a team, given what’s happened here recently?”

(KELLY RAE FINLEY)

“I think it’s on a national scale. Something that needs to be taken very seriously and it’s something that we address here. We feel like we have very strong staff in terms of mental health and support for all of our student-athletes and it’s something that we obviously take very seriously. You can never be too educated. You have to be open and honest and try to create an environment that encourages that as best you can. But you really, you really never know.”

(STEVE RUSSELL)

“I would imagine it’s a little bit different, being an assistant coach to being a head coach. So what are some of those differences?”

(KELLY RAE FINLEY)

“I don’t know. I think maybe there were more similarities than differences. It was just fun. I think that’s the best thing that I can say is it was a joy to coach our student-athletes every day, and I think I said maybe midway through the season, they didn’t have to make this past season so special for me, and they did, and for that I will be forever grateful for sure.”

(STEVE RUSSELL)

“Did you think your team would be as good as it was when you started the year?”

(KELLY RAE FINLEY)

Yeah. Absolutely I did. I knew that we were really talented. I believe in us, I’ll always believe in us, first and foremost. And then, you know, I really believe that. I knew we had extremely talented roster and above that, I knew that we had a cohesion and a selflessness that it takes to be an elite program, and I think that’s what we showed on the floor this past season.”

(STEVE RUSSELL)

“I couldn’t wait to ask you this question. You’ve been an assistant coach, but now as a head coach, you have to fill your staff with assistant coaches. What do you look for in assistant coaches?”

(KELLY RAE FINLEY)

“Great question. I don’t think I’ve ever been asked that. Geez, that’s a great question. Work ethic, belief, knowledge, a desire to be a part of something special, a selflessness. We want to build a team, you know, we want to team build. I want to just have a group of very talented people and so we need different skill sets and I think that’s what we’ve been able to do.”

(STEVE RUSSELL)

“I’d be remiss to not ask about NIL because that is a part of the college landscape. What are your thoughts about that? And then the transfer portal, your thoughts on that as well?”

(KELLY RAE FINLEY)

“In regards to NIL, I think it’s wonderful. I think that, within our team and our program we strive to help each individual be their best within the context of the team. And we really believe that if individually were progressing and we’re growing then that’s going to help poor into the collective, right? And so, I think from an NIL perspective, we want what they want, but it’s their craft. It’s their brands, and it’s things that they have to have ownership with. And then in regards to the transfer portal. You want people to be happy. Are you going to be happy every day? Not necessarily, right? But to have the opportunity to transfer and play right away, all of those kinds of things. I think it’s just evolution of the game.”

(STEVE RUSSELL)

“I’ll end with this. You’ve been a player, an assistant coach, now a head coach. what is the best part of coaching for you?”

(KELLY RAE FINLEY)

“The relationships, for sure. I think that it’s really important. We only get one shot at this thing called life. I’m blessed to share my days with our student athletes and our staff at this beautiful university in the most wonderful place. So, I think that’s by far the best part of coaching.”

(STEVE RUSSELL)

“It’s been our pleasure to talk to the Gator women’s basketball coach Kelly Rae Finley. Her team team makes the NCAA tournament last year, hopefully more success down the road here. Coach, thanks.”

(KELLY RAE FINLEY)

“Thank you, Steve.”

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