Assistant Coach: Nathan Baker
Assistant Coach: Laryssa Goncalves
Director of Operations: Yue Liu
Strength and Conditioning: Tim Kontos
Athletic Trainer: Allegra Lucia

JAMES FINLEY
HEAD COACH
FIFTH SEASON • SUL ROSS STATE '83
Texas is a big state with a reputation for friendliness.    Virginia Commonwealth University volleyball coach James Finley does nothing to dampen that reputation.

A native Texan with a big smile and a knack for conversation, Finley firmly believes that relationships are the key to success.

“If I had to use a word, that would be it,” Finley said. “I’ve never really worried about winning or losing.  If you build a good relationship with your players and your staff and the people around you, you get that chemistry and you get people who want to run through a wall for you.  There’s just a great sense of trust.  That is the key to being able to get the most out of the personnel you have.

“There will be teams out there that will be more athletic.  We have the ability to win in those situations because our team believes in each other and trusts each other.  Then, when you have trust from your players, there’s not a moment of second guessing in what you are telling them.”

Finley enters his fifth season at VCU with high expectations. 

“I think our team this year is going to be very disappointed if we are not playing for the conference championship,” Finley said.  “Anything short of that is just unacceptable for us.

“Our program is in a very healthy situation.   We were really young last year and we’re still young.   We’ve become much more athletic.    We still have a maturity thing to accomplish this year.   Whether we get there this year or next year is going to be the critical thing in how far we can go.   I definitely feel we have the potential this year.  I think we have all the pieces to have an opportunity to compete for the championship, put us back where we should be and move forward from there.”

His track record indicates he knows a good team when he sees one.

A former high school and club coach, Finley moved into the collegiate ranks at Texas El Paso, where he served as an assistant for two years.   He became head coach at Arizona Western College in Yuma, Ariz., in 2001.  In four seasons there, the Matadors won four NJCAA Region I Division I championships.     The team was ranked in the top 10 nationally each of the four seasons.   His overall record there was 137-37.   His teams performed away from the court, too.  Finley coached eight academic All-Americans at Arizona Western.

In 2005, Finley took over a VCU team that posted a 6-21 record the previous season.  His first Rams team won the CAA championship and a spot in the NCAA Tournament.   VCU had a 16-win improvement, second best in the country.  The next season, VCU almost did it again.   As the sixth seed, the Rams made it all the way to the CAA final. In 2008, the Rams recorded their best CAA regular season since joining the league in 1995, when they finished second at 10-4. VCU was 19-13 overall last year.

Additionally, in his first four seasons, Finley's players garnered three First Team All-CAA citations, more than the previous 11 seasons combined. Ludmila Francescatto, who transferred with Finley from Arizona Western in 2005, was named AVCA All-Region Honorable Mention in 2005 and 2006, the first Ram to gain that distinction.

The leap from the junior college ranks to the Division I level wasn’t as big as it might seem.

“I recruited Division I athletes,” Finley said of his time at Arizona Western.  “We would play spring games against Division I teams – Arizona, Texas A&M, Texas Tech, Arizona State, Wichita State and UTEP.  Our team always performed well.”

Finley will be joined on the sidelines this year by assistants Nathan Baker, Yue Liu and Brian Newcomb. Baker has been a head coach at both the University of West Alabama and Tusculum College. Liu is a recent graduate of Temple and a former captain of the Owls’ volleyball team, while Newcomb enters the coaching ranks this season after playing professionally in Switzerland, Sweden, Spain and Latvia.   

Finley’s passion for his sport and building relationships extends beyond the court.   He’s helped organize a booster club for his team and worked with coaches in VCU’s other sports to plan a “field day” of activities for the student-athletes to bond and build support for one another.

“James may be one of the most committed coaches I have ever been around,” said VCU Director of Athletics Norwood T. Teague.  “He lives and breathes VCU volleyball."

Finley earned a degree in range science from Sul Ross State University in Alpine, Texas in 1983.  He has one son, Carlton, who resides in Galveston, Texas.   Finley and his partner John Sternlicht reside in Richmond with John’s youngest son Jeremy.  John’s other son David plays football at Washington and Lee.

THE FINLEY FACTOR
YEAR
SCHOOL
OVERALL
%
CONF.
PLACE
NOTES
2001
Arizona Western (JC)
36-14
.720
--
--
Region 1 Champions
2002
Arizona Western (JC)
38-9
.809
--
--
Region 1 Champions
2003
Arizona Western (JC)
24-7
.774
--
--
Region 1 Champions
2004
Arizona Western (JC)
39-7
.848
--
--
Region 1 Champions
AWC
4 years
137-37
.787
--
--
2005
VCU
22-12
.647
11-7
4th*
CAA Tournament Champs
NCAA 1st Round
2006
VCU
16-18
.471
8-10
6th
CAA Tournament Runner-Up
2007
VCU
12-21
.364
6-8
T-7th
2008
VCU
19-13
.594
10-4
2nd
VCU
4 years
69-64
.519
35-29
--
             
OVERALL
8 years
206-101
.671
35-29
--

 

 

 

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