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Bosco’s Corner: Finn steps down as SFP girls’ hoop coach

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The Queens girls’ high school basketball season came to an end during the last week of March, when two borough teams — Christ the King and Archbishop Molloy — competed for the state Federation championships in Glen Falls, N.Y.

Noticeably absent from the proceedings was St. Francis Prep, a team that had established itself as second best in the Brooklyn/Queens Diocesan — right behind the mighty CK Royals — for the better part of the last two decades.

But that has changed in recent years, when simply being a good coach and running a clean program could actually no longer spell success. Unfortunately, those days, by and large, are a thing of the past on the high school level in New York City.

The changing face of the high school basketball scene is the main reason the coach of the girls’ team at St. Francis Prep, Tom Finn, has parted ways — sort of — with the team he has coached for the last eight seasons.

Eight years, three state championships, 28 college scholarships and a complete record of 148-59 and Finn simply can’t hack it anymore. And it isn’t because the man has lost his ability to coach. Hardly.

“It’s a combination of things,” Finn said. “It’s actually gotten to a point where I don’t want to do it. I did all I can do at Prep and I wish them all the luck down the road.”

As is common practice at the school, all coaches review their seasons and talk about the future with athletic director Sal Fischetti — whom Finn replaced as head coach of the girls’ varsity team. And it was at that meeting, Finn said, that he decided to step down as head coach after discussing a simple “difference of opinion.”

According to Finn, the school wanted to go the same route as the other top girls’ hoop programs in the city by establishing a link with an AAU program. Christ the King, the CHSAA state champion, has a long-standing relationship with the Liberty Belles and other schools, just as Molloy, the Mary Louis Academy and PSAL power Murry Bergtraum also have similar affiliations. But Finn was reluctant to take the Terriers down that same road.

“We kind of held ourselves to pretty high standards,” said Finn, whose team finished 13-13 this season. “All the schools seem to be hooked with an AAU program. I don’t think we should. (This is) not the thing I’m going to do.”

Finn was only the third girls’ varsity coach in the history of the school. Jane Modry was coach of the girls’ team at Bishop Reilly before St. Francis Prep — then an all-boys institution in Brooklyn — took over the Fresh Meadows school and relocated to Queens. Fischetti replaced Modry briefly before Finn took the reigns.

Of Finn’s 59 losses as head girls’ coach, 21 came against Christ the King, another five to Poughkeepsie powerhouse Our Lady of Lourdes and five to current state Federation champ Murry Bergtraum.

“We ducked nobody,” Finn said. “I didn’t have to play Murry Bergtraum and Lourdes. The idea is to play the toughest competition you can find.”

Perhaps the best team he has ever coached was the 2001-2002 club that featured Dawn Gorynski and nearly defeated Christ the King in the Brooklyn/Queens Diocesan championship game.

Gorynski, Finn said, was the best player he had the privilege to coach, but he confessed he did not know anything about her until she had enrolled at the Fresh Meadows school.

But that kind of thing is pretty much unheard of these days. The best basketball players, boys and girls, are scouted by AAU coaches and high schools long before their freshmen years. Some high school coaches even promise playing time and roster spots to incoming freshmen. But Finn simply didn’t operate this way, he said.

“I don’t know till I get to camp in the summer who’s coming to school next year,” Finn said. “I had some really great kids. I made them an offer and they bought into it. I always tried to do the best I could.”

Finn also admitted that maybe his style of coaching may not have been a perfect fit for the varsity girls’ team.

“I’m a yeller,” he said. “If I treat (a girl) any different than I treat a boy, I’m doing (her) a disservice. I wouldn’t say anything to (a girl) I wouldn’t say to a boy.”

Finn, a Middle Village resident, began his association with the school 25 years ago while still a CYO baseball coach at St. Sebastian’s in Woodside, where he grew up. When he began driving some of his players to their high school practice at Prep, varsity baseball coach Bro. Robert Kent invited Finn to help out instead of just stand around. A year later Finn was an assistant with the team and has been with the school ever since.

The 52-year-old Finn is still coaching the freshmen baseball team, is a member of the school’s athletic advisory board and in 2002 was named an honorary alumni at the school.

“That’s the biggest honor I think that I’ve ever been given,” Finn said. “I’m proud of my association with them. I’m grateful to them. I’m proud of the time I spent there.”

Finn isn’t sure what the future holds for him, but he said he hopes to still be coaching next year, either at St. Francis Prep or somewhere else.

“I think I have more coaching in me,” he said. “I haven’t ruled out the possibility of jumping back and doing boys’ basketball.”

Reach Sports Editor Anthony Bosco by e-mail at TimesLedger@aol.com or call 718-229-0300, Ext. 130.

Posted 7:03 pm, October 10, 2011
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