McALLEN — There’s that whole business trip aspect to the Houston Rockets opening camp in the Rio Grande Valley, but assistant coach Chris Finch has a couple of things he’d like to knock out before their weeklong stay concludes.
“I’m going to have the jalapeno burger at Pepper’s and probably go to Costa Messa,” Finch said Tuesday after the Rockets held their first training camp practice at the McAllen Convention Center.
Yup, Finch is back in the Valley. It’s his first trip back since he left in April 2011 following a two-season stint as coach of the Rio Grande Valley Vipers, the Rockets’ NBA Development League affiliate. Finch was hired to be an assistant to coach Kevin McHale one season ago. Finch led the Vipers to the D-League finals twice, which included their championship for the 2009-10 season.
Finch considers this trip a homecoming.
“(The Valley) is always going to be a special place, and not just for what we were able to accomplish,” Finch said. “It was my first home in the United States after being away for so long. It does feel a little bit like home for me. It’s a very familiar place.”
Finch arrived in the Valley in the fall of 2009 after being the head coach for four teams in England, Germany and Belgium over a 12-year span. He was named the Vipers coach after two seasons as head coach of Dexia Mons-Hainaut in Belgium.
In his first season with the Vipers, Finch guided them to the D-League championship and was the league’s coach of the year. The following year, the Vipers advanced to the championship game but lost to the Iowa Energy, which was coached by Nick Nurse, who ended up as Finch’s successor with the Vipers.
Finch’s success with the Vipers put him on the fast track with the Rockets, and he was added to the staff after McHale was named the Rockets’ coach in 2011.
“I got really lucky because I work for an unbelievable staff,” Finch said. “Mac (McHale) really lets his coaches have a big part and a big say. The organization has always been very good to me.”
Until last season, Finch had never been an assistant coach. He had always been the guy in charge. He said adjusting to the new role has been different. Finch added that McHale allows his assistants to give a lot of input and places a lot of trust in them.
“Mac allows us to coach and have a big say, and every opinion we have, he certainly considers,” Finch said. “This year, hopefully, I have proven to him that I can have more responsibility on the offensive side of the ball and changing the way we play. We want to play the way the Vipers team play. That’s our goal.”
Vipers basketball is predicated on an up-tempo game with consistent 3-point shooting, all triggered from the defensive end. The Rockets are beginning to put the foundation of that in place in the Valley.
McHale said Finch has been a good addition to his staff.
“Chris has been great to be around,” McHale said. “We share a lot of ideas. He’s got a good feel for the game of basketball. It’s been fun for him to be around and get to know him.”
Finch feels a little more at ease entering the season. For starters, the Rockets have a full training camp and season, and not the condensed version from last season following the NBA lockout. Plus, everyone on the staff knows each other.
“With the chaos that was the lockout year, I wasn’t the only one who was scrambling,” Finch said.
The biggest thing Finch learned from coaching in the NBA, the game doesn’t change.
“The game is pretty much the same,” Finch said. “But getting players to play and perform takes a little bit more massaging. Preparation is still key, but I believe that same thing that I’ve always believed — you have to have a system that you believe in, and you have to sell it to your players and get your players to sacrifice for that. If you can do that, I think you have a chance to win at any level.”
UTPA women's golf 13th at ORU
TULSA, Okla. – The University of Texas-Pan American Broncs women’s golf team shot a 332 during the third round Tuesday to finish 13th at the ORU Shootout at Meadowbrook Country Club.
The Broncs finished with a three-round total of 975 (318-325-332), 14 strokes back of 12th place Stephen F. Austin.
Edinburg native Samantha Parrao led the Broncs with a 239 (77-75-87), tied for 32nd and four strokes shy of a top-20 finish. Two spots and one stroke behind her was senior captain Sarah Kothny (80-79-81-240).
The Broncs return to action Oct. 8 and 9 at the Harold Funston Invitational hosted by Sam Houston State University.
-- UTPA Services