Finney steps up in Jones' absence
Assistant coach leads team to victory in first conference game
Published: Wednesday, January 4, 2012
Updated: Thursday, January 5, 2012 00:01
A familiar face was absent from the UCF Arena when the Knights (11-3, 1-0) defeated the Tulane Green Wave (12-3, 0-1), 60-53, to open conference play on Wednesday night.
With head coach Donnie Jones suspended for the first of three games, as mandated by the university, UCF players and coaches responded well and it was business as usual on the court.
Associate head coach Shawn Finney assumed Jones' duties for the game, coaching the Knights to a victory.
"It's definitely a little bit different [without coach Jones], but in practice everybody has a vocal part in helping us get better and coach Finney and coach [Tim] Thomas definitely have a part in that," junior guard Marcus Jordan said. "We just wanted to attack it as another game."
Tulane led only once, early in the contest, and the Knights never looked back and responded well to the Green Wave's runs. The suspension was something the team and staff knew about and planned for and Finney credited that preparation for UCF's success.
"Coach Jones really prepared this team to play without any coach, and I think that's really indicative of how the game went," Finney said.
Jones had addressed his team during Tuesday's practice, giving both the players and staff words of encouragement and a vote of confidence.
"[Tuesday] in practice [coach Jones] just mentioned that he wouldn't be here, and we all knew that," Jordan said. "He just wanted us to go out and play hard. [He said] if we did the things that he knows we can do, we would come out with the ‘W,' and that's what we did."
Jones will be absent for two more games. The Knights will travel to East Carolina (9-4) to take on the Pirates on Saturday, then return home to face the Houston Cougars (8-5) next Wednesday.
Finney has been a head coach before, ironically enough having roamed the sidelines for Tulane from 2000-05, but the former television analyst for ESPN said it was still an adjustment calling the shots Wednesday night.
"It's obviously different because the last five years I've been an assistant coach," Finney said. "I've been sitting over there with a different agenda, not calling every play but making suggestions. Tonight I had to make decisions versus suggestions."