Lansing-Area Basketball Coaching Legend Steve Finamore Looks To The Future

Feb 25, 2021

Finamore hasn’t coached since 2019, but has kept his head – and heart – thinking about the sport of basketball.

Steve Finamore took a break from coaching high school basketball, but is not gone from that world. The legendary mid-Michigan preps coach has spent the last year and a half studying the game’s best coaches, seeing how they were able to connect with and motivate their players, in preparation for a return to coaching sometime soon.

Finamore coaches on the court.
Credit Jared Ramsey

Finamore studied many coaches, including Hall of Fame basketball coach Larry Brown who preached “play the right way”. That philosophy has been a guiding principle for Finamore to improve himself as a coach and a person. 

It was the mantra powering Brown to the 2004 NBA title with the Pistons, the 1988 NCAA crown with Kansas, and induction into the Naismith Basketball Hall of Fame. Brown preaches fundamentals, personal responsibility and holding teammates accountable.

“Spike Lee once directed a movie back in the 80s called 'Do The Right Thing', and that's what life really boils down to - waking up every morning and doing the right thing,” said Finamore. “So, I kind of bridged it towards basketball, like Larry Brown does, you know, having a good attitude, being motivated, being a good teammate playing hard, things like that.”

Finamore is studying Brown and other coaches to improve himself before his next job wherever that may be. He decided to take a break from the coaching world in 2019, resigning from Lansing Sexton. Prior to that job, Finamore was the coach for East Lansing boys basketball from 2010-18, turning it into a perennial powerhouse in mid-Michigan, including back-to-back undefeated seasons in 2016 and 2017. 

Finamore resigned from East Lansing in 2018 following an argument with a parent and the athletic director that led to his suspension. Finamore declined to comment on the situation.

“I really felt I needed to step back and take a year or two off and reset everything and recharge. Some people call it burnout, but I really don't because I always loved the game, always loved being with the players right down to the very last day,” said Finamore. “So, I just thought I needed some time off from coaching.”

He said the time off has led him to reevaluate his approach to coaching, especially with off-the-court situations. 

“There's so many things a head coach has to deal with, and I think I got a better grasp of those things now because you get caught up in winning and losing so much,” said Finamore. “Nowadays they're telling you, you know, concentrate on the process, that's the buzzword now. And I've learned to really, really understand that area where I just come to practice every day, get better, build better relationships with the players.”

Finamore he has been studying Brown and other coaches is to improve all-around as a coach before he decides to take another job. 

“I would love to get back into coaching,” said Finamore. “I have a full tank of gas, I feel I have a lot to offer. I've learned so much from my past experiences. I've been improving my coaching methods by observing other coaches and talking to other coaches. I feel I'm a lot smarter. I have a lot more wisdom now and knowledge on how to deal with certain situations.”

Life changed drastically for Finamore, like the rest of the world, due to the COVID-19 pandemic. Following his resignation at Sexton, Finamore took a job at Okemos High as a student supervisor. He was only able to work two weeks last spring before COVID-19 forced schools to stop in-person learning.

The lack of human interaction from the pandemic affected Finamore’s mental health. At first, he struggled with the isolation, but learned to channel his thoughts and focus on other parts of his life.

“I had just gotten the job, two weeks in and we shut everything down,” he said. ”So I really missed the kids. I was sitting at home every day, listening to sports talk radio, exercising, but I didn't have any connection with anyone outside, any interaction.”

Finamore said taking a step back and readjusting his focus on things within his own control helped improve his mental stature. Finamore picked up many hobbies during the pandemic, but he remained focused on basketball and the world of coaching and incorporated that into the activities he used to pass the time. 

“I think the time away has really helped him with perspective and evaluating his approach to coaching and overall philosophy,” said Mary Hogan, Finamore’s wife. 

This led to the creation of Finamore’s website, hoopscoach.wordpress.com, as well as his increased social media presence, where he often breaks down basketball plays, explaining what happened and what impressed him as a coach from that particular play. 

His website is a personal blog, updated a few times per week by Finamore. His posts range anywhere from breaking down last night’s NBA games to anecdotes from his coaching or playing career that were inspired by the basketball that he just watched.

The blog posts are filled with basketball analysis, coupled with Finamore’s personal thoughts about the current state of the basketball world and beyond. He is direct in his writing, and lets the readers know how he feels about whatever he is writing about, basketball or not. 

Finamore lays in a pile of scattered papers.
Credit Jared Ramsey

Finamore also decided to write a book with his free time.

Finamore said that the book will be a memoir about his life in basketball, starting with his childhood in Brooklyn, detailing his long journey growing up in the basketball world and his experiences as a coach. 

“I always dreamed of being a sportswriter,” said Finamore. “I love sports, obviously, and it’s not as easy as people think it is to write a book. I’m trying, you know, but it’s all about trial and error. There’s about 43 to 44 chapters from when I was growing up as a child in Brooklyn, New York up until about 2020, right before the pandemic.”