AU Baseball Assistant Taking Head Coach Job

Auburn, Ala.–-The Auburn baseball family is losing a member following this season as Assistant Coach Chris Finwood is moving on to become the head man at Western Kentucky after the 2005 season is done for the Tigers.

A vital member of Auburn's staff the last five seasons, Finwood is moving on to take over a WKU program that has great potential down the road. He says that after interviewing early last week he didn't need much time to think when offered the job.

"I got offered the job last night (Sunday) about 8:30 when we got back and there wasn't much haggling," Finwood tells Inside The Auburn Tigers. "I had already decided. I thought it was a great job and I decided to accept it. I'm excited about that."

One thing is obvious and that is Finwood leaves behind a job that he loves. Besides a growing appreciation for Auburn, its fans and community, the 39-year old is also leaving his good friend in Auburn head coach Tommy Slater. Having played together at VMI and worked together at both VMI and Auburn, Finwood says that he's just happy that he had the chance to work with Slater once again this season as he begins to rebuild the program.

"One thing that I want to make clear from my end is how much I appreciate the opportunity to spend the last five years at such a wonderful and neat place as Auburn," Finwood says. "Especially this last year being able to work alongside my best friend and a guy I've got so much respect for as a man and a person as well as a great coach. I think the world of Tommy and I think the program here is in tremendous hands under his leadership. The sky is the limit. I'm really excited about the class of kids we brought in this year. I think they'll be the cornerstone to put Auburn baseball where it needs to be."

Finwood has been a familiar face in the third base coaching box this season for the Tigers. Here he urges Jeff Boutwell to the plate.

Slater echoed the sentiments of Finwood and says that he's excited to see his friend get an opportunity to be a head coach once again. "I'm just very excited for Chris," Slater says. "He's a great friend and a great coach. He's worked extremely hard. We're just excited for him and his family that they're getting a great opportunity to go to a great university and be a head coach."

A native of Hampton, Va., Finwood played at VMI alongside Slater before moving into the coaching ranks as an assistant coach for the Keydets for two seasons along with a stint at Radford. He was the head coach at VMI from 1992-1994 before moving to VCU as an assistant from 1995-2000 and he's been at Auburn ever since as the Tigers' chief recruiter and infield coach. He says the time spent at Auburn in the SEC has made him a much better coach and more prepared for his new job at Western Kentucky.

"Coaching in this league is like getting your PhD in coaching," Finwood says. "Your coaching against the best coaches in the country, the best programs in the country. You're playing in the best facilities. You really learn how to handle the game in the pressure cooker. There is no question you grow in that aspect. I have grown as a recruiter, being able to recruit the best players in the country, and also as a coach. I feel like I'm a much better and more polished coach than when I came here."

Finwood plans to make the trip to Western Kentucky on Tuesday to watch his new team in action and then he'll be formally announced on Wednesday as the new head coach. With an important series coming up against rival Alabama this weekend that has an SEC Tournament berth riding on it, Finwood says his loyalty still lies with Auburn and getting this team back into the postseason after the Tigers failed to make it last year.

"When we're done, which I hope is quite a while yet, I'll pack my stuff up and start working on my program there," Finwood says. "I told Slater I want to help us win as much as I can and work on Western Kentucky in my spare time trying to get that program on the move. I'm going up tomorrow and I'm actually going to watch them play tomorrow night. The press conference is Wednesday. I'll get a chance to meet with the team and I'll be back here Thursday morning in the time for our practice.

"We've got such a big weekend in many ways with Alabama. You can't ever control the timing of things and I don't want it to be a distraction for our guys, but I don't think it will be. Alabama is Alabama and we know what we're playing for. I'll be 100 percent committed to that as long as I'm in an Auburn uniform."

For Slater the process begins as he starts to look for a new assistant coach. Like anyone in his situation he says he has a few people in mind already, but he won't begin talking with candidates until after the season.

"I've got a list of guys, but we're still in our season and Chris is going to be with us until the end of that," Slater notes. "It will be a month long process because a lot of people you have interest in have jobs too. I expect a three or four week process and we'll talk to a number of people. We'll work through my list and I know we'll come up with a great guy."

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