Posted on: September 16, 2021 Posted by: Glacier Staff Comments: 0

Photo by Ethan Holesha

Even after almost four decades as the athletic director at Moraine Valley, Bill Finn still feels as if he’s living out his dream job. While COVID has put a damper on sports over the course of the past two years, Finn continues to come to work day after day with the same positive attitude he’s always had.

By Ethan Holesha, Features Editor

As he enters his 39th year as athletic director at Moraine Valley, Bill Finn’s passion is still the same as the first day he took this job back in 1983. While many things have changed at Moraine over the past four decades, Finn’s love for this community hasn’t lessened a bit.

“I was so energetic and so happy and excited and my job was sports like today, I’m still… I can’t believe it,” Finn said. “I mean it’s fantastic, I can be myself.” 

Finn was born in Bridgeport, a little neighborhood near White Sox Park. He ended up moving to Oak Lawn, which he now calls “the best town ever,” when he was six. Finn said, “it was phenomenal. It was awesome, I loved it. I had a great youth there.”

Finn went to Saint Linus for elementary school where he ended up being the president of his eighth grade class. He won his election with his signs that read, “Win with Finn.”

Finn wanted to go to Marist High School after Saint Linus, but his family couldn’t afford to send him there. The four other starters from his basketball team went to Marist, and they were supposed to stick together. Finn was devastated.

“It was an awful time in my life,” he said. “We had the team, we were going to be state champs if we stayed together.”

Luckily for Finn, he grew comfortable with Richards High School in no time. In his four years there, Finn became the school’s all-time leading scorer and rebounder in basketball. The scoring record was later broken by someone you may have heard of before, future NBA hall of famer Dwyane Wade. There are only four members of the basketball hall of fame at Richards, and Bill Finn is one of them. 

After a remarkable career at Richards, Finn was eyeing a college basketball career. He originally signed with Loras College in Dubuque, Iowa, but gained the attention of Iowa State. He originally chose Loras due to financial limitations, but when Iowa State finally offered him a full scholarship, he left Loras two weeks before the school year started. 

Iowa State was no pushover program, and Finn knew that. After seeing the talent level of his teammates, he knew this wasn’t going to be the place for him. Finn wanted to play, and he knew he’d only be able to do that if he went back to Loras, so that’s what he did. He was a team captain for two years at Loras, where he earned National Association of Intercollegiate Athletics All-District honors.

After his playing days, Finn didn’t initially know what his next step would be. “I got a business degree, so I thought I would be working downtown in some kind of business capacity,” said Finn. “So all of a sudden I had no job. At that point, I was trying to look for jobs and the basketball thing came up and I said ‘Man, I love this.’” At that point, there was no turning back. 

Photo by morainevalley.edu
With over 40 years at Moraine Valley under his belt, athletic director Bill Finn continues to leave his successful imprint on the college community.

He accepted a job at Evergreen Park High School as the head sophomore coach in 1980, beginning a long career of basketball coaching.

Finn received a call from Moraine Valley the next year. On the line it was the former athletic director, Doug Gehrke. As Finn recalls it, “Mr. Gehrke called and said, ‘All the boys said you’re the guy, you’re the basketball guru in the area. Do you want to coach us?’ I said sure.” 

1981 began the illustrious career that Finn is still building on, 40 years later, at Moraine Valley. In just two years as the men’s basketball head coach at Moraine, Finn brought instant success to the program. As a result, Finn was offered the athletic director position in 1983. And the rest is history.

Although he had his hands full for many years, he brought tremendous success to the college. He remained the men’s basketball head coach for 22 years, tallying a 506-210 career record and bringing twenty 20-plus win seasons to the college. He also led his teams to the National Junior College Athletic Association’s Division II national tournament four times, finishing in the final four in 1990 and 1999 and in the elite eight in 2001 and 2002.

Finn also found success in the tennis world at Moraine. He coached men’s and women’s tennis for 10 years, taking the team to nationals 10 straight years. He was even the Wilson intercollegiate tennis association coach of the year in 2013.

After taking a brief break from coaching, he recently returned to coaching basketball. He volunteers as an assistant coach at Lincoln Way West High School.

“I’m reinvigorated being back on the court a little bit,” said Finn. 

With all the success came some speed bumps, however, and the most difficult one yet appeared in the wake of the COVID-19 pandemic.

“It’s really stressed me out,” he said. “For me personally, it was my worst two years of my 41 years here, because we’re always swimming uphill, fighting battles everywhere.” 

Finn strongly advocated his players getting the vaccine, and he played a big part in the new rule that required Moraine athletes to get vaccinated.

He said, “Well if we get shots, if we do this we’re gonna play, let’s do the best we can. So I think that’s the biggest thing, I was always fighting somebody to try and get us to play. Finally with all the shots and the things we have going on now, the vaccines, we’re able to play.”

Finn also brought a story to Moraine president Sylvia Jenkins that gave her more reassurance in resuming sports on campus. The story is about a group of five basketball players that Finn coached at Moraine in the ’80s. The teammates became best friends for life and recently, one of their wives passed away. Finn went to pay his respects and saw all of his former players there. One of them approached Finn. 

I just try to be myself every day. I’ve been very lucky to be able to do it here.”

Athletic Director Bill Finn

“One of the guys goes, ‘Hey coach, you know what. We owe you so much gratitude. You recruited us that year from five different high schools. We would never have known each other. And now, we are like five families that are just intermixed. We’ve been at every one of our confirmations, communions, graduations, and weddings.’ He said, ‘Our five families together would not have been here without Moraine Valley and you.’”

Finn said, “That story I brought to the president last year and said, ‘This is what Moraine does. If we don’t play basketball, those kids are missing out on that stuff.’ It really made my 40 years worth it, hearing that. I told Dr. Jenkins and she felt better about starting sports again so we did. It sort of all worked out. It was great.”

Finn is hinting at a retirement in the near future. “I’m thinking less than three years,” he said. “I’ll be 65 in two years. So we’ll see what happens by then.”

Though retirement is in his sights, Finn still loves his job. He’s extremely comfortable here and never takes his job for granted.

“I’m one of us,” he said. “I talk to you like you’re my guy, you’re my friend, you’re my son, you’re my whatever. I’m just Coach Finn. I count that as a badge of honor.”

For Finn, everything comes back to the importance of loving your career.

“The one thing I told my children is, try to get a job where you can be yourself everyday,” he said. “Because that’s the best. You’re not always looking over your shoulder, being something else you’re not, you don’t want to be here, you’re always fake. I just try to be myself everyday. I’ve been very lucky to be able to do it here.”