Q&A With Chris Finch
Rockets assistant coach discusses what he learned at the Olympics and how it can be applied during training camp
McALLEN, TEXAS - After a wild, whirlwind offseason, training camp is officially underway for the Houston Rockets. This is the time of year when coaches can truly begin to make their mark upon a team, so to get a feel for what the Rockets' staff has planned for the next few weeks, Rockets.com's Jason Friedman will sit down with each of the club's assistant coaches to find out what they're focusing on with this particular roster.
Taking his turn in the hot seat today is assistant Chris Finch. What follows is a transcript of the conversation that ensued.
JCF: I haven’t had a chance to check-in with you since the Olympics so first of all I wanted to see how your life has changed since your experience as the head coach of the Great Britain squad.
CF: Well I met the Queen ...
CF: Yeah, Nick Nurse and I were fortunate one day to get a personal audience with the Queen. She came to the Olympic Village and asked to meet with six coaches and we were two of them.
But the whole thing was a phenomenal experience. I’m not sure that my life has necessarily changed, other than I’m probably one of the few people that I know who have ever been to the Olympics as a competitor. But the whole thing makes me want to do it again if I ever get the chance. It’s an unbelievable experience certainly to have been part of a home Olympics for Britain and it’s also a culmination of seven years of work. Our guys did a great job of representing the country the way we hoped they would.
JCF: Was there one moment in particular, besides meeting the Queen of course, that really stands out for you from that experience?
CF: Well I met the Prime Minister as well (laughs).
JCF: Too bad you’re not single, otherwise you’d have some great pickup lines to use …
CF: I know, exactly. It was just a non-stop sensory experience for everybody. I wasn’t at the Opening Ceremonies; that was just for athletes – they had too many coaches so they kept them out – but there were definitely a couple experiences that stick out in my mind. From a basketball competitive point of view, certainly our win against China was extremely meaningful. Britain’s not necessarily a basketball nation but the crowds were fantastic.
And the national anthems … Britian is a very patriotic country but they’re not often into singing their national anthems – they’re a little bit more subdued than, say, Americans are. But when the arena was full and everyone was in full voice singing … Even though I’m American and have a strong allegiance to this country, just to feel that moment and what it meant to our guys – that will stick with me for a long time.
Then as far as other experiences, my apartment was probably half a mile from the Olympic Stadium and on my balcony in the village I had a great view of the stadium, and when the 100 meters were being run I was in my apartment preparing for the game. I’ve heard stadium roars before, but that ten second roar for the 100 meters – you knew at that moment that you were hearing the sporting event going on in the world. It’s little things like that; hearing the stadium come alive with roars and fireworks that make it such an incredible experience. It’s almost like an athletic utopia.
JCF: So what can you apply from what you learned from that experience to where you are right now at the start of training camp?
CF: That’s a great question. What you see there is a total dedication to everyone’s craft. Being among all those athletes, you see them getting up early every day, training, eating right, totally dedicated to their moment. And some of those people, their moment comes and goes so quickly: You have a qualification round, and they have to either qualify or they’re done, so four years of hard work can be gone in an instant.
Everyone is just laser focused, ready, and all their energy is going to that single moment. Then after they’ve had their chance or success they relax and party (laughs). But it’s all business before that and it’s just an incredibly pure environment from a preparation, readiness and excitement standpoint, and that’s what training camp should be. This is our pure environment and this is where we get to mold and prepare and get ready for the season and figure out who we are. Now Olympic athletes, they know who they are – they just have to do it. But this is our time: We’re away from Houston and all our energy should be going into preparing our team and our players should be preparing themselves for a great season.
JCF: I know you believe in freedom on offense and virtually no freedom on defense. What do you want to define this team offensively?
CF: I want us to always be on the attack. I want us to look and feel like a herd of horses coming down the floor every single time. I want us to really, first and foremost, put the defense under pressure every way possible and I want to see us share the ball. We want to run and keep the tempo high, but to do that we have to value the right shots and we have to do it unselfishly.
JCF: And what are your defensive goals?
CF: We need a total dedication to keeping the ball out of the paint; helping each other and making a wall of defenders anytime the ball gets near the paint and then challenging from there out. We really feel like if we do those two things – play with some tempo, space and freedom on offense, and we play with some physicality and sell-out to protect the paint on defense – then we can really take a step forward even from where we were last year. With a younger team, with a less experienced team, those will be challenges but it won’t keep us from making the improvements that we want to make as a team.