Remembering Coach Bob Finley: 25 Years Later
18 September 2019
Jason Gaston/HCS PR
(HOOVER) - If you have been in or around Hoover any amount of time, you have undoubtedly heard the name “Finley.” There’s a stadium (at the former W.A. Berry High School); a municipal recreation/sports center (The Finley Center); a scholarship (The Bob Finley Character Scholarship); and an awards program for Hoover City Schools (The Finley Awards for Character Education). The Finley name exists synonymously with “character” and traces its roots to Coach Robert O. Finley - longtime coach and educator at Hoover’s original high school - W.A. Berry High School.
This year marks the 25th anniversary of his passing.
Known for his genuine character - and his desire for those around him to always do the right thing - Finley became an Over-the-Mountain legend of sorts. His wife Diane recalls humility being a key trait of her late husband.
"Anybody who knew him knows he was the most humble person; someone who never liked the spotlight,” Mrs. Finley said. “He was just being himself in all he did. He never wanted any fuss.”
Coach Finley may not have wanted "fuss," but the community’s deep respect for him resulted in all the namesakes outlined above - plus a book by on his life by his former colleague, Wayne Wood. Wood authored Bob Finley: A Class Act; the Life and Influence of a Great Coach and Teacher. The work chronicles Coach Finley’s vaunted rise in Hoover.
“Coach Finley worked very hard to ensure the success of all athletic programs. He set high standards for himself and his fellow coaches in all aspects of coaching, teaching, and daily life,” Wood said.
Wood recently authored a post on the 25th anniversary of Finley’s passing, which noted Coach Finley’s diversity of interests when it came to sports, whether it be football, girls’ basketball, or assistant coaching positions: he learned the sports through and through and coached them all.
Wood notes in his piece that Coach Finley very much was looking forward to the 1994 football season and opening of the new Hoover High School - what would be the state's largest and most dynamic high school campus. Multiple programs (high school and collegiate) attempted to recruit Coach Finley, yet his allegiance was with Hoover, according to Wood. Wood said no one would have blamed him for moving on or even retiring; yet, that was not in the cards for Coach Finley. He was ultimately inducted into the Alabama High School Coaches Hall of Fame in 1992.
“He wanted to continue to influence the young people in Hoover in a positive way. He wanted more than the memories at Berry and desired to continue that at the new Hoover High School,” Wood said.
Making new memories would be a short-lived dream. As he was tending to a ball field at W.A. Berry High School in the summer of 1994, he suffered a heart attack and died a short time later. He was 56.
Less than two years after his passing, The Finley Committee for Character Education was formed. This initiative joins existing school efforts to promote good character among students and employees. The Finley Committee meets throughout the school year - and its work culminates each March with The Finley Awards, appropriately held at The Finley Center.
It’s no doubt - some 25 years later - that the great character of Coach Bob Finley continues to influence and impact generations. When you set aside the sports accolades, trophies, and championships- being remembered for great character means the most to his family.
“The whole Finley family is so grateful,” Diane Finley said. “[We are both] proud and pleased that Bob continues to be remembered in these many different ways."