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Saturday, February 24, 2024

Finley named women’s basketball’s permanent head coach

The Gators head into the postseason with momentum in her stellar interim year

<p>Florida women&#x27;s basketball head coach Kelly Rae Finley during her team&#x27;s game against Missouri Feb. 27, 2022.</p>

Florida women's basketball head coach Kelly Rae Finley during her team's game against Missouri Feb. 27, 2022.

Florida women’s basketball has removed the interim tag from head coach Kelly Rae Finley.

Florida athletic director Scott Stricklin announced the change Monday via a video the team posted on its official Twitter account. Finley will be the 11th head coach in program history after guiding the Gators to their best season since 2015-16. 

“I'm excited that she'll have the opportunity to build off of this year's success,” Stricklin said. “Future Gators will be able to benefit from her leadership the way this team has."

Finley, a five-year UF staffer, was named the interim leader of the Gator program following former head coach Cam Newbaeur’s July 16 resignation. A September report detailed Newbauer’s alleged abuse of former Florida basketball players during his four years leading the team.

Under her leadership, the Gators have become one of the biggest surprises in college basketball this season, entering this week’s SEC Tournament with a 20-9 record and a 10-6 record in SEC play. During Newbauer’s four years at the helm, UF only won 15 games overall in conference play. 

Opposing SEC coaches openly advocated for Stricklin to name Finley Florida’s next coach in postgame comments following their matchups with Florida throughout 2022. 

“I'm forever grateful for our staff and student-athletes for their dedication to growing this program,” Finley said. “I look forward to continuing on this journey."

The Edina, Minnesota, native has propelled UF into the spotlight, defeating five ranked opponents this season, a feat the program hasn’t accomplished since 2005-06. Florida has defeated usual SEC giants such as Tennessee, Kentucky, Louisiana State, Georgia and Texas A&M. The Gators are also poised to make their first NCAA Tournament appearance since 2016. 

Florida’s slew of upsets earned it a 5-seed in the upcoming SEC Tournament. The Gators also earned their highest ranking in the Associated Press poll since 2009 last week, checking in at No. 15. 

Florida begins the SEC Tournament when it takes on the winner of Vanderbilt and Texas A&M Thursday at 1 p.m from Bridgestone Arena in Nashville, Tennessee. 

Contact Caleb Wiegandt at Follow him on Twitter at @CalebWiegandt.

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