By Chris Goldberg & Anthony Caruso III
Phillylacrosse.com, Posted 2/3/23
Seven days have passed since the Philadelphia Wings feted Hall of Famer Kevin Finneran by raising his No. 11 to the rafters of the Wells Fargo Center before their NLL defeat to Buffalo (13-9).
Heck, 10 years could pass and Finneran would explain his emotions the same thing: “I’ll always say this was the greatest night of my life.”
Indeed, last Friday’s pre-game ceremony was a memorable event for the affable Finneran, who helped bring four NLL championship titles to Philadelphia and was inducted into the NLL Hall of Fame in 2021. At the time of his retirement, Finneran was the all-time league leader with 143 games played. With the Wings, Finneran ended his career with 192 goals scored and 283 assists, totaling 475 points (third-overall in Wings history). Finneran has also held the record for most consecutive games played at 139 games and was once the American all-time leading goal scorer.
Finneran recalled his emotions of the event last week.
“It started when I was in the tunnel waiting to go out,” he said. “I looked to my left and 20 of my ex-teammates arrived and surprised me. there was Tony Resch, Chris Flynn, and Paul Deniken and so many Philly lacrosse luminaries.
“I looked to my right and saw the master of ceremony, Matt Cord – the Sixers PA announcer – who started with the Wings. Then I saw some of the kids that I have coached come on to the bench. That was my second excitement. Then the third excitement – and I almost lost it – was when they put up the tribute video on the scoreboard.”
Finneran was born and raised a Long Island laxer. But when he came to Philly in the early 90s, he soon became a Philly lacrosse legend who called his new town home. He’s since spent years in Florida, but he’s been back for several years, coaching, training young players and running camps.
“Once Matt introduced me I spoke from my heart about all my years in Philly,” said Finneran. “I talked about why Philly has become my home. It was great to have my family here and obviously to see them raise my banner.
“I’ll always say this was the greatest night of my life. I had my three sisters and brother and nieces and nephews; that was so special. Obviously, the icing on the cake would have been if the Wings had won the game.”
Finneran’s rise to stardom as a box lacrosse player is a story in itself. He played his college ball at Ohio Wesleyan where he was a first Team All-American midfielder, was coached by Mike Pressler and played in the 1989 NCAA Division III Lacrosse Championship.
“I got a job out of college at a beverage company and they put me in Worcester, Mass. I was driving by the arena in downtown Worcester and said, ‘Wow, what’s this, the home of the New England Blazers?’
“I tried out for the team. It was 95 percent Americans. We had maybe one or two Canadians. I had a coach who pushed me hard. The next year I got transferred to Detroit and that team was 90 percent Canadian and that’s when I really learned the game.
“There I played alongside the Gait brothers (Gary and Paul) and then I got transferred to Philly. I was the Player to be Named Later with the Gaits. They were the superstars; I also had a great coach in Dave Evans.”
Finneran played for Team USA in the Heritage Cup in both 2002 and 2004, and was named the captain of the 2004 team. Finneran made Team USA’s outdoor team in 1998 and he played in Major League lacrosse with the Long Island Lizards from 2001-2004 and the Philadelphia Barrage in 2005. Finneran was the head coach and general manager of MLL’s Chicago Machine. Finneran also served as the Director of Lacrosse of IMG Academy from May 2010 to February 2011.
Now, most know Finneran as “Coach Finn” since he is popular with the younger players he coaches. He stresses the box game to all.
“I tell kids all the time, and parents, that if you play box lacrosse, it’s going to make you so much of a better field player,” said Finneran, who works with Penn Lax. “I would not have made Team USA in 1998 under Bill Tierney if I had not played box lacrosse for five years,”
Finneran said he will cherish the experience of going to the Wells Fargo Center again.
“I am looking forward to the next opportunity – probably next week I will go to a Flyers game and I will look up and I will definitely lose it,” he said, saying he cannot believe his jersey will be near that of Julius Erving’s No. 6. “I am a self promoter so if anyone is sitting near me I will probably say, ‘See that number up there? That’s me!’
“Last week was just a surreal night. It couldn’t have gone any better. It’s somewhat overwhelming. I’m honored to know that I am next to Julius Erving, who grew up two towns next to me on Long Island, and Bill Barber.”
Finneran is just the fourth player to have his jersey retired by the Wings. He is the first player to have his jersey retired since 2014 when they retired Jake Bergey’s number.
“Words cannot express how excited that I am with three other teammates Tom Marechek, Jake Bergey, and Dallas Eliuk in the rafters,” he said. “As I tell the kids, I hope you join me in the rafters one day.”