Kelly Rae Finley

Courtesy Arizona Athletics

Arizona women’s basketball coach Adia Barnes was in the midst of two big recruiting weekends when the news hit.

One of her assistant coaches, Kelly Rae Finley, was on the verge of accepting a position at Florida.

“The timing is never right,” Barnes said. “We had five visits (last weekend) at the same time. It made for a stressful week — this in the middle of everything.”

Finley was added to Florida coach Cameron Newbauer’s staff as an assistant coach on Wednesday. She will recruit and coach in the Southeastern Conference, which — thanks to a beneficial television contract — has money to spend.

“It’s a great opportunity for Kelly,” said Barnes. “It’s another challenge for her. I completely supported her decision. She has to do what she feels is right for her career. She’s known (Newbauer) for a long time. And for him, it’s all happening fast. He has to hire his staff fast and start recruiting. Things definitely move fast — I know that.

“This will be a big loss for us. But, I’m big on everything happens for a reason. We will get a great hire here. We have top recruiting classes for ’17 and ’18. We play in the No. 1 conference in the nation. And our team, our program has momentum. We’ll bring in someone great to help the kids be better on and off the court.”

The UA’s vacancy must be posted for 10 working days before a new hire is announced. Barnes said she is interviewing candidates and is close to a decision, which will be announced next week.

It’s the little things

When Barnes took over the program, she focused on the little things that — she hoped — would make big differences. One of those things was community involvement: Her team has been volunteering twice a week. A few weeks ago, her squad read to kids at Mission View Elementary School.

On Wednesday night, the Wildcats were recognized for their efforts with an award at the CATSYs, the athletic department’s annual banquet. The women’s basketball team picked up the Athletic Director’s Cup for Community Service. Each student-athlete averaged more than 20 hours of service during the year.

“This is a big accomplishment for us,” Barnes said. “They loved doing this. I let them pick what they wanted to do. They were so passionate about it. It was good for the community and good for them. I am so proud of their hard work on and off the court.”

Extra point

  • UA support staffers Christine Clark, Alexus Atchley, Meghan Schram and Lisa Salgado ran the official visits after Finley announced her departure. The four “really stepped up like a true team and we executed the visits perfectly,” Barnes said.