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Finch family business

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  • For Doug Finch - back row center - and his daughters and grandchildren, basketball (and coaching) is more than a passion, it's the family business. (Submitted Photo)
    For Doug Finch - back row center - and his daughters and grandchildren, basketball (and coaching) is more than a passion, it's the family business. (Submitted Photo)

Smith Center senior Dakota Kattenberg notched a major career milestone when she hit the 1,000 career points scored mark in her team’s Tuesday victory over Hoxie, a consistent level of production that few high school basketball players ever come close to.

But Kattenberg, who has helped lead the Lady Redmen to a 13-2 record, is not the first in her gene pool to see success on the court.

For all families genetic traits are something passed along over time. Whether it be a widow’s peak, cleft chin, eye and hair color, or much more. But for the descendants of Doug Finch, Dakota’s grandfather, a passion for playing and coaching basketball just might be their most dominant trait.

A Natoma native, Finch started his coaching career in 1984 at Quinter High School after a college basketball playing career at Fort Hays State. Finch remained there for five seasons before moving on to Philipsburg for one season, and then made a move to Smith Center, where two of his three daughters - Denyse and Dayna - graduated, and the third - Darcy, his oldest - started her high school career before finishing up in Beloit.

The elder Finch helped Smith Center to one of their most productive stretches in boys basketball history, culminating in a 1991-92 season that saw the Redmen earn a rare Mid-Continent League tournament championship while compiling a 16-6 overall record.

But arguably Finch’s biggest contribution to Smith Center athletics were his daughters, who all played varsity for the Lady Red at an early age.

“My first memories are being in a gym,” Denyse said. “My mom has pictures of Dayna and I when we were little sitting on a blanket eating cheerios in a gym. Of course I don't remember that but we were gym rats from day one. I remember being water girls for his basketball teams in Smith Center and taking that job so seriously. We would sit behind the bench and just listen to what he would have to say.” 

The three girls were all high school basketball standouts, and all competed on a summer team coached by their father at some point.

“He started coaching us when I was in the fourth grade and Dayna third grade,” Denyse said. “We played our first game in the Sunflower State Games in Topeka and won in overtime 4-2. My dad was, and is, always so passionate about basketball and his teams. It doesn't matter if they are eight or 18, boys or girls, he always coached the same and always had high expectations and could always bring the best out of his players.” 

While Doug is known for his hard-nosed no-nonsense coaching style, he also has a reputation for well-timed comic relief.

“I think we all get our humor from him,” Denyse said. “Like I will catch myself saying his quirky remarks, like ‘The only turnover I like is apple or cherry!’ or ‘Hey it's OK to get a rebound!’”

Darcy was the first of the three to enter high school and played as a freshman at Smith Center before moving to Beloit, where her father had the privilege of coaching her as a Rule 10 coach after he resigned from his head coaching job with the Redmen.

Later in life, Darcy married husband Justin Couse and moved a couple counties over to Lucas. Their kids, Dayton and daughter Dharma, both attended Sylvan-Lucas Unified High School and had successful sports careers of their own.

Darcy is now the Recreation Director for Lincoln County and has coached various youth teams over the years.

Denyse, the family’s middle child and the mother of Dakota, moved back to Smith Center in 2002 and married high school sweetheart Dave Kattenberg, a standout football player and wrestler during his time as a Redmen. Besides Dakota, their son Dominick has also shown promise as a multi-sport athlete, competing in wrestling instead of basketball, following in his father’s footsteps.

“Dominick loves all sports and I think he will someday coach his kids in football, wrestling and baseball,” Denyse said. “He loves them all!”

Soon after moving back, Denyse began serving as an assistant under her former head coach Nick Linn in both volleyball and basketball, where they have continued to see much of the same success Denyse experienced herself in high school sports.

Right as Darcy was graduating high school, Denyse was entering high school at Smith Center, and added further to the family legacy of success on the court, coming just short of her daughter’s 1,000 point milestone with a still impressive 996 career points.

It is safe to say that under most circumstances, Denyse would have hit the 1,000 point career mark and then some, but when you have to share offensive touches with one of the best players in school’s history, there are only so many shot attempts to go around.

Just one year behind Denyse was Dayna, who started her high school career in 1996, and went on to not only the family’s most successful high school career, but one of the best in Kansas history.

“Dayna and I had so much fun playing together,” Denyse said. “We are ‘Irish twins,’ we are only 10-and-a-half months apart and we honestly, I feel, could read each other's minds. We had the greatest time playing together, people thought we got mad at each other, but honestly I never remember a time where we were mad at each other on the court. We had great teammates and we all genuinely liked each other and great parents and of course coach Linn. Those were some good ole days!”

Dayna became a four time All-League and All-Area selection, two-time All-State selection, and 3A Player of the Year. She was named All-USA honorable mention by USA Today her junior and senior seasons, and was also an AAU All-American as a junior.

While competing in AAU for her father, Dayna’s teammates included Laurie Koehn and Kendra Wecker, who went on to play for Kansas State and later in the WNBA. That group saw major success and advanced to multiple national tournaments.

The “Irish Twins” finished as state runners-up during the 1999 season after an OT heartbreaker against Riley County in the title game, before Dayna returned for her senior year and again led the Lady Red to a 3A silver medal.

During her senior season, Finch averaged 27 points, five rebounds, and two assists per game, wrapping up her career with an incredible 2,256 total points.

Finch earned a scholarship to play at Division I Creighton where she went on to make even more basketball history, setting the Missouri Valley Conference record with 294 career three-pointers. During the 2002 season, Finch helped the Blue Jays make their first NCAA tournament in eight seasons and third all-time at that point in the program’s history. She also helped the Jays to a WNIT title in 2004.

After her playing days, Dayna also married a Smith Center graduate - Redmen football standout Tim Weltmer - and went on to more success as a college coach, serving as a graduate assistant at Nebraska, and then an assistant at Northern Colorado, Creighton, and again Nebraska, before eventually moving back to Smith Center, where she continued coaching at the high school and junior high level - coaching her niece Dakota during her junior high years and also served a season as the high school boys coach.

The former All-American most recently spent a stint coaching at Sacred Heart in Salina where the family moved a couple years ago. Now her focus has turned to coaching her own children, who are likely to also follow the family into a love-affair with athletics.

Meanwhile, on the heels of Dayna’s graduation from high school, and a brief career switch to insurance sales, Doug decided to reenter coaching in 2001 as the Topeka-Hayden girls coach.

In four seasons, the Wildcats made four state tournaments and won a state title in 2004, but after the championship Finch abruptly stepped down from his position to be closer to family.

With his two oldest daughters back in north central Kansas - and Dayna just wrapping up college and embarking on her coaching - the Finch patriarch moved west and took over an up-and-down Salina Central boys program.

After back-to-back losing records leading the Mustangs, Finch went on to post 13 consecutive winning seasons and a 212-123 record over his 15 years leading Central.

After turning the program into a beacon of consistency in his time with them, Finch called it quits at Central in 2019 with a career head coaching mark of 467-228, before coaching two more years as a Bethany girls basketball assistant and also coaching his granddaughter, Dakota, at the AAU level, adding another scoring machine from his gene pool to the list of players he has coached.

With his days as a full-time coach behind him, Finch now has the privilege of watching his grandchildren compete during the school year.

“When he sends Dakota a text on game days it is always ending in the words ‘GO BE GREAT’!”

Like many of Doug’s sayings, his gameday message to his granddaughter has since been adopted by others in the family.

“My sister has kind of taken that saying over also and when she sends Dakota a text she will also say ‘GO BE GREAT!’ and always tells her to ‘rebound’” Denyse said. “So we have taken over what he has said over the years.”

Having been coached by her mom, aunt, her grandfather, and legendary Smith Center coach Nick Linn, Dakota has the opportunity to continue her basketball career into college if she’d like and is currently mulling over multiple offers.

“Dakota is going to be a teacher and if you ask her if she is going to coach she says ‘NO WAY!’” Denyse said. “But I think someday she will. She is smart about the game. Maybe someday she will teach here and coach with me!”