Candice Finley | Assistant Coach/Recruiting Coordinator
University of Massachusetts women's basketball head coach Tory Verdi announced on May 31, 2017, the addition of Candice Finley as assistant coach and recruiting coordinator. The addition of Finley reunited the duo after they worked together for four years at Eastern Michigan.
"I'm so excited to announce that we have added Candice to our staff," said Verdi. "Candice is one of the best recruiters in the women's game. I have seen her work first hand at Eastern Michigan where she garnered a top 50 recruiting class in the country and back-to-back top recruiting classes in the Mid-American Conference."
Finley was instrumental in assembling a nationally-renowned recruiting class that will represent UMass beginning in the 2018-19 season. Collectively, the group was ranked No. 57 nationally by Blue Star Basketball and No. 62 in the country by PASS.
Along with her four years at EMU, Finley also spent four seasons as an assistant coach at her alma mater, Eastern Kentucky, and a season coaching at Southern Connecticut State University.
"I am very happy to be back working under coach Verdi and even more excited about the direction the UMass women's basketball program is heading," said Finley. "I am honored to be part of such an amazing staff and am excited for the opportunity to share some of my experience with the outstanding young women in our program. I believe a lot of the pieces are in place for us to be extremely competitive in the Atlantic 10."
In her time alongside Verdi at Eastern Michigan, Finley was a major component in the rebuilding of the Eagles' program which included a pair of trips to the Women's National Invitation Tournament (WNIT), including a Round of 16 appearance, and the Mid-American Conference finals in 2015.
Along with coaching the post players, she served as the recruiting coordinator and was key in twice securing the No. 1 recruiting classes among the Mid-American Conference.
On the court, Finley's post players saw continued growth and progression with several more than doubling their offensive output from previous seasons.
At Eastern Kentucky, Finley was part of a staff that was charged with rebuilding her alma mater in the ultra competitive Ohio Valley Conference. While in Richmond, Ky., she was responsible for overseeing academics, organizing community service projects and working with the team's post players.
Finley began her collegiate coaching career when she joined Southern Connecticut State University for the 2007-08 season. She helped SCSU continue its winning tradition as the team posted the program's seventh-consecutive winning season that year.
Before embarking on a collegiate coaching career, Finley spent two seasons as the assistant girls basketball coach and two years as the head girls basketball coach at Romulus High School in Romulus, Mich. She helped lead Romulus to a Mega White Division championship in 2004 and a pair of district titles in 2004 and 2007. In 2007, Finley was named Downriver Coach of the Year.
She has also served as a coach with the Michigan Crossover AAU/Nike Travel Team program helping the group win two Michigan AAU state titles.
After earning a bachelor's degree from EKU in 2002, Finley played professionally in Luxembourg for a season before returning to serve as an assistant at Romulus High School.
Finley was a three-year starter for the Lady Colonels from 1997 to 2001. She concluded her career with more than 1,000 points, nearly 500 rebounds and more than 100 steals. She earned second team all-conference honors after leading Eastern in scoring (13 ppg) and rebounding (5.5 rpg) her senior season. She finished her collegiate career having made 45.4 percent of her shots from the field. She stands 19th on EKU's all-time scoring list.
In addition to her 1998 OVC regular-season championship, the Detroit, Mich., native won three state titles as a player at Bishop Borgess High School.
Mike Leflar | Assistant Coach
Mike Leflar was named assistant women's basketball coach at the University of Massachusetts on May 30, 2018. No stranger to the Commonwealth, Leflar made the trek to Western Massachusetts after three seasons at Northeastern University in Boston.
“I’m very excited to have the opportunity to welcome Mike to the University of Massachusetts,” said head coach Tory Verdi upon hiring Leflar. “I feel that his level of experience and knowledge of the game will greatly improve our program. His resume speaks volumes. He has impacted every single program that he has been a part of and we expect him to do the same here.”
At Northeastern, Leflar was promoted from assistant coach to associate head coach prior to the 2017-18 campaign. In his final year in Boston, the Huskies won 16 games including a program-record 11 victories in the CAA, capping the season with a trip to the WBI Tournament. That marked the program’s first postseason appearance since 1999.
Leflar came to Northeastern following a stint as Binghamton’s associate head coach in 2014-15. In his one season in New York, he spearheaded recruiting initiatives and was instrumental in beginning the rebuilding process for the Bearcats.
He spent a total of 10 seasons at Boston University both as an assistant coach (2004-12) and associate head coach (2012-14). Under Leflar’s tutelage, the Terriers were crowned America East regular season champions in 2009 and 2012 and reached the WNIT on four occasions (2009, 2010, 2012, 2013). Along with his role in developing offensive and defensive schemes, he led instruction for the team’s guards and post players.
Before his first coaching stop in Boston, he served in an assistant capacity at the University of Pennsylvania, where he worked with post players and helped the Quakers bring home the 2004 Ivy League title.
A native of Horsham, Pennsylvania, Leflar graduated from Boston College in 2002 with a bachelor’s degree in communications, while also completing minors in American studies and black studies. He has previously been invited to participate in Nike’s Villa 7 and has presented at the WBCA Assistant Coaches Roundtable.
He and his wife, Kate, have one son, Jackson.
Candice Walker | Assistant Coach
A dynamic young coach, Candice Walker enters her fourth season with the UMass women’s basketball program after being announced as an assistant coach for Tory Verdi’s staff in May 2016. Prior to her elevation to assistant coach, she spent the 2015-16 campaign as the program’s director of operations.
Walker is part of a staff that has positioned the Minutewomen to continue the program’s ascent in the Atlantic 10. In 2017-18, UMass saw improvement in 17 team statistical categories and pocketed its most wins since 2006-07. Walker also spent considerable time on the recruiting trail and helped assemble a nationally-renowned recruiting class, one that multiple outsiders labeled one of the best in program history.
In her previous role as the director of operations, she was charged with all facets of program organization including daily operations, travel, practice preparation and film analysis.
Before her time with UMass, Walker spent the 2013-14 and 2014-15 seasons as an assistant coach at Wilmington University (Del.). She also coached with Point Guard College after graduating from Loyola University (Md.) in 2013.
While at Loyola, Walker earned a bachelor's degree in 2011 before she attended graduate school while competing in 117 games for the program, the sixth-most by any student-athlete in Loyola women's basketball history. She led all Metro Atlantic Athletic Conference rookies in points and assists as a freshman during the 2007-08 campaign en route to MAAC All-Rookie Team honors; however, injuries derailed her 2009-10 and 2010-11 seasons. She was granted a medical hardship waiver to return for a sixth season and closed out her career while working towards a Master of Arts degree in 2012-13.
Hillary Spears | Director of Operations
University of Massachusetts women's basketball head coach Tory Verdi announced the addition of Hillary Spears as the Director of Basketball Operations in July 2016.
"Hillary is a great addition to our program," said Verdi. "I'm excited to work with her as she will be instrumental to the daily operations of our program."
Prior to joining UMass, Spears served as the Director of Basketball Operations at LIU Brooklyn beginning in August 2014.
Spears joined the Blackbird family after spending the 2013 season working for the WNBA's Indiana Fever as a Basketball Operations Intern. There, she worked in the front office, as well as in community and player relations and directly with the team and game day operations staff.
Spears is a 2013 graduate of the University of South Carolina-Aiken, where she earned her degree in business administration. She was a two-sport athlete in college, lettering in both cross country and basketball. She was a member of the Student-Athlete Advisory Committee and earned the Peach Belt Conference Sportsmanship Award her senior season. She received a master's degree in human resource management from LIU in May 2016.