New Oregon women’s basketball head coach Kelly Graves has already made his first mistake with the program.
Once Graves was officially named the seventh head coach in Oregon history he tweeted that he would respond to every text message he received.
Outpouring of support is incredible & overwhelming. I thank you & promise 2connect w/each 1 of you who reached out via text, phone, twitter
— Kelly Graves (@GoDucksKG) April 8, 2014
“I promised each and every one that I would answer,” Graves said during Tuesday’s press conference. “I tweeted that out. That was a mistake.”
While the mass of texts became overwhelming for the 51-year-old coach, one short, simple message from a friend sticks in his memory. “Welcome home,” it said.
“It’s an honor to be here,” Graves said. “From the time I first got into coaching, this was a dream. I’m an Oregon guy. Oregon is a part of who I am.”
Every head coaching change is accompanied with a general sense of uncertainty. However, with that uncertainty comes new hope and a sense of new opportunity. With Graves becoming the new head coach at Oregon, it appears that this situation is a breath of fresh air for both the players and Graves.
“It’s like a new start because it’s different and he’s different,” guard Katelyn Loper said. “We as players want to win, so we are willing to do anything and everything to win. We feel we do have that talent and hard-work ability to not fall in the bottom of the Pac-12 and rise above it.”
Once the university announced that former head coach Paul Westhead’s contract would not be renewed following this past season, the search for his replacement became the most pressing topic regarding the future of the team. The search was long, but after a while Graves appeared to be the person where Athletic Director Rob Mullens’ search would conclude with.
“We set out to identify the person to lead women’s basketball back to where we want to be,” Mullens said Tuesday. “It became obvious, right from the beginning, that we had one very clear target. We asked our student-athletes for the qualities they wanted (in a head coach) and somehow we quickly turned from qualities to the person that they wanted.”
After dominating the West Coast Conference at Gonzaga the past eight years — winning at least 24 games in all those seasons — Graves felt it was about time to make a change.
“I needed a new challenge,” Graves said. “This is something I think, professionally, that I was looking for. There’s only one position in the conference I would have left for and it was Oregon. I think it’s fate to some degree. It just matched at the right time.”
During Westhead’s tenure, the Ducks’ record was a dismal 66-92. Graves has shown the track record and experience to garner some excitement heading forward for the Ducks — an idea that excites a team, which considers itself very talented.
“I think we know we have to step up, but at the same time we know we have the players and just have to be guided to use all of our talents,” Loper said. “We know that we can do well. We need someone to bring us there and I’m so happy for the university to bring in Coach Graves. I know him as a person and I know he’s going to get the job done.”
Follow Joseph Hoyt on Twitter @jhoyt42