On December 2, 2017 the Springfield College women’s basketball team took on Wellesley in its sixth game of the season. The women cruised to an easy 51-29 win over Wellesley in Blake Arena. The game was not just any ordinary blowout win for the women, as the win gave Head Coach Naomi Graves her 400th coaching victory.
For most people, eclipsing a milestone like this would be a pretty big deal but Graves was not aware of what she had accomplished until after the game.
“I didn’t know about the moment until after the game, I had no clue about it actually.” Graves said while laughing.
Graves, a native of Williamsburg, Mass, was one of the best women’s basketball players in the state at the time. In high school, she scored 2,137 points while leading Hampshire Regional High School to four straight state championships.
In college she played at the University of Rhode Island and became one of the greatest players in school history. At the end of her playing career she finished second all-time in points and was inducted into the URI athletics hall of fame in 1995.
After Graduating from URI, Graves joined the coaching staff as a volunteer assistant for a year.
“I decided I kinda liked it (coaching) and it was natural progression for me to get into the game that way.”
Graves then became head coach at Worcester Polytechnic Institue for six years and had a
combined record of 68-83.
In 1991 the women’s head coaching job at Springfield College opened up and Graves was hired as head coach and assistant professor of physical education.
Graves had a rough transition to coaching at Springfield to say the least. In her first four
seasons Graves struggled to lead the women to many wins as the Pride combined for a record of 13-87.
“The team was terrible my first four years. I had like no wins,” said Graves. “I knew coming in it would be a battle, my first three years I won seven games and it’s a long way to 400 when you do that.”
However, in the 1995-1996 season, Graves began to turn things around and she experienced her first winning season. Since then, she has only had one losing season, and has led the women to six NEWMAC championships and an appearance in the elite 8 of the NCAA tournament.
Graves also has been very active in the community at Springfield College and was recognized in 2008. She received the Judy Sweet Award, given annually at the NCAA Women Coaches Academy in Denver, Colo. for a coach who’s spirit and willingness to live her story with integrity and perspective for her own and other’s personal and professional success.
Springfield is a school that is known for it’s humanics and community outreach. Graves says the mission of the school is one of the reasons why she’s still here.
Now In her 27th year, Graves has turned the Pride from one of the worst basketball teams in the region to one of the best. She has almost toppled every feat a coach could ask for but her drive for winning has never wavered.
“Every year I long to get another NEWMAC championship. That’s why I am still coaching. I long to win. Every year is a new year.”