Coach Graves…You ‘Thought We Played Well?’

Don Marsh Editorials

Yesterday we looked at the background of Oregon Womens Basketball and what brought us up to this moment. So that brings us to the case at hand. Oregon Women’s Head Basketball Coach, Kelly Graves.

He was 66-26 in his three years at St. Mary’s. (CA.) He then completely turned around the Gonzaga program and it became a national powerhouse. He won the WCC at Gonzaga ten consecutive years, conference champion six times with seven NCAA tournaments appearances with the Zags. In his last six seasons, he had a winning percentage well over .800. He recruited Courtney Vandersloot.

Graves has accomplished a great deal at Oregon. That is not in dispute. He took over a program that was on life-support. His only losing season was his first one and that was 13-17. Regular season champion three years running. Tournament champion twice. Five NCAA appearances and one Final Four. And, of course, we all know Sabrina’s last year and COVID. Were the Ducks deprived of a National Championship? We will never know. (Well, we might) I would never have bet against Sabrina.

To date, Graves has a winning percentage of .701 with 598 wins v 255 losses as of this writing. That, by anyone’s standard, is impressive. Impressive is not a strong enough word. Amazing. Incredible.

So, perhaps my criticism here falls into the “What have you done for me lately?” scenario. It’s probably not fair to say the Ducks have been terrible. Maybe I just got spoiled with Sabrina, Ruthie, Satu and all the rest.

Tahina Paopao has flourished away from the Ducks. (Photo by Oregon Athletics)

It does seem to me that recent exodus of players does bear a closer look, as there was that No. 1 ranked recruiting class in 2020 with Five McDonald’s All Americans. All Gatorade Players of the Year in each of their states.

Well, either this group was over-hyped, or they failed to develop. Things just never seemed to click, and Graves struggled to find a rotation. It appeared he had ten “players” and finding playing time/line-up rotation plagued him all season long.

After the Ducks lost to 12th-seeded Belmont in the 2022 NCAA tournament, Graves said “I think at times our players have acted and performed entitled.” He also said that he believed there was something missing from his players. Well, were those fighting words for some of the players? We all know the mass exodus that ensued. This article is worth a read.

In addition to the players listed in this article, there are others. Taylor Mikesell had two great years at Maryland, one mediocre year at Oregon and two great years at Ohio State. Jaz Shelly struggled to get playing time with the Ducks and has become a star with Nebraska. I could even point out Lucy Cochrane who transferred from the Ducks to those very same Portland Pilots and had 10 points, 9 rebounds and 7 assists in the recent 91-60 dismantling of the Ducks. I suspect Ms. Cochrane took some amount of satisfaction from that game.

In some ways, Sedona Prince is an even more glaring example. She was a transfer from Texas (an interesting backstory there) and came in highly touted. There were times, however, when one (Well, me and some close friends) wondered if she was more a liability than an asset when on the floor. (She will always get credit for pointing out the discrepancy in the facilities for the men v women in the NCAA tourney. Well done, Sedona!!!)

Sedona Prince never put it all together at Oregon. (Photo by Gary Breedlove)

So, fast forward to this season. She has transferred to TCU and is having an impressive year thus far. Yes, seven or eight games is not a season…still she is putting up numbers that never happened at Oregon. And let’s not forget Tahina Paopao, and the year she is now having with the currently No.1 ranked South Carolina. She was selected as the MVP for the Gamecocks in a game I recently viewed.

Then there is the Mark Campbell factor. Campbell was an assistant from 2014 to 2021. In 2021, Campbell was hired as the head coach for the Sacramento State Hornets women’s basketball. He inherited a program that had gone 3-22 the previous year. Check out what he did in two years at Sacramento State. Campbell took the Hornets to the NCAA in just his second year there…the first time NCAA appearance for Sac State women. The 25 victories marked the first 20-win season in program history and most ever by a Sacramento State men’s or women’s basketball team.

Campbell has since become the head coach at Texas Christian University, and he is showing early success. With Sedona Prince (Yup, that same Sedona) helping lead the way, the Horned Frogs are 10-0 as of this writing.

There was always a lot of discussion that much of the recruiting success (And some might add coaching success) really was Mark Campbell. It has been reported that Campbell was the lead recruiter on Sabrina who came in with the class that was ranked No. 3 in 2016. Campbell was then instrumental in Oregon landing its first-ever No. 1 ranked recruiting class in 2020. (Sourced from TCU women’s basketball website)

Mark Campbell has it going everywhere he goes, and now at TCU. (Screenshot from TCU Athletics Video)

So, we lose to the Portland Pilots by 31. Again, just in case you missed it, the Portland Pilots. And we lose to the Baylor Bears by 20 and Graves says, “I thought we played well.”

Regrettably, imo, there is no press coverage to hold Graves accountable. My observation is that he has almost a “father-son” relationship with James Crepea, who is basically the only person reporting on the program.

Clearly, I have moved on from Graves. I suspect he will continue as long as the administration allows it to continue, and I fear that will be longer than it should. It is time for a change, and for a female to be coaching the women’s team. What are your thoughts about the current Oregon Womens Basketball program and Coach Graves? Tell us in the Our Beloved Ducks forum.

Don Marsh
Eugene, Oregon
Top Screenshot from Video

New 2024 FishDuck Publishing Schedule….

During the off-season the publishing schedule will consist of articles on Mondays and Tuesdays. Do keep checking as new articles could be published during the week when a writer has something to say.

In mid-August of 2024, we will go back to the seven-days-a-week of articles during the football season as we did in the football season of 2023.

The Our Beloved Ducks Forum (OBD) is where we we discuss the article above and many more topics, as it is so much easier in a message board format over there.  At the free OBD forum we will be posting Oregon Sports article links, the daily Press Releases from the Athletic Department and the news coming out every day.

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