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COLLEGE BASKETBALL: FEB 03 Drake at Indiana State

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TERRE HAUTE, Ind. — Matthew Graves is now the head coach of the Indiana State men’s basketball team; a team that has only two scholarship players and one walk-on on the roster.

Graves inherited a program that in the last week has been gutted by what he is deeming “the new norm” of college basketball.

“Whether we like it or not, this is the new norm,” Graves said in his introductory press conference on Friday. “My job, the staff, we’re here to help, to educate and get them to see the bigger picture, but if we can keep a kid here for two years, and he does a wonderful job in the community, helps us win games, then we are going to wish him well … and we are going to bring in the next guy. That’s just the way college athletics is now.”

Matthew Graves

Source: Courtesy of State University

Graves, who already has a long coaching pedigree, is taking over the ISU program which was left behind by Josh Schertz, who led the Sycamores for three seasons and brought them to the NIT Championship game and an MVC regular season championship. Graves was second chair to Schertz during that run.

Schertz departed ISU for Saint Louis University after the season ended.

Graves was an assistant at Xavier when he got the call from Schertz three years ago to come join his staff in Terre Haute.

“When he called me, Josh said ‘One day I hope I can build this program up to where I can leave for you to be the next caretaker’,” Graves said. “Now I didn’t know it would be in three years, but we went on one heck of a ride this year. That team is going to be remembered forever.”

Graves described the conversation he had with interim ISU athletic director Angie Lansing when he knew he had the job.

“I knew I was meant to be here and I couldn’t help but cry when Angie asked if I wanted to be the next head coach at ISU,” Graves said. “A big weight had lifted off, but at the same time I knew this was the right place and the right time in my career.”

There had been lots of different reactions to the initial news that Graves was being considered for the job. Among the popular criticisms of Graves was his 65-96 losing record in his first stint as a head coach at South Alabama from 2013 to 2018.

Graves did not shy away from that either.

“At South Alabama, I learned how to fail. I learned how to fail forward,” he said. “I got out of my comfort zone … I took a leap of faith. Ultimately, in this business, you are judged by wins and losses and I completely understand that. But, in those five years, the mistakes I made, both good and bad, are going to serve me better moving forward in this program.”

Graves also described his tenure at South Alabama as “five years of on-the-job training.”

On top of the tall task of recruiting virtually a brand new team for next year with all five starters and some key bench players entering the transfer portal, Graves said he is already feeling the pressure to get a solid non-conference schedule locked down for next season.

You may remember that a big reason the NCAA Selection Committee left ISU out of the March Madness this past season was the Sycamore’s lack of strength in their non-conference slate. Part of that problem was that not many bigger schools want to come to a smaller school and risk losing.

Graves said he’s made phone calls, sent texts, and made contact in many other ways with possible schools to come play a non-conference game at the Hulman Center. He said he has been met with “nothing but crickets.”

“It goes to show you how special this NIT run was for us,” Graves said. “No one wants to come play us at the Hulman Center, because they are going to leave here with a loss.”

With the blessing of the ISU athletic department, his former head coach, and what appears to be the ISU faithful, Graves will ‘march on’, going forward, as he mentioned in trying to keep Indiana State basketball as competitive as it was this past season.

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