What would be a proper nickname for Kelly Graves, the Gonzaga women’s basketball coach with a Division I record of 353-156 in 16 years?
At this week’s NCAA tournament first-round games at McCarthey Athletic Center, Graves qualifies as a babe in the woods.
Bill Fennelly, who will coach Iowa State against Gonzaga on Saturday afternoon, has a career record of 561-234 in 25 years.
But Fennelly and Graves are rookies compared to the coaches in this afternoon’s late game. Montana’s Robin Selvig is 798-254 in 35 years and Georgia’s Andy Landers is 820-274 in 34 years. Landers ranks fifth and Selvig sixth for wins among active Division I coaches.
The coaches met in Graves’ office prior to Friday’s press conferences at McCarthey.
“Three Hall of Fame coaches, really,” Graves said. “I feel like the poor schmuck in the group.”
“We sat in Kelly’s office here a minute ago and took a picture,” Fennelly said. “And he’s poor-mouthing all these great coaches. There’s a lot of trophies in his office, too.”
Graves referred to Selvig and Landers as “legends” and said he’s looked up to Fennelly for years.
“I was like the little kid who wants the autograph,” Graves said. “Do you guys mind if I get a picture?”
University senior Kayleigh Valley, a versatile 6-foot guard/wing, signed with the Grizzlies last fall. She was named the Greater Spokane League’s most valuable player, and she learned this week that she’s been named the 3A player of the year by the Washington State Girls Basketball Coaches Association.
The Grizzlies lose four seniors, three of whom start. Montana coach Robin Selvig was asked about Valley on Friday.
“We’re pretty excited about her,” Selvig said. “She’s the kind of player we like to get. She’s a versatile kid. She could play inside, play a lot of different places at our place. She’s also a young lady that really competes and will be good on both ends of the floor. We’re very excited about her chance to be a heck of a player.”
Valley averaged 16.9 points, 10.1 rebounds and 3.4 assists while shooting 54 percent from the field to lead U-Hi to a second straight trip to state.
Top of the line
Iowa State has shot 80.2 percent from the free-throw line, tops in the nation, including 56 for 62 in their last four games.
“For our team, it’s been a way that we need to manufacture points,” Fennelly said. “We’re not going to turn you over. So we’ve got to figure out a way to score the ball. For us, the free-throw situation has been something that we’ve taken great pride in.”
GU has shot 62.5 percent from the line, but that figure is a bit misleading because starters Sunny Greinacher, Taelor Karr and Jazmine Redmon have all shot at least 74.5 percent.
“The kids who are in the game, you look at their free-throw percentages, they’re a little better than you might think,” Graves said. “(But it’s) definitely been an issue this year. What do you do about them? We make them in practice.”
It’s been a while
The Grizzlies haven’t won a first-round game since 1994-95. The Grizzlies have lost 10 straight since then. They’re 0-2 as a 14th seed and 2-12 seeded 12th or higher.
“I am aware of that,” Montana senior forward Alyssa Smith said. “We’re going to come in and play as hard as we can no matter what. We can’t let not making it to the second round in over 15 years get to us. It’s not something we need to focus on or even really think about. All we can focus on and all we can control is how hard we play.”