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Grip on Sports: For Kelly Graves, moving to Oregon wasn’t about the money

Going to Oregon wasn’t about the money for Kelly Graves, but it was time for change. (Associated Press)
Going to Oregon wasn’t about the money for Kelly Graves, but it was time for change. (Associated Press)
A Grip On Sports

Wednesday: For those of you who felt there is no way Kelly Graves could turn down the money Oregon could offer, that doesn’t seem to be the reason he left.

His new contract, six years for a little more than $3 million guaranteed (along with bonuses), is almost exactly what I’ve been told he’s was making at Gonzaga and probably less if he were offered a raise to stay. Graves emphasized the time was right for him. He needed a change. Gonzaga had hit a ceiling, he felt, and there was more of a chance to take the next step in Eugene.

He’s right, of course. Oregon’s resources are seemingly endless and success at a national level is expected – especially in women’s sports. The track and cross country teams compete for titles every year and the softball team is ranked No. 1 in the country. The school wants the same for women’s basketball.

Graves gets to be the guy to deliver on the hope. He  met the media yesterday and the hiring was considered   an instant success. It’s called “winning the press conference” and it’s important to athletic directors. In Graves’ case, at least, the winning will not stop there.

Tuesday: It took all day yesterday, a day spent with Gonzaga athletic director Mike Roth and women’s basketball coach Kelly Graves talking, with Oregon and Graves hammering out a deal, with Graves deciding, after family discussions, to move on to  Eugene.

He’ll be introduced in a press conference this morning. He’ll do well as the Oregon head coach. The Duck fans will love him.

But now Gonzaga will have to replace him. Whoever gets the job will be facing major expectations. It’s never easy to follow the most successful coach in a program’s history. But Graves didn’t leave the cupboard bare. Though the Zags lose three seniors, and the starting backcourt, there is a lot of talent returning.

Friday: What ticks me off? Let me tell you …

• Night football games in the Pac-12. Why would that bother me, you may ask? Lots of reasons but mainly because it makes it so hard to watch the games live in Pullman. Games that finish at 11:30 or later mean a 2 or 3 a.m. bedtime in Spokane. And a deer-infested drive home from down south. Sorry, but college football was meant to be played in the afternoon.

• Power-hungry officials. Look, I am acquainted, on a personal level, with lots of officials, referees and umpires. Most of them are really good people, who do the job either for a love of the game or an altruistic spirit.

I also know a couple who I’m not really fond of (and the feeling is mutual, I’m sure). It’s like any job at any workplace in the world. Most people are there for the right reasons, others are there for the wrong ones. The worst are the arbiters who are there because they like to be able to tell people what to do. And, yes, some folks enjoy doing that. It’s not a surprise when there are power-hungry folks in the officiating ranks. But they need to be weeded out. The athletes who deal with them on a day-to-day basis deserve better.

• People who think high school kids always – always – commit to a college, not a coach or a team.

Wake up, folks. Yes, there are some high school athletes who all they ever wanted was to attend School X or School Z. But most high-end players are looking for the right fit, either with the coaches or the team or some combination of both.

The school itself, the education they are going to receive, it’s secondary. Hey, a college degree is a college degree, isn’t it? A point guard might sign with School T because the head coach develops NBA point guards. A left tackle might sign with School F because the offensive line coach once worked for the Dolphins. And anyone might sign with School A or C because the head coach is a good guy or gal and they want to play for them. It happens all the time. So when the coach leaves, either of their own volition or because someone shoved them out the door, the players who signed may or may not want to stay. It’s a personal decision.

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