When Naomi Graves arrived at Springfield College in 1991, the women’s basketball team had won nine games in the previous three seasons combined. Under the watchful eye of Graves, the program is now one of the best in New England.
Entering her 23rd season as head coach and assistant professor of physical education at Springfield College, and 29th season as a head coach overall, in 2013-14, Graves has directed her squads to an impressive 323-261 record (.553 winning percentage). Since joining the Division III ranks in 1995, Graves has led the Pride to 12 post-season bids in the past 18 years, including five berths in the NCAA Division III Tournament. Graves’ squads have also won five New England Women’s and Men’s Athletic Conference (NEWMAC) championships and has been honored with three NEWMAC Coach of the Year Awards.
In May of 2008, Graves was one of 30 coaches selected from around the country to attend the 2008 NCAA Women Coaches Academy in Denver, Colo. The Academy provides skills training for coaches at all levels to assist them in being more efficient, productive, resourceful and successful. While at the Academy, Graves was honored as a co-recipient of the Judy Sweet Award, which was voted on by her peers. The award recognizes members of the Denver Academy Class who's spirit and willingness to share and live her story with integrity and perspective for her own and others personal and professional success has made an impact.
In 2005-06, Graves earned her third NEWMAC Coach of the Year award, leading her team to a 22-7 overall record, and the regular season NEWMAC title. The Pride cruised to its fifth NEWMAC championship in six years. In advancing to the NCAA tournament, the Pride then fell short against a talented Messiah (Pa.) squad at Messiah's home court in the first round.
The 2004-2005 season ranks as one of Graves’ best seasons. The team started with a very respectable 8-4 record, but finished the season 17-2 in its last 19 games, winning both the regular-season and post-season NEWMAC titles. The season came to an end with a loss to Southern Maine in the NCAA Division III Elite 8. This was the Pride's most impressive run in NCAA tournament play in the school's history. On the season, the Pride tied the school record with 25 wins.
The 2002-2003 squad managed to overcome its first four-game losing streak in eight seasons to capture its third straight NEWMAC title with three straight wins in the NEWMAC tournament. Springfield lost in the first round of the NCAA Division III Tournament. The Pride finished with an impressive 20-9 record.
Expectations were high for Graves’ 2001-2002 squad and SC delivered. The Pride won its second consecutive NEWMAC regular-season and tournament titles, marking just the third time in NEWMAC history that a team had won back-to-back regular season and tournament crowns. Springfield advanced to the “Sweet 16” of the NCAA Division III Tournament before bowing out to Bowdoin. SC set a school record for wins (25), established a school mark for consecutive victories (17) and became the first team in the history of the NEWMAC to win nine conference games. For her efforts, Naomi was named the conference’s coach of the year.
In 2000-2001, SC rolled to the NEWMAC Championship and its first berth in the NCAA Division III Tournament. SC posted a 24-5 mark and registered a 14-0 record at Blake Arena. Graves stocked up on post-season hardware, winning NEWMAC and New England Women’s Basketball Association (NEWBA) Division III Coach of the Year honors.
Graves received her bachelor’s degree in physical education from the University of Rhode Island in 1982. She was captain of the basketball team and scored 1,862 career points (second best in school history) while receiving URI Female Athlete of the Year honors as a senior. Graves was named to the Association for Intercollegiate Athletics for Women (AIAW) All-American team as a senior, and was an All-New England selection in each of her four years with the Rams. She was inducted into the URI Athletics Hall of Fame on October 20, 1995.
Graves served one year as an assistant basketball coach at URI before attending graduate school at Springfield College, where she earned her master’s degree in physical education in 1985. She also was a women’s graduate assistant coach for two seasons.
Graves served as president of the Women’s Basketball Association in 1986 and was a member of the ECAC Selection Committee for three years. Graves is a member of the Women’s Basketball Coaches Association, and was the District 1 representative for the NCAA Division III Coach of the Year committee. She was and continues to be a member of the New England Women's Basketball Coaches Association (NEWBA).
A native of Williamsburg, Mass., Graves ranks among the state’s all-time basketball greats. As a senior at Hampshire Regional High School, she averaged 23 points and 17 rebounds and was named a high school All-American. Graves led her squad to four state championships and earned an unprecedented three MVP Awards at the Western Massachusetts State Tournament. Graves was the Western Massachusetts scoring leader with 2,137 career points until former Southwick High star (and UConn All-American) Rebecca Lobo broke her record.
On Nov. 26, 1999, the Springfield Union-News ranked Graves 36th on its list of the top 100 Western Massachusetts Athletes of the Century.
While at Siena, she captained her women’s basketball team as a senior, a year in which she made the All-Academic Team. Stec then went overseas for two years. She played for the Horsholm 79ers in Denmark in 2009-2010, when they were Dameligaen Champions. A year later, she played for the STOL Grasshoppers in Katwijk, Netherlands. During the 2011-2012, she served as an assistant coach for the Cazenovia College women’s basketball team, and as an assistant coach for the Cazenovia Middle School 7th and 8th grade teams. She hails from Cazenovia, N.Y.
While at Hobart and William Smith, Rubin was the starting point guard on the women’s basketball team, was named captain as a junior and a senior, and made the Conference All-Academic Team in her sophomore, junior, and senior seasons. After her senior season she received the Melissa Mulliken ’80 Award for leadership in intercollegiate athletics combined with off-the-field endeavors leading to the advancement of William Smith Athletics. Rubin finished her collegiate career sixth all-time at William Smith in assists per game and seventh in total career assists.
While at Nazareth, Kollar played four years at shooting guard for the Golden Flyers and was a co-captain during her junior and senior seasons. She received Empire 8 Conference Honorable Mention Team honors and she was named to the All-Sportsmanship Team. Additionally, Kollar holds the school record for most three-pointers made in a single season. Prior to Springfield, Kollar spent one year as an assistant coach at Averett University in Danville, VA.
As a member of the Pride last season, Walker played in 23 games, starting in 19 of them. She averaged 7.5 rebounds per game and tallied 26 blocks.
The East Lyme, Conn. native will be earning her degree in Criminal Justice and Sociology this December, and plans to continue her education at Springfield College, working towards a master’s degree in Psychology.