Xavier announced in a release today that the men’s basketball program has added former South Alabama head coach Matthew Graves as Special Assistant to the Head Coach. Prior to moving to South Alabama, Graves spent 17 years playing and coaching at Butler University.
Graves didn’t quite get off the ground at South Alabama - the Jaguars were 253rd in the KenPom in his first year and 221st in his last - but his presence provides a veteran voice on a young Xavier bench. The assistant role Graves will be filling isn’t one of the three recruiting positions allowed by the NCAA, so one would assume he has been brought in primarily for his acumen in man management and strategy.
So what exactly is his expertise? First of all, it should be noted that he and Steele likely have a lot of the same thoughts on how basketball should work. They both graduated from Butler, both worked on staff at Ben Davis high school, and both have deep ties to Butler coaching trees: Steele worked under former Butler coach Thad Matta and then with Sean Miller and Chris Mack from the Matta coaching tree, and Graves was on staff under Brad Stevens before spreading his wings at South Alabama.
Graves’s struggles at South Alabama came with some silver lining. He coached teams with some excellent defensive resumes, with his penultimate squad ranking 14th in the nation in forcing turnovers and his final defense being 30th in the country in EFG%. In addition to having a title that sounds like he inherited it from Dwight Schrute, I would suspect he’s going to come in to help continue the defensive renaissance we saw from mid-February on last year.
With Travis Steele in the head seat and, Dante Jackson, Ben Johnson, and Jonas Hayes killing it on the recruiting trail, Graves is a great fit for what was already one of the most exciting young coaching staffs in the country.