Matthew Graves was in a meeting on the South Alabama campus Wednesday afternoon when news broke that Brad Stevens is leaving the Butler Bulldogs for the Boston Celtics. Problem was, Graves doesn't get cell service in that particular building. So when he walked outside and regained service his phone went bananas.
"My text messages were going off, and I had eight voice mails," Graves told me by phone. "I looked down, and I was in shock, really. I had no idea this was happening."
Almost nobody did.
This happened quietly and quickly, and it was obviously weird for Graves because he was, until March of this year, the associate head coach at Butler and basically the coach-in-waiting. In other words, if Graves were still on staff at Butler he'd almost certainly now be Butler's head coach. But he left a little more than three months ago to become the head coach at South Alabama, in part because he didn't envision Stevens making a move anytime soon. So now Graves will spend next season coaching in the Sun Belt rather than the Big East while proving that timing really is everything in this profession.
"I've heard that probably 100 times already," Graves said with a laugh. "But I think things happen for a reason. I truly believe that. And I'm happy to be here at South Alabama. They gave me a wonderful opportunity, and I wanna see where we can take this."
And Graves' thoughts on Stevens as an NBA coach?
"I'm very excited for him to get that opportunity," Graves said. "He's spoken about it to me before, and I'm sure to a few others, about how he'd love to go coach in the NBA one day. And now he's getting the chance to coach one of the most storied franchises in the NBA. So that's a pretty good place to start."