Taking reins for 2021-22 season, Melissa Graves strives to be the ultimate player’s coach for BU women’s basketball

Boston University's women's basketball team went 2-3 on Wed., Nov. 24, after falling to Yale, 57-51. (Photo by Vishakha Deshpande/BU News Service).

By Jusneel Mahal
Boston University News Service

While right at home watching her players and calling plays from the sideline, helping them grow as human beings is also a point of pride for Boston University women’s basketball coach Melissa Graves.

In the midst of her first year as head coach, Graves, previously D’Amico before her marriage in 2021, became the program’s ninth coach to take the job. She joined Boston University in April after serving as Wake Forest’s assistant coach and recruiting coordinator for three seasons.

At the time, Graves replaced Marisa Moseley, who took the head coach spot at the University of Wisconsin after turning around the program, collecting winning records for all three of her seasons at BU, after the program posted losing records following 2013.

Graves, who started her coaching career in 2013 at a Patriot League rival, Colgate University, said she was excited by the opportunity to return to a familiar conference. 

Before Wake Forest, the Manorville, New York-native was an assistant at Yale University, where she helped guide the team to its Women’s Basketball Invitational championship win in 2018, becoming the first Ivy League women’s basketball team to win a postseason tournament

Graves, a Notre Dame alum whose playing career took her to Spain, Greece, Poland and the Czech Republic, said she wanted to be involved in a program that celebrates diversity and values academics. To her, that university is BU, which she looks forward to drawing recruits for.

“I’ve always been around high academic institutions, even as a player playing at Notre Dame, which I think is important,” said Graves. “I wanted to be in a well-rounded situation where it’s not just about basketball — we’re growing them and getting them ready for the real world.” 

On that note, Graves said she is proud that her players are involved in extracurricular programs, like the National Honor Society and Student-Athlete Academic Support Services.

Maren Durant, a junior, credits Graves for taking an interest in players’ off-court pursuits and helping them grow as young adults. 

“I admire her perspective when it comes to recognizing the important balance of academics, basketball, social lives, and community engagement,” said Durant, who was awarded All-Patriot League Third Team honors last season.

Joining the program, Graves faced the daunting task of taking over a team coming off one of its most successful campaigns, finishing 12-3 overall and 10-2 in conference play during the 2020-21 season. 

 The head coach said she used the offseason to learn more about her players and how they liked to be coached.

“I try to relate to them as much as possible because I’m not that far removed from playing, and the age gap is not very big,” said Graves, who describes herself as a player’s coach. “Everyone responds differently to constructive criticism — coaching involves seeing what their styles are.”

Despite suffering five losses in their first seven games, Graves is proud of the team’s unselfish play so far this season. In her high-paced offense, everyone gets touches. 

“We don’t have one player that’s 20 points-a-game, and I think that speaks a lot to us being able to share it and celebrate with each other,” said Graves. 

Going forward after earning two wins again Merrimack and New Hampshire before the break, Graves said she wants to see more consistency on both ends of the court. 

“We want to really work on our transitional offense — pushing the ball up the floor and sharing the ball,” said Graves, who also stressed that winning the rebounding battle is vital to the team’s success.

Senior Riley Childs said Graves is encouraging the team to reestablish a winning mentality.

“[Her] coaching style is firm — she wants us to succeed, and she is going to push us to get there,” said Childs. “It’s because she has high expectations for us like we have for ourselves.”

Childs added that it would take time for the team to adjust to the coaching staff’s new schemes. Graves has moved away from the zone defense that the team primarily used last season and has transitioned to man-to-man. 

“Having a new coach this year has brought on a lot of changes, and it has been exciting,” said Childs. “Obviously, it takes time to mesh together as a group, but we’re working through it right now and hopefully, when it all comes together, we live up to our team’s full potential.”

While Graves hopes she will have the team peaking come Patriot League Tournament time, her primary goal remains bonding with her athletes and preparing them for life after college. 

“If you go into coaching to win games, you probably shouldn’t go into coaching — it’s got to be about growing them as people,” said Graves.The biggest achievements I have are when I get wedding invitations from my players — that means more to me than anything else.”

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