Last week, Waelder officially made David Graves the athletic director of the Waelder Wildcats athletic program. Graves will also be the head boys basketball coach for the Wildcats.
Coming from Bryan Rudder High School, Graves worked under head coach Mike Carrabine, a veteran of the game who’s coached high school basketball in Texas since 1985, winning multiple coach of the year awards and a state final back in 1990.
“[Carrabine is a] great man, taught me a lot, he’s been at a lot of different places,” Graves said. “He taught me more than just X’s and O’s, he taught me about game management and how to go about doing the right thing within the game.”
Prior to being an assistant coach at Bryan Rudder High, Graves was the head coach at North Zulch, a Class 2A school, for three years.
“I wanted to learn more, to not get stuck, in a way,” he explained. “I vacated my position to be an assistant. I know some coaches think that’s crazy, but you only get one chance at this and I want to be as successful as I possibly can and learn from guys that are good minds for the game. I made that decision and I loved every minute of it.”
In addition to head coaching experience, Graves has played at the college level, playing for Lincoln Christian University in Illinois. The team competed in the National Association of Intercollegiate Athletics (NAIA) association, Division I.
“I was just a college basketball junkie,” he said, “played up there and had a good career, made a lot of good friends.”
Graves believes the experience in Illinois helped shape his coaching philosophies.
“In a town like this, [athletes are] the big fish,” he said. “But then you transition from this to college, you’re the small fish. And that helped me with learning the game in a different vision in a sense of the work ethic, the game, how to approach it differently than from high school mindset to a college mindset. On the back half of that career of your senior year, you kind of switch that gear and you want to start thinking like, ‘ok now I’m about to be a professional, so how should I go about this?’ I think that transition for me to coaching was huge for me because I can relate that to the younger kids.”
Coaching was always something Graves wanted to do. The young athletic director cites his time learning under his high school coaches as a big influence.
“I didn’t have a father and my mother was away for a while, so my mentor in life was my high school coach,” Graves said, “so I knew when I was in the eighth grade that I wanted to be a coach and I wanted to help impact the youth.”
Despite the rotating door of coaches in Waelder in recent history, the Wildcats basketball team have been state ranked year after year, making it to the Region IV-1A tournament. No matter the coach on the sidelines, expectations are always high, and Graves wants to make sure it stays that way with him taking over.
“I think any school that has that standard that they hold the bar or raise it to their student-athletes, that separates the average people of going one round to six rounds,” he said. “I think the tradition here has been set way before me, I would really give the foundation of it to Coach [Jarvin] Hall that was here, he really set that, and Coach [David] President took that and I’m good friends with Coach President and between both of them they really pushed Waelder to where it needed to be and I’m here to do what Coach Graves can do, not to fill their shoes, to see if I can take [expectation] and raise.”
Wanting to exceed expectations isn’t a goal directly for the boys program. Graves wants the entire program to success. Newly hired girls coordinator Rachel Tucker has more years of coaching experience, and Graves wants to learn from her and work together with her to build a successful Waelder Wildcats athletic program, not just a good basketball team.
“I think when you have that in your staff, it spreads, the kids see that you’re working together, so that brings your athletic department into one,” he explained. “The big thing the kids are going to understand is when they hear the name ‘one,’ it’s not just representing a number, it’s representing that we are one, we are one program. If our girls are very successful, our boys are going to be there. If our boys are being successful, we want our girls to be there. We don’t want that divide.”