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Paul Graham Named WSU Men's Basketball Coach
Courtesy: Washington State Athletics
Release: 06/21/1999
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March 25, 1999

PULLMAN, Wash. - Paul Graham was introduced as Washington State University men's basketball coach by WSU Athletic Director Rick Dickson at a press conference Thursday afternoon on the Pullman campus. Graham becomes the 14th head coach in the 98-year history of Cougar basketball. He replaces Kevin Eastman, who resigned on March 10, after five seasons at WSU.

"In Paul Graham, I believe we have found the person who is the absolute best fit for WSU," said Dickson. "He is highly respected both in coaching circles and in the Stillwater community. From a coaching standpoint, Paul brings a high quality in both recruiting and leadership. He has had the opportunity to learn from two of the best game coaches in the country in Eddie Sutton and Dave Bliss. From a community standpoint, Paul brings strong morals and family values. I know Paul and his family will be wonderful additions to the Pullman community."

Sutton, who has been at OSU for nine years, echoed Dickson's sentiments. "Paul is a great family man and is a good role model for his players," he said. "He has a philosophy that student-athletes should be treated just like you would treat your own children. He is a good teacher and has a wonderful knowledge of the game. I hate to lose Paul, but I'm excited for him and Washington State University. It is a good fit."

Graham becomes the 13th Sutton-mentored assistant coach to go on to a head coaching job. Others include Gene Keady (Purdue), Rob Evans (Arizona State), Leonard Hamilton (Miami), James Dickey (Texas Tech) and Bill Self (Tulsa).

"Paul Graham has been with me at OSU for seven years and has done a great job," Sutton said. "Paul has been an outstanding recruiter for us. He is a tireless worker and has a bulldog determination when he locks on to a recruit. He will do as well in my opinion as these coaches who have gone on to do well with their programs."

Graham, who turned 48 two weeks ago, spent the last seven seasons as an assistant to Eddie Sutton at Oklahoma State. The Cowboys compiled a 150-72 record and went to the NCAA Tournament five times during Graham's tenure. This season, OSU was 23-11 and advanced to the second round of the NCAA Tournament. In 1995, Graham helped guide Bryant "Big Country" Reeves and the Cowboys to the NCAA Final Four. Graham also coached all-Big XII players Adrian Peterson, Brooks Thompson and Randy Rutherford, while at OSU.

Praise for Graham also came from a soon-to-be rival coach. "I think (Graham) is an absolute perfect fit for Washington State," said Arizona State's Evans, another former Oklahoma State assistant. "As if this league isn't tough enough, it just got a lot tougher."

Dickson announced that Graham signed a five-year deal with an annual base salary of $125,000, plus incentives.

"We conducted an extensive, thorough search and we looked at a number of nationally qualified people - both head and assistant coaches - to identify a good pool of candidates," Dickson said. "From very early in the process, a number of different sources I spoke with identified Paul Graham as an ideal solution for WSU.

"Paul has been known throughout his career as an outstanding recruiter with ties across the country, but particularly in the West, Southwest and Midwest. That was one of the premium criteria for us. Another plus is that he has been successful in recruiting to a situation very similar to Pullman in Stillwater, Oklahoma."

After graduating from North Texas in 1974, Graham started his coaching career as the head basketball coach at Kimball High School in Dallas, Texas, from 1974-82. Graham broke into the collegiate ranks in 1982 as an assistant coach at Southern Methodist, where he studied under head coach Dave Bliss until 1988.

While at SMU, the Mustangs won the 1988 Southwest Conference Championship. Graham coached several outstanding Mustang players, including Jon Koncak, the school's second-leading scorer, Butch Moore, SMU's career assists leader, and NBA draft choices Kevin Lewis and Terry Williams. Graham then spent the 1988-89 year as an assistant athletic director at SMU before spending one season as the cross country coach at Samuell High School in Dallas.

In 1991, he returned to the collegiate sidelines and was reunited at New Mexico with Bliss. In his two seasons in Albuquerque, the Lobos advanced to postseason play twice. Led by Willie Banks and future Chicago Bull and NBA champion Luc Longley, New Mexico went 20-10 in 1991, before seeing its season end against Oklahoma State in the first round of the NCAA Tournament at College Park, Md. Two years later, Graham joined Sutton on the Oklahoma State staff.

"I have known Paul Graham for over 25 years," said Evans. "He was, in my opinion, the absolute best assistant coach in the country and I know them all. He has more than paid his dues. He is a tireless worker and one of the most personable people who I have ever met."

Graham earned his bachelor's degree from North Texas in 1974, majoring in physical education and obtaining a minor in history. While at North Texas, he qualified for the NCAA Track and Field Championships in the high hurdles. He earned his masters degree in educational administration from Prairie View A&M in 1979.

Born March 11, 1951, in Kansas City, Kan., Graham graduated from Sumner High School and was a member of a state championship basketball team as well as being an all-city basketball selection and a state track champion in the high hurdles and 60-yard dash.

Graham and his wife, Vanessa, have two children, Nicholas (18) and Brittany (12).

Quotes From New Washington State Men's Basketball Coach Paul Graham
Introductory Press Conference, Pullman, Wash., March 25, 1999

"I am really excited about this opportunity to become the head basketball coach at Washington State University. I want to thank God for this opportunity because anytime a person, man or woman, sets out goals for him or herself, when you accomplish that goal, I think it is by the grace of God that He is giving you the strength to do that. As Rick just said, I have done my apprenticeship under two of the finest basketball coaches in the country in Dave Bliss at Southern Methodist University and University of New Mexico; In the past seven years, I really believe that I worked for the best basketball coach in the United States in Eddie Sutton (Oklahoma State University). He's the best. I think his record proves that he is the best, but he has 13 guys that have gone on and become very, very good successful head coaches -- guys like Gene Keady (Purdue), Rob Evans who is now at Arizona State, James Dickey at Texas Tech University and Bill Self who is at the University of Tulsa. I am just glad that I had the chance to work with coach Sutton and his wife who always encouraged me to continue to pursue this dream."

"I'm ready for the challenge and it is a challenge. But, if I didn't think it could be done, as I told the team just a few moments ago, I'm pretty comfortable working for coach Sutton and Oklahoma State is going to be pretty successful every year. But my goal was to become a head coach and to take this program that everyone has told me when they talk about Washington State, they talk about how tough a job it is. Twenty years ago I think people told me marriage was tough and now I am deeper in debt and I have two children at home. But, I have succeeded as a husband and I have succeeded as a father. Now I want to succeed and take that same passion and goal-setting to become a successful basketball coach."

"I am really excited and I want this to be the toughest place to play in this league. I want Rob Evans, who is my best friend and Lute (Olson) and Mike Montgomery and all the rest of those guys who come in here to understand that this is a tough place to play. And it is hard and we have to make it that way. I like playing in March. A few years ago, I had a great opportunity to sit next to Coach Sutton in the Final Four and that was really exciting. I just told our players that we (OSU) did not have the most talented team in 1995. We had a guy named Bryant Reeves who is now making about 10 million dollars a year. If you had told me Bryant Reeves was going to make that much money, I would have told you that you were out of your mind. But we had guys that were committed to one goal and that was to be the best that you could possibly be."

"I firmly believe that if you make that type of commitment and have that type of determination and believe that a wall will move if you push on it long enough and hard enough, that it will move. I didn't say it was going to be easy and I don't want it to be easy. There are no shortcuts to success. If it is a shortcut, it is short-lived."

"We have to establish ourselves and take what we have to offer and parlay that into something that will allow us to play in March on a consistent basis. And that will allow us to compete for championships on a consistent basis. I have been spoiled over my career going to the NCAA tournament. I kinda like that. I don't like losing. That's why my wife will tell you that I don't play social games very well. I like to win and I don't play cards and I don't play checkers. I want our players to feel the same way. I watched television the last couple of nights and saw a couple teams in our league competing for a tournament championship in March. I am sitting there saying this should be Washington State University. It has been done before and there is no reason in the world why it cannot be done."

"I want to keep reiterating one thing on a consistent basis. Every year we want to play in March. Every year we want to be someone that people consider a top-notch basketball team."

The Graham File

Coaching Experience
Assistant Coach, Oklahoma State, 1993-1999
Assistant Coach, New Mexico, 1991-92
Assistant Coach, Southern Methodist, 1982-88
Head Coach, Kimball HS (Dallas, Texas), 1974-82

Prairie View A&M (master's in educational administration, 1979)
North Texas (bachelor of science in physical education, 1974)

All-Conference Players Coached by Graham:
Oklahoma State
Adrian Peterson
Bryant Reeves
Randy Rutherford
Brooks Thompson
Southern Methodist
Kato Armstrong
Jon Koncak
Kevin Lewis
Carl Wright

New Mexico
Willie Banks
Luc Longley

All-Time Washington State Men's Basketball Head Coaches
Coach Yrs. W L Pct.
John B. Evans (1902-03) 2 2 4 .333
James N. Ashmore (1904-05) 2 5 3 .625
Everett M. Sweeley (1906-07) 2 10 9 .526
John R. Bender (1908) 1 12 3 .800
J. Fred Bohler (1909-26) 18 226 177 .561
Karl Schlademan (1927-28) 2 18 27 .400
Jack Friel (1929-58) 30 495 377 .568
Marv Harshman (1959-71) 13 155 181 .461
Bob Greenwood (1972) 1 11 15 .423
George Raveling (1973-83) 11 167 136 .551
Len Stevens (1984-87) 4 48 67 .417
Kelvin Sampson (1988-94) 7 103 103 .500
Kevin Eastman (1995-99) 5 69 78 .469
Total 98 1321 1180 .528

Washington State Cougars Men's Basketball