Matthew Graves Sycamores' next coach, takes over program in state of flux

Apr. 11—Matthew Graves has become the new Indiana State Sycamore coach with more than just X's and O's to figure out.

Late Thursday afternoon, ISU announced the 49-year-old Switz City native will become its 27th men's head basketball coach, replacing Josh Schertz, who left last weekend for a more lucrative contract at Saint Louis University. Schertz's move completed a meteoric rise in the NCAA Division I world, going 32-7 this past season as the Sycamores became NIT runners-up and Missouri Valley Conference regular-season champs.

Graves served as Schertz's associate head coach for that stellar season, as well as the previous two, with ISU going 66-40 overall in Schertz's three seasons.

Now, Schertz is gone. Nearly all of the players from last season's team have entered the NCAA transfer portal. And, two of Schertz's other ISU assistants are joining his Billikens staff, as well as another former Sycamore assistant.

Graves must rebuild amid all that change. He sounded energized in the university's statement.

"I am very excited and appreciative about this opportunity to be the head men's basketball coach at Indiana State University," Graves said. "I would like to thank [ISU] President [Deborah] Curtis and [interim Athletic Director] Angie Lansing for their tremendous confidence in me and working judiciously under the unique circumstances in this hiring process.

"My wife, Susan, and our two daughters, Abby and Lily, are looking forward to embracing the Wabash Valley community for many years to come," Graves added.

Schertz endorse Graves as his successor during SLU's introductory news conference Monday in St. Louis.

"He certainly deserves it," Schertz said Monday, prior to those news reports.

After Schertz announced his departure, all five Sycamore starters from the 2023-24 team — Robbie Avila, Ryan Conwell, Julian Larry, Isaiah Swope and Jayson Kent, along with reserves Aaron Gray, Masen Madsen, Eli Shetlar and and Augustinas Kiudulas — put their names in the transfer portal. Two Schertz's assistants — Antone Gray and special assistant Rob Gardiner — and past ISU assistant Zak Boisvert headed to SLU.

That leaves Graves atop a program in flux. He'll be formerly introduced to the Terre Haute community in an 11 a.m. gathering Friday in Hulman Center. It is open to the public. The event also will be livestreamed online through ISU Athletics' space.

Some Sycamore players who entered the transfer portal this week could end up staying at ISU. Players in the portal can withdraw their names at any time. None of the Sycamores who entered it had declared a destination as of late Thursday. There has been much speculation that some, or most, of those ISU portal entries will go to SLU with Schertz.

Lansing expressed confidence in Graves, whose two decades of coaching includes a five-year head coaching stint at South Alabama.

"I look forward to partnering with Coach Graves to capitalize on our success," Lansing said in ISU's release. "He has been integral within our men's basketball program and is absolutely the right fit for Indiana State Athletics. First and foremost, he is excited to be a Sycamore and understands the magnitude of the role he plays in the success of our student-athletes, our university and our community.

"Coach Graves is eager to maintain the momentum of our program and fan base," she added, "and he embraces the opportunity to lead Indiana State basketball well into the future."

At South Alabama, Graves ended a tough run with the Jaguars in 2018, posting cumulative records of 65-96 overall and 36-58 in the Sun Belt Conference. His Jaguars' best Sun Belt finish was a tie for sixth place in the 2014-15 season.

ISU's outgoing president, Curtis, said Graves has earned respect within and around the program.

"His depth of experience as a coach at several notable colleges and his ability to connect with our student-athletes and community make him a great fit," Curtis said. "Our Indiana State men's basketball team is coming off one of its best seasons in over forty years, and we look forward to continued success. Congratulations, Coach Graves."

Graves is most familiar to Wabash Valley hoops fans as the former star of White River Valley High School, where his brothers also played. Graves and WRV's Wolverines played high-profile tournament games in Hulman Center — ISU's homecourt — during Indiana's former single-class system, winning two regional titles in that building. His family runs Graves Plumbing in his Greene County hometown of Switz City, population 293.

Graves later played at Butler and led the Bulldogs to the program's first NCAA Tournament appearance in 35 years in 1997. He was Butler's MVP the following season. As a collegian, Graves and the Bulldogs went 5-0 against ISU.

Graves earned his bachelor's degree from Butler in secondary education with an emphasis in chemistry in 1998 and his master's degree in education administration from Butler in 2003.

Graves became a Butler assistant in 2001 under Todd Lickliter and then as Brad Stevens' associate head coach when the Bulldogs reached the NCAA Final in 2010 and 2011. With Graves on staff, the Bulldogs made a national tournament in each of his last eight seasons and achieved eight straight seasons with 20-or-more wins.

Following his stint at South Alabama from 2013-2018, Graves served on the staffs at Xavier and Evansville. As Xavier's special assistant to the head coach, the Musketeers topped the Big East conference in assists per game and were the second-best shooting team, while the XU defense ranked second-best.

Graves got a taste of Missouri Valley basketball in his lone season at Evansville in 2018-19. The Purple Aces ranked second in the MVC in scoring and third in rebounding.

When Schertz took the ISU job in 2021, he hired Graves as associate head coach.

"When he called and wanted me to be a part of the program, it was too good to pass up," Graves told the Tribune-Star in 2021. "It's coming back to the Wabash Valley and near my parents, which is nice, but it's also an opportunity for me to grow and develop as a coach."

The last Sycamore coach to enter the job with Wabash Valley roots was the late Ron Greene, a Terre Haute native and former Gerstmeyer High School standout, who coached ISU from 1985-89. Prior to Greene, former Terre Haute high school and Sycamore star Duane Klueh coached ISU for 12 seasons from 1955-67, compiling 182 victories — the most in program history.

Mark Bennett can be reached at 812-231-4377 or