Graves retires as R-H coach

Published 10:21 am Wednesday, August 1, 2018

A man who led the Statesmen to exciting success across four decades — first on the gridiron and then on the hardwood — is closing the book on his Randolph-Henry High School coaching career.

James Graves officially announced his decision to retire from R-H coaching July 24.

“It just seemed like the right time,” he said.

Helping with this impression was the success of the 2018 varsity boys basketball team of which he was the head coach. The Statesmen finished with an 18-7 record, winning the James River District tournament championship and advancing as far as the regional semifinals.

This departure follows his retirement this year from 35 years as a history teacher — three at Central Middle School and 32 at Randolph- Henry.

As either a head or assistant coach, Graves patrolled the sidelines of a basketball court for 21 years and a football field for 19 years.

“I never had aspirations to be a coach,” he said. “I kind of got my job teaching because I was willing to coach.”

He was hired at Randolph- Henry in 1983 as a varsity football assistant coach and a junior varsity boys basketball head coach. Despite having little experience with hoops, he led the basketball team to a 17-3 record.

He served as the football head coach for the 1986 season, helping the team go 4-6. He returned to that position from 1991-99 and saw significantly greater success.

In 1993, the Statesmen were 7-3 and earned their first regional berth. In 1996, the Statesmen were 8-2 and district champions, ranking first in the region. They lost 10-7 in the regional title game to eventual state champion Powhatan. The district title was Randolph-Henry’s only football title since 1958.

Graves was named the district, region and state Coach of the Year.

In boys basketball, he finished as head coach of both the JV and varsity teams in 1991 after the varsity head coach had heart surgery. He took over as the varsity head coach from 2004-07. In the 2006-07 season, the Statesmen went 18-6 and were district champions. This had been their only hoops title since 1968. They lost a regional game to the eventual state champion.

Graves was named district Coach of the Year for the 2005-06 and 2006-07 seasons and Virginia Preps State Coach of the Year for the 2006-07 season.

He retired from coaching the team but returned from 2015-18. “I had good years and not-so-good years,” he said. “I think one of the things that I learned from it was that the winning part was not as important as the character- building part. If you build character, you will get the wins over time.”

Reflecting on his R-H coaching career, Graves said he really has “a lot of great memories and worked with a lot of great kids and coaches.”