Sam Hargraves was recently named head men’s basketball coach at Olivet College. He brings a unique combination of experience as both a coach and player in the Michigan Intercollegiate Athletic Association. Coach Hargraves previously led a team to the NCAA Division III Elite 8 in 2015-16. Subsequently, he was named the Great Lakes District Coach of the Year by the National Association of Basketball Coaches and the Men’s College Coach of the Year by the Basketball Coaches Association of Michigan, and he received the Glenn Van Wieren Coach of the Year award from the Champions of Character organization.
Now, Coach Hargraves aims to use his experience to uphold a strong basketball program at Olivet College with close relationships, dedication, selflessness and a winning culture at the core.
What brought you to OC?
I was excited for the opportunity to build another program. The student-athletes that played major minutes on last year’s team have graduated, but there are some great players returning and I think they’ll be very hungry to prove themselves. I’ll also have the opportunity and roster space to bring in my own recruits.
Why do you love OC and the MIAA?
The MIAA is the oldest conference, ever, really. That’s incredible. The tradition of the members stands out. Even though they’re smaller, you see school spirit more at MIAA colleges than other places. There is just great history in this conference, and Michigan is my home state. You wrap all that together and I love it. I just love it — everything about it.
Where do your passions for coaching and basketball stem from?
Coaching college basketball is what I’ve always felt called to do. I believe that God creates each one of us uniquely, and we each have different strengths, talents, passions and, of course, weaknesses. I feel He uses me through college coaching. Also, it is such a privilege to have an impact on college-aged men at a very influential time in their lives.
What’s your coaching style like?
I’d like to say I am a passionate and high energy coach. That’s generally my personality, so my style comes out of that. I find it is best to be authentic and true to myself. My first priority is to get to know the returning players. When next season comes around, I’m prepared to face the same challenge that every other team has — getting a bunch of individuals to care more about the team than themselves.
Why do you encourage students to attend OC?
From an academic standpoint, Olivet offers a wonderful small college education with an emphasis on personal attention, the liberal arts and value. It’s my job to find young men that feel at home here. There are so many college options today. When recruiting, I always make a presentation of what my basketball program is about and tell students that if they feel it is the right one for them, then I’d love to have them here.
What’s the most important lesson student-athletes should take away from their collegiate athletic experience?
My number one goal is always that my players get a diploma and graduate. That is always the number one thing and always should be. I’m looking for responsible students and responsible citizens on campus. I’m very process-oriented and enjoy recruiting students who are going to be “team first” players. Winning is really fun and the only way you do that is by playing together and playing unselfishly. That is the main lesson that can be learned from collegiate team sports — the team is bigger than you as an individual are, and how fun it is when everyone buys into that philosophy.
Why do you believe DIII athletics are important?
It really is the most pure level of college athletics because there is no money given to students based athletic performance. However, anyone that attends a game can see how important it is to the players, coaches, fans and parents involved. Also, academics are truly the main focus at this level. Our student-athletes are students first; everything else revolves around that.
What do you look forward to in your role?
The overall answer is the process of building a team. There is nothing like it and it takes time. The first day of practice is always like Christmas morning for coaches and players, and of course, I look forward to game days. When the day comes I’m not excited for game day, I’ll need to retire.
What is an interesting or little-known fact about yourself?
I’m from Alanson, a small town in northern Michigan. People are always shocked to hear that I went to a public school with only 26 students in my class. Even lifelong residents of Michigan have often never heard of my hometown.
Learn more about Olivet College and opportunities for basketball players by contacting the Office of Admissions at 800-456-7189 or firstname.lastname@example.org.