Alumni Spotlights are Q&A's with former Brandeis student-athletes, across a myriad of disciplines, as they reflect on their Brandeis experience and how it has shaped their lives today. Read more spotlight features here.
Name: Kenny Graves '08
Job Title: Former Director of Player Development
Institution: Boston Celtics
A native of Amherst, Massachusetts, Kenny Graves '08 was part of one of the most successful stretches in the history of Brandeis men's basketball. He helped the Judges reach two NCAA Division III tournaments as a junior and senior. The 2007-08 squad was ranked #2 in the nation in Division III and reached the Elite Eight of the NCAA Division III tournament. Graves broke the school record for career assists that season, a record he still holds. He's also fourth in career steals and second in career games started with 104. Graves was presented with the James McCully '86 Award for dedication and sportsmanship.
After graduating, Graves joined the coaching staff of the Boston Celtics as a coaching associate and head video coordinator, breaking down film of the C's opponents and of the Boston players in action to help the rest of the coaching staff development reports. After joining the Cleveland Cavaliers for a year in 2010-11 as the head video coordinator, he returned to Boston in the same capacity the next year. From 2015 to 2021, he held the title of Director of Player Development and Assistant Coach for the Celtics, continuing his video work for the club and working directly with individual athletes to help them improve their games. Graves was an assistant coach for the Celtics Summer League squad and for the national team of Great Britain in 2017. Graves left the Celtics before the 2021-22 season in the wake of a head coaching shake-up.
Describe your overall experience as a student-athlete. What does it mean to you now/what did it mean to you while you were an undergraduate?
I had a very enjoyable experience at Brandeis as a student-athlete. Although quite challenging at times, being a student-athlete forced me to develop and refine my skills, both off and on the court. Looking back, it makes me quite proud to say that I was able to perform in the classroom and on the court at a high level. Being a student-athlete challenged me in various ways while simultaneously teaching me the value of hard work. As an undergraduate, being a student-athlete meant that I was going to have to be fully engaged and dedicated at all times. It meant that I was part of a family that was relying on me as much as I was relying on them. It meant that I was going to have to be able to compartmentalize many elements of my life in order to achieve success.
What originally attracted you to Brandeis as a student-athlete?
I was attracted to Brandeis for a few different reasons. First and foremost, the education aspect and the reputation that Brandeis University holds as being one of the more prestigious universities in the country very much resonated with me. Secondly, being in the UAA conference was appealing, as it meant that I would get to travel to some major cities to compete at a high level. Lastly, when I started my first year in 2004, I had the opportunity to cultivate a new culture for the basketball team. That year, I was one of the nine first-year players that were brought in to start this transformation. Brandeis basketball was in the rebuilding stages, that was something that I accepted as a challenge and was excited to be a part of.
How did your time as a student and student-athlete at Brandeis prepare you for your career and life after college?
My time as a student-athlete at Brandeis better prepared me for a career in coaching in the NBA as it taught me the importance of how to really maximize my time. The student-athlete life forced me to work on and improve how efficient I was in all aspects of my life. I had to maximize every moment if I wanted to become the best version of myself, both in the classroom and on the basketball court. To see the best results you must be able to maximize study habits, practicing your craft, nutrition, and sleep habits. This directly related to my job in the NBA, as scouting and studying tendencies, watching film, developing new ideas for basketball workouts for players were all part of the job description. My time as a student-athlete better prepared me for a grueling 82-game regular season. It gave me structure and provided me with a solid foundation in how to be able to get a sufficient amount of sleep while flying from city to city and basically living out of a suitcase.
Do you have any advice for current or future Brandeis Student-Athletes?
One of the best pieces of advice that was given to me that I will now pass down is to make sure that you go to every single class and sit in the front row. Be visible and make sure to develop relationships with ALL of your professors. It may seem trivial, but it goes a long way when a professor can put a name to a face.
What do you miss most about your Brandeis experience?
What I miss most about my Brandeis experience is not getting to see the people that I made relationships with on a daily basis. When you’re at school you kind of take it for granted because you essentially see these people every single day. Now, it’s just not possible to maintain all of these connections. Looking back, I really value the relationships I made with not only my teammates and coaches, but athletic staff, classmates, professors, career counselors, and other employees at Brandeis.
How did you get involved with the Celtics and the NBA in the first place?
There were two people who played an instrumental role in me getting my start with the Celtics. One of the former assistant coaches for the Brandeis men’s basketball team, Darren Erman (who is currently with the New York Knicks) brought the opportunity to my attention. He thought that this job would be a great fit for me. The second individual who really helped me make the decision to take the internship was Abigail Crine. At the time she was my counselor at the Hiatt Career Center on campus. Through lengthy conversations, she helped guide me into accepting the job. I started off as an unpaid intern in the video department. Through my dedication and hard work I got hired the following year as an assistant video coordinator, I then moved to Cleveland to be head video coordinator for one year, then got a call to see if I would be interested in coming back to the Celtics in a similar position. From there I had slowly been working my way up until the most recent coaching change.
What personal or professional accomplishment(s) are you most proud of since you graduated?
In no particular order:
Reaching the NBA Finals in 2010 (unfortunately, we lost to the Lakers in seven games)
Being part of the Coaching Staff for the All-Star games in 2017 in New Orleans
Being part of a team that reached the Eastern Conference finals five times
Working in the NBA for 13 seasons