Von Graffin's first year as a head coach made the selection of The Blade boys basketball coach of the year quite easy.
No other boys coach accomplished what the longtime assistant pulled off in his first season as head coach at Bowling Green.
Graffin took transformed the Bobcats from a perennial non-contender into a Northern Lakes League champion. Bowling Green went from 3-18 for the 2001-02 season to 15-5 for the 2002-03 regular season, including a 12-2 NLL record that earned the Bobcats a share of the league championship with Perrysburg.
The Bobcats elevated from a dormant state to dominant state.
In fact, the Bobcats celebrated their first-ever NLL championship since joining the league back in 1978.
“We've raised the bar at Bowling Green and we expect more now from the basketball program than we have in the past,” Graffin said.
St. John's Ed Heintschel, Fremont Ross' Mark Gedeon, Libbey's Leroy Bates, Archbold's Doug Krauss and Ottawa-Glandorf's David Sweet were among a short list of candidates for Blade boys coach of the year honors.
But Graffin's impact at Bowling Green made the Bobcats one of the top stories during the season in northwest Ohio.
The Bowling Green coach is still being reminded about just what the Bobcats accomplished this season.
“What's really neat about this season are the accolades and the letters, e-mails and postcards that I've received from alumni of Bowling Green High School, and other people I respect in the coaching profession have been wonderful,” Graffin said. “They said great things about the kids, how they played and how they behaved.”
For nearly 20 years Graffin served as a high school assistant before finally getting the opportunity to try his hand at working as a head coach. The job required more work than anticipated. He found out that being head coach called for conveying more than a wealth of basketball knowledge.
Graffin recognized early that head coaching required sales as well as teaching.
“I did get the kids to buy into what we were doing early and it helped that we started out the season at 5-1,” he said. “By doing that I believe I could have sold them on just about anything at that time.
“It's really neat from a personal standpoint to get some personal accolades. When you're an assistant coach and you win a state championship [he was on the Macomber staff when Jim Jackson's team won the title], it's your state championship but you're not one of the players and you're not the head guy making decisions.
“Making suggestions and making decisions are a whole different thing. You have to make decisions that are really tough on some kids and benefit other kids and that's hard to do. That was an adjustment for me to make.”
Graffin had an effect on the program on all levels. The junior-varsity team also thrived like never before, finishing 16-4.
However, Graffin doesn't believe his success or failure as a coach is defined solely on the basis of his team's record.
“It wasn't really about numbers for me, but more about getting the kids to play the way I want them to play and behaving the way I wanted them to behave,” Graffin said. “To me, that's more important in basketball than the wins and losses long term.”
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