Oregon hires Gonzaga women’s coach

EUGENE, Ore. (AP) Oregon has hired Kelly Graves of Gonzaga as the new Ducks women’s basketball coach.

Graves has led Gonzaga to the NCAA tournament for the past six seasons, and the Bulldogs advanced to the Elite Eight in 2011. The team was a No. 6 seed this past season, the highest seeding in school history, before losing to James Madison in the opening game and finishing at 29-5.

Graves has gone 317-176 overall in 14 seasons at Gonzaga, leading the team to an unprecedented 10 straight West Coast Conference championships.

”I needed a new challenge,” Graves said at a news conference Tuesday. ”This is something, professionally, that I was looking for. There’s only one position in this conference I would have left for, and it was Oregon.”

The 51-year-old Utah native replaces Paul Westhead, whose contract was not renewed. Westhead’s record was 65-90 and 27-64 in the Pac-12 over five seasons with the Ducks.

Oregon has had just one winning season in the past seven years and was 16-16 this past season. The Ducks haven’t been to the NCAA tournament since 2005.

”Kelly Graves is one of the best coaches in women’s basketball and we are thrilled to have him lead our program,” Oregon athletic director Rob Mullens said. ”Beyond what his teams have accomplished on the court, Kelly is a dynamic personality who will engage and energize our fan base.”

Graves, who was head coach at St. Mary’s before joining Gonzaga, signed a six-year deal with the Ducks.

He has previous ties to the state: He was once an assistant for the Portland Pilots. His wife is from Portland and two of his three children were born in Oregon.

”We appreciate the tremendous success that was achieved during Kelly Graves’ tenure at Gonzaga and wish him well at Oregon,” Bulldogs athletic director Mike Roth said in a statement. ”We will work hard to identify the very best candidate to build on what we have today.”