Brock’s career-ending injury came right after a winning Dartmouth game his senior year; Brock had had an incredibly strong game, racking up over 20 points for the team. It was all brought to an abrupt end after blowing out his knee, and he was forced to sit and watch his team practice and play from the bench.
“It’s one of those things that’s terrible, but when it happened, I set myself aside a little bit,” said Brock of his injury.
“Instead of being in the game, I was watching because I had no choice. I think that may have been the time when I started appreciating what went on with teaching and coaching; up until that point, I had had absolutely no thought of coaching basketball, in any way, shape, or form,” he added.
After graduating in 1976, Brock had a year-long hiatus traveling through New England and taking on odd-jobs until Bilik called him back to the College. Bilik needed an assistant basketball coach, and Brock would be able to pursue his Master’s degree in physical education through the graduate fellowship program at Springfield.
Brock was able to get his degree by 1980, and secured his first job as a head coach at Drew University in 1980. From there, he went on to coach at other colleges and universities, including Gustavus Adolphus College in Minnesota and Trinity University in Texas. By the time the head basketball coaching position opened back up at Springfield College, it was 1998.
Bilik, the Athletics Director at the time, again called Brock back to Springfield and encouraged him to take the position. Brock is now in his 23rd year as men’s head basketball coach at Springfield, and he would not have it any other way.
“It was a great move, and it was really good to go elsewhere and coach in different parts of the country for 28 years or so. It was a great move to come back to Springfield and sort of come home, if you will, and coach,” said Brock.
“I never thought I’d be here 23 years, I didn’t really think about it one way or the other. We, as coaches, kind of function on a one-day basis, but it’s been wonderful,” he continued.
Not only does Springfield College boast a terrific men’s head basketball coach, but the women’s team is led by an equally revered and fearless woman. Naomi Graves, who got her Master’s degree from Springfield in 1985, is in her 30th year of being the head women’s basketball coach at Springfield College.
For Graves, basketball was not as easy to slip into as it was for her male counterparts. There were no programs for women to play basketball when she was in elementary school, and though she began playing for a recreational league in sixth grade and had a background in it at home, there were no AAU programs for women.
“It was more like I loved the game, but there weren't any avenues to learn the game. You just played in a backyard, like some people still do sports,” said Graves.
“In high school -- my high school was seventh through twelfth grade -- so, in seventh grade I really took up the game. And even then, the coaching was very different. Coach Brock’s experience and mine are night and day. We just didn’t have a lot of opportunities to learn, so most of the people that taught me the game were men, men who saw that I had some talent and wanted me to be good, and women’s sports were just starting; it was a little before Title IX. And I was eager to learn, so people taught me good things,” she continued.
Title IX was established in 1972, and afforded Graves the ability to gain a scholarship to play women’s basketball in college. Without Title IX, Graves’ career with basketball could have looked extremely different.
Graves attended the University of Rhode Island in the late 1970s and early 80s, where she studied adaptive physical education for students K-12. She remembers her athletic career as somewhat tumultuous, especially because she was part of the first female scholarship class for women’s basketball at URI.
“I’m going to be honest-- we couldn’t get prime time practice, couldn’t get in the training room. It was a lot of stuff that was still having to be worked out,” said Graves.
“By the time I was a senior, things were more equitable, and that’s a good thing,” she added.
After Graves graduated as captain of the women’s team, with URI Female Athlete of the Year honors and as an All-American in 1982, she knew her affiliation with basketball could not just end there. She stayed at URI for one year as an assistant basketball coach, and ended up at Springfield College to pursue her Master’s in physical education to graduate in 1985.
With Master’s degree in hand and an impressive college athletic career behind her, Graves acquired her first job as head women’s basketball coach and assistant athletic director at Worcester Polytechnic Institute, with a starting salary of just $15,000 a year.
Graves stated, “There weren’t a lot of women jobs, I’m going to be honest. Talk about equity? So, whatever you could get, you took. I worked two jobs, and I stayed in coaching because I liked it, and I caught the coaching bug. The only job I wanted to come back to was at Springfield, so I waited for it to open.”
She finally made her way home in 1991 to lead the women’s basketball team to greatness. A self-proclaimed #BleedMaroon supporter, Graves has always strived to make the women on her team all-around standouts. She has been named NEWMAC Coach of the Year multiple times, and has had 26 of her players named to NEWMAC All-Conference honors.
“When I came back to Springfield, I really wanted to put women’s basketball on the map. I wanted to let them know that women can play too, and if you research Naismith-- I did this with my Humanics lecture-- he believed in participation, and he had a very interesting philosophy about playing; it’s so different than it is now,” began Graves.
“But what’s amazing is sometimes he’d use his wife, and I think he loved that. There was a side to him that wasn’t like, ‘Only boys play,’ and I think if he was around today, I’d hope that he’d want to see the women play,” she stated.