The 2013 Men's National Coach of the Year, James Graham enters his 10th season at the helm of the Pacific men's water polo program, and sixth as women's head coach in 2017-18.
Pacific Men's Water Polo Head Coach
On the men's side, Graham has built the Tigers into one of the nation's elite programs. The Tigers have finished in the top four of the CWPA Top 20 three times in the last four seasons.
The run includes 106 consecutive weeks ranked in the Top 10, including 88 weeks ranked in the Top Five entering the 2017-18 season.
Graham led the Tigers to a 19-7 finish in 2016 and advanced to the championship game of the inaugural Golden Coast Conference tournament. Pacific lost just one game to teams outside the top five, and racked up six top 10 victories. Four Paciifc players were named All-Americans, with five players earning All-GCC honors, including GCC Newcomer of the Year Luis Araya.
In 2015, the Tigers matched the program’s best-ever record, finishing 23-5 while spending the entire season ranked in the top five of the polls. Pacific was ranked fourth in the final CWPA Top 20 poll, after peaking for four weeks at No. 2. Pacific posted 19 wins over ranked teams in 2015, with zero losses to teams ranked outside of the top three in the final poll. Pacific boasted a program-best six All-Americans in 2015, with 11 players named to the MPSF All-Academic team.
Graham led Pacific to unprecedented success in 2013 as the Tigers turned in a program-best 23-5 record, claimed its first MPSF regular season crown, and advanced to the NCAA National Championship Game, pushing USC to overtime before falling, 12-11.
Pacific reached the No. 1 spot in the CWPA polls for the first time in program history on November 6, 2013, following Pacific's 10-6 win at Chris Kjeldsen Pool over then No. 1 USC. The win, which came in front of a school-record crowd of 1,337, was Graham's first over a top-ranked team while at Pacific. The Tigers spent all of 2013 ranked in the top five, including four weeks at the top spot. Pacific has remained in the top 10 of the polls every week of the last five seasons.
Balazs Erdelyi, a senior in 2013-14, repeated as the winner of the prestigious Peter J. Cutino Award, an honor given annually to the nation's top water polo player, becoming the fourth player in history to take the trophy back-to-back.
Pacific finished 2014 ranked eighth in the final poll following a 16-12 season. The Tigers posted seven wins over ranked teams, and fell just once to a team ranked outside the top 10, and suffered zero losses to teams outside the top 12.
During Graham's tenure, nine student-athletes have earned a total of 24 All-America accolades. Erdelyi and Goran Tomasevic - a 2011 Cutino Award Finalist - each garnered All-America honors in each of their four seasons. Alex Obert, a three-time All-American at Pacific, was a Cutino Finalist in 2015, and earned a spot on the United States Senior National Team in 2014, participating in a variety of international events including the 2016 Olympic Games in Rio.
Graham spent the summer of 2012 in London, England, assisting the U.S. Men's Water Polo team at the 2012 Olympics. Conducting statistical analysis on every squad competing at the Olympics, Graham provided the U.S. coaching staff with in-depth breakdowns of each opponent's tendencies.
He joined John Mayberry, an assistant professor of mathematics at Pacific, to author "Measures of Tactical Efficiency in Water Polo," a study published in the Journal of Quantitative Analysis in Sports.
The Tigers finished their 2012 campaign at No. 6 in the final Collegiate Water Polo Association Poll. After being picked to finish ninth and outside of the MPSF Tournament field, Pacific placed seventh in the conference with a 3-5 record before taking sixth at the conference tournament. The Tigers ascended to as high as fifth nationally twice during the season, first after upsetting then-No. 4 California at the SoCal Tournament in October and then after winning three consecutive MPSF matches to open the month of November. Junior attacker Balazs Erdelyi became the first player in program history to be named the MPSF Player of the Year while three other Tigers received all-conference honors.
Pacific opened its 2011 season ranked fifth in the nation, the highest preseason ranking for the program since 2006. The Tigers’ season was marked by eight overtime matches, three of which needed sudden-victory periods to decide a victor. All told, Pacific saw 12 of its matches decided by a single goal. At the MPSF Tournament, Pacific claimed its best finish in five seasons, taking sixth after falling in sudden victory to UC Irvine in the tournament’s fifth-place game. Goran Tomasevic earned his third consecutive All-America honor to pace three Pacific selections.
In Graham’s third season, he led the Tigers to a 17-11 mark in 2010, including a 4-4 record in MPSF matches, good for a share of fifth place. Pacific also won an MPSF Tournament game for the first time since 2006 when they beat No. 9 Peppedine 13-5 in the seventh-place game. Balazs Erdelyi was named the MPSF Newcomer of the Year while three Tigers were named All-America selections. At season’s end, Graham received USA Water Polo’s Monte Nitzkowski Distinguished Men’s Coaching Award.
Pacific Women's Water Polo Head Coach
On June 12, 2012, Graham was named head coach for Pacific's women's water polo program, becoming the first individual in school history to coach both teams simultaneously.
Graham has applied his analytics-based approach and brought the women's program to new heights.
The 2017 Pacific team achieved its highest ever national ranking, finishing the season ranked at No. 8. The Tigers won the Golden Coast Conference tournament for the first time in 2017, earning the programs first-ever NCAA tournament berth with an appearance in the NCAA Quarterfinals after an opening round win at home. Pacific posted their third-ever 20-win season in 2017, with 14 wins over ranked teams, finishing at 21-9. Graham was named the 2017 Golden Coast Conference Coach of the Year.
The program has produced seven All-Americans in Graham's five seasons at the helm, includling two in 2017. In 2017 alone, 11 Tigers were named All-Academic selections.
In five seasons with the women's team, Graham has led the program to a 83-69 record through 2016-17, already the highest win total in the history of the program.
The Tigers finished the 2016 season ranked No. 15 in the polls, after posting nine wins over Top 25 opponents. The Tigers advanced to the Golden Coast Conference championship game, before falling just short of a bid to the NCAA Tournament with a sudden-death overtime loss, 10-9, to San Diego State.
Karolina Hlavata earned All-American honors in 2016, one of three Pacific players to earn All-Golden Coast Conference honors. The Tigers placed nine members on the GCC All-Academic Team.
In 2015, the Tigers finished 16-12 overall, and second in the Golden Coast Conference at 5-1. Pacific’s 5-1 record was the best conference mark in the history of the women’s program. The Tigers were ranked 16th in the final CWPA Top 20 poll, the second-highest finish in program history. The Tigers posted a nine-match win streak and seven wins over ranked teams on the year. Pacific went unbeaten versus unranked teams and suffered just two losses to teams ranked outside the Top 12.
Five Tigers earned All-Golden Coast Conference honors, including co-Player of the Year Anna Kertes. Kertes and Michele Relton was named First Team All-GCC, while Taylor Adair and Gracie Smith each earned Second Team All-GCC honors. Karolina Hlavata and Rachel Krieger earned spots on the GCC All-Freshman Team.
In 2014, Taylor Adair (First Team) and Gracie Smith (Second Team) earned All-GCC honors while both were named All-Americans. Pacific posted a 14-17 season while All-American goalkeeper Michele Relton sat out to redshirt for 2015. Pacific finished 2-4 in their first season in the GCC, but rallied to take third place at the GCC Tournament with a resounding 11-4 win over No. 17 Santa Clara.
Pacific posted a 16-16 record in Graham’s first season at the helm of the women’s program, finishing No. 20 in the final CWPA Top 20 poll. The .500 finish was the Tigers’ third as program.
Prior To Pacific
Prior to joining Pacific, Graham patrolled the deck for five seasons at Santa Rosa Junior College, where he built the Bear Cubs into a state power. His career 86-50-1 record included a school-best third-place finish at the California State Championships in 2007, as well as a Big 8 Conference title the same year. For his efforts, Graham was named the 2007 Big 8 Conference Coach of the Year. It was his second consecutive Coach of the Year honor as he won the same award in 2006 after taking the Bear Cubs to the Northern California championship. He was awarded Northern California Coach of the Year in 2006, as well.
From 2005-07, Graham served as an assistant coach for the United States National Youth team. He has also been the head coach for the National 2-Meter Development Camp and Holiday Camp held at the Olympic Training Center in Colorado Springs, Colo. In addition, Graham has coached at the annual Camp of Champions in Long Beach, Calif., and was instrumental in starting water polo clubs in three different cities in Sonoma County.
Graham began his playing career at Santa Rosa, where he played for two years. His stellar play garnered Honorable Mention All-America and All-Northern California honors in 1999. Graham spent his final two years at the University of Redlands, suiting up for the Bulldogs from 2001-02. During his time there, Redlands never lost a Southern California Intercollegiate Athletic Conference (SCIAC) game, winning the league championship both years. Graham was a two-time Academic All-American and earned All-SCIAC honors as a senior.
Graham resides in Stockton with his wife, Kelley, and their daughter, Maggie.