Canberra Capitals coach Carrie Graf. Photo: Getty Images
Canberra Capitals captain Jess Bibby has urged her side to stay in championship contention while coach Carrie Graf is grieving the death of her father, Richard.
Graf has been given as much time as she needs with her family after her father passed away in Melbourne last Saturday following a long battle with cancer.
Graf left the team last week to be by her father's side, and missed last weekend's WNBL double-header against Adelaide and Bendigo, with long-time assistant coach Sandy Tomley stepping into the breach in her absence.
The Capitals lost to Adelaide at the AIS Arena last Friday night, but turned it around with a superb defensive display to upset the Bendigo Spirit on the road on Sunday.
Capitals players were unaware that Graf's father had passed away before they hit the court, but received a text message from their coach soon after.
Graf is unlikely to return for Sunday's rematch with the Spirit in Albury. A bye the following week means their next game won't be until November 30 when they host the Logan Thunder.
''It was great we were able to get the win down in Bendigo yesterday, because I'm sure that would've put a smile on Graffy's face for the briefest of moments,'' Bibby said.
''We're hoping she stays away this week so she can spend as much time with her family as possible and start to grieve.
''At the end of the day, family comes first.''
The Capitals are fourth on the table with a 5-3 record, an impressive achievement given they have been without superstar Lauren Jackson, who is sidelined indefinitely with back and hamstring injuries.
But as they have found ways to win without their most influential player, the Capitals are making no excuses while their coach is spending time with her family.
''The worst thing we can do is have this affect our on-court performance,'' Bibby said.
''Our assistant coaches will continue to lead as long as they have to.
''We have to do everything we can to prepare to the best of our ability, so when Graffy does get back, we're in a position to achieve what we wanted to achieve at the start of the season.''
Graf is a highly respected figure among the ACT basketball community and has enjoyed remarkable success since taking over the Capitals' head coaching role in 1999.
She has won six national titles with the Capitals to go with the two she claimed with the Sydney Flames, and has been coach of the Australian Opals for the past four years.
A funeral service for Graf's father will be held in Melbourne on Wednesday.
Messages of support can be sent via the Canberra Capitals email address: firstname.lastname@example.org