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Barnard: Joe Parker commits to culture change at CSU with hiring of Niko Medved

Joe Parker deserves serious credit for this one.

After the saga that was Larry Eusatchy and Colorado State men’s basketball, a culture change was in store for the next head coach. Parker and the University fulfilled those needs Thursday afternoon when they announced Niko Medved as the man to lead the next chapter at CSU.

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CSU’s new basketball head coach Niko Medved fields questions from the media during a press conference Friday morning to officially announce his new position with the university. (Davis Bonner | Collegian)

Hired by Tim Miles as an assistant in 2007, Medved stayed with CSU through 2012-13, one year after Miles accepted the head coaching position at Nebraska. During that stretch, the Rams transformed from a seven-win program to a team that made back-to-back NCAA Tournament appearances.

The rebuild was no fluke. Medved left CSU to accept the head coaching position at Furman University, a team at the time coming off a seven-win season. Under Medved, the Paladins improved each season, posting nine, 11, 19 and 23 victories.

In his lone season as the head coach of Drake University last season, Medved once again proved his rebuilding tendencies. Prior to his arrival, the Bulldogs won seven games in 2016-17. Last season, Medved led his Bulldogs to a 17-17 record, including an appearance in the second round of the College Insider Tournament.

Now, CSU is in need of its biggest rebuild in over a decade. Not by coincidence, Medved is the man for the job.

Much of Medved’s success turning around failing programs is found in something far more important than what happens on the basketball court. It’s seen in his relationships with players, including former CSU guard Daniel Bejarano.

Bejarano, who spent two years with Medved, labeled Medved as the reason he chose to transfer to CSU.

“I felt I could trust him as a coach but also as a friend. I couldn’t pass that up. I chose CSU over Nevada because of Niko,” Bejarano said. “If I was in college today, I would play for him. The love and care he has for his players is special.”

“If I was in college today, I would play for him. The love and care he has for his players is special.” Daniel Bejarano, former CSU guard

Love and care, that’s what this boils down to. Part of a college coach’s job comes outside of sports entirely. It comes in real life, when young men and women are faced with difficulties.

Look at Cuonzo Martin, the men’s basketball coach at Missouri. Time and time again, Martin’s outlook on his job has focused on his ability to teach players life lessons – how to handle adversity, how to make adjustments, how to improve – and how that affects their play on the court.

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Now more than ever, that’s the culture needed in college athletics, and Medved brings it.

“You could go to him for anything, but not just that, you could talk to him about anything,” Bejarano said. “The year I sat out, he was there big time for me. Niko is going to have an impact on the whole community. It’s going to be hard not to like him.”

There is no hiding that Larry Eustachy did not fit the mold of a modern coach in college athletics. He affected the University’s culture in a negative manner.  

Watch football coach Mike Bobo comfort a crying Rashaad Boddie after a costly overtime fumble; or listen to women’s basketball coach Ryun Williams speak glowingly of his seniors for their accomplishments with tears in his eyes. These are the types of coaches aiding to the culture at CSU, and the examples extend throughout the school’s sports.

Now, you can add Niko Medved to that list, tying together a group of coaches who do far more than just instruct athletes.

Props to you, Mr. Parker.

Collegian sports director Colin Barnard can be reached at sports@collegian.com or on Twitter @ColinBarnard_.

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