CSU hires Niko Medved as men’s basketball coach

Colin Barnard

The next chapter of Colorado State basketball has begun, and a familiar face is at the forefront.

Former assistant coach Niko Medved will be the next head coach of the men’s basketball program after Larry Eustachy’s resignation on Feb. 26, athletic director Joe Parker confirmed Thursday afternoon. Medved will become the 20th coach in the program’s history.

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“It’s really surreal for me. Everybody knows how special this place was to me and (my wife) Erica,” Medved said. “Some of the best personal and professional memories I have in life happened here in Fort Collins … As I walk through Moby Arena today, I’m just having these flashbacks of the huge crowds, the energy, students waiting in line to get into the games.”

Athletic director Joe Parker and CSU’s new basketball head coach Niko Medved field questions from the media during a press conference Friday morning. (Davis Bonner | Collegian)

Medved’s ties to Fort Collins date back to 2007, when he joined former men’s basketball coach Tim Miles’ staff as an assistant coach. Medved maintained the position through the 2012-13 season.

During his first tenure with CSU, Medved helped the Rams to an impressive turnaround. The Rams evolved from a seven-win team in 2007-08 to a 22-win squad that made an NCAA Tournament appearance in 2011-12 and 2012-13. CSU improved its record during every year of that stretch.

“It was absolutely clear from the first time I met (Medved) that character to him matters,” Parker said. “It was clear that he’s got the right vision for the program, he has the right constructs to what’s important to him as far as core values. I had no hesitation bringing him on board to this program.”

After the success, Medved accepted the head coaching position at Furman University. Similar to the turnaround in Fort Collins, the Paladins improved dramatically under Medved from nine wins in 2013-14 to 23 victories in 2016-17. During his last season at Furman, Medved earned Southern Conference Coach of the Year honors.

Last season, Medved served as the head coach at Drake University. The Bulldogs finished with a 16-16 record and advanced to the second round of the College Insider Tournament.

At 44 years old, Medved will be tasked with a daunting turnaround at CSU. The Rams won just 11 games last season before being bounced in the first round of the Mountain West Tournament. Early in the offseason, All-MW Honorable Mention center Nico Carvacho and transfer guard Kris Martin announced they are contacting other schools.

His success in turning programs around at other schools gives current Rams like Anthony Bonner confidence that the same can happen for CSU.

“I think there’s no one better for the job. I’m really excited about the opportunity to play for him,” said Bonner, who was recruited by Medved as a sophomore in high school. “I have all the confidence in the world. I think something really special will happen and I can’t wait to do it for the fans.”

Given the manner in which the Eustachy era ended at CSU, Medved plans to implement immediate changes in Fort Collins.

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“I learned really quick as a head coach, if you have really good people around you and you have really good players who have high character, they make it look like you know what you’re doing,” Medved said. ‘It’s about surrounding yourself with good people. There’s so many good people here and so many great opportunities. It’s my job to create a culture where everybody feels a part of it, everybody sees how special this is and they’re just dying to help us get where we want to get to.”

Throughout his tenure at CSU, Medved was vital in recruiting players who had an immense impact on the Rams’ success. Former guard Daniel Bejarano, who was recruited by Medved and spent two years with him, spoke glowingly of the new head coach.

“Niko is a great coach with experience. He’s been to the tourney a couple times and can recruit,” Bejarano said. “The love and care he has for his players is special.”

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