Herz: Medved’s coaching history indicates major improvements to come

Eddie Herz

As much as history tells us about the past, it also tends to indicate what will occur in the future.

Colorado State men’s basketball fans are hoping this will be the case with first-year Head Coach Niko Medved. I’m here to support that notion, meaning the Rams will be on the upswing in the next year or two.

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Let’s face it, CSU is struggling a lot right now. Maybe even more than anticipated heading into the season. But not to worry, a head coach should never be judged on his accomplishments in his first season with a program. Especially a head coach like Medved, who specializes in rebuilding programs.

Taking a simple look at Medved’s coaching history leads me to confidently believe the Rams will be back at a competitive level sooner rather than later.

The former CSU assistant, who was on staff for back-to-back NCAA Tournament appearances in 2012 and 2013, began his head coaching tenure with Furman for the 2013-2014 season.

The Paladins finished 10th in the Southern Conference that season with a 9-21 record. Furman improved slightly next season by winning 11 total games. Two seasons was all Medved needed to lead the program to a major leap.

In his third season with the Paladins, Medved led Furman to a 19-16 record and its first postseason birth in five years. The Paladins went on to lose in the second round of the College Insider Postseason Tournament.

The next season, and final for Medved with Furman, the Paladins were a genuine threat in the SoCon. Furman finished tied atop the conference with a 23-11 overall record. The Paladins made it all the way to the CIT semifinals in 2017. Medved was also named Southern Conference Coach of the Year for his accomplishments.

The difference Medved can make when he has all of his guys with a program is evident. After taking two seasons to recruit players who solely believed in the head coach’s philosophy, success was immediate.

That isn’t the case at CSU yet, which is why the Rams are struggling. However, the two players on CSU’s roster who were recruited by Medved have made encouraging impacts for the future.

Both freshman guard Kendle Moore and freshman forward Adam Thistlewood were recruited by Medved and originally committed to Drake, the head coach’s most recent program.

Moore and Thistlewood de-committed from Drake and followed Medved to CSU. As freshmen, both are averaging nearly nine points per game. The two are in line to be faces of the program in the near future.  

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One could make the argument that Medved cannot be trusted fully because of what he did at Drake after he coached Furman. Unlike with the Paladins, Medved helped the Bulldogs improve immediately. 

Head coach Niko Medved addresses the team during a timeout during the exhibition game versus CSU Pueblo on Sat. Nov. 3. (Natalie Dyer | Collegian)

Drake went 17-17 last season in Medved’s only season coaching the Bulldogs. This was a significant leap considering Drake went from finishing 7-24 to .500 overall and a receiving birth to the CIT.

I disagree with this notion simply because I see the current state of CSU basketball as more similar to the situation Furman was in when Medved arrived, rather than Drake.

The head coach had less growing pains with Drake simply because players believed in his philosophy right away. There weren’t a hand full of players who left the program because of Medved’s arrival, so he was given the ability to succeed with the appropriate amount of cards he was dealt.

That isn’t the case with CSU. Leading-scorer from last season, Prentiss Nixon, transferred out of Fort Collins. Third-leading scorer and rebounder Deion James decided to redshirt this season with the possible ambition to transfer. The guard-heavy Rams really could have used James’ rebounding this season.

Additionally, redshirt junior guard Lorenzo Jenkins announced he was transferring in the middle of this season.

Now, I’m not aware of whether or not players left the program at Furman similar to how they did at CSU with Medved. But, the point is plenty was working against Medved in both scenarios. Medved didn’t have a lot of talent to utilize with a struggling program like Furman. So, it took some time to get the Paladins on their feet. 

In both circumstances, Medved shouldn’t receive the blame for not achieving immediate success. 

Once this roster is wholly made up of “Medved players,” there is no reason to believe the Rams won’t be a dangerous Mountain West program again.

It worked everywhere else, so why wouldn’t it work here? Especially considering Medved knows the area well from when he was an assistant under Tim Miles with the Rams.

Medved has already gained commitments from three three-star players for the 2019 season, including the highly-touted David Roddy. The forward chose CSU over the likes of Northwestern and Minnesota.  

The Rams should be significantly better next season. And in two seasons is when the program will have something to write home about. Stay patient Rams fans.

Eddie Herz can be reached at sports@collegian.com or on Twitter @Eddie_Herz.