csu-rams-basketball_AC33605x.jpg

The Mind Of
Niko Medved

November 2018

On April 1, 2021, legendary UNC basketball coach Roy Williams announced his retirement. Our team led the way in coverage with news stories, analysis, a deep profile and a profitable book published within two months. We also were the first to break the news that Hubert Davis would be Williams' successor.

 

Inside Niko Medved’s unconventional Colorado State program, handing out gold stars works. Everyone matters.

FORT COLLINS — “Does that make sense for everyone?” Niko Medved asked.

J.R. Blount quickly answered “Yes.”

Dave Thorson made eye contact with his boss for a silent affirmation.

Ali Farokhmanesh, though, sat quietly, staring up at the projector screen, his face grimacing with more teeth than an awkward emoji. He didn’t need to speak. His expression said it all.

Yeesh.

“Ali?” Medved, Colorado State’s first-year basketball coach, asked in this film session with his assistants.

“I – It’s fine,” Farokhmanesh responded.

“No,” Medved fired back, “I want to know what you see up there.”

To understand the significance of an otherwise mundane detail of two days spent embedded with the CSU basketball team requires an awareness of where this program was nine months ago – the end of a six-year stagnation. As much as no one around here wants to discuss the regime of former coach Larry Eustachy — who was ousted after years of using excessive derogatory language toward players and staff and erratic behavior including occasional bans of assistants from the locker room for having discerning opinions — acknowledging his reign is necessary to appreciate the relevance of what’s happening.

On this day, just after 9 a.m. on the eve of this staff’s first game, CSU’s coaches have been watching film of Colorado Christian’s Princeton-style offense. The Cougars aren’t a particularly athletic team — nor are they a particularly good team — but they are a tricky team. The topic of the moment was deciding how to guard screen-the-screener and Farokhmanesh was worried about leaving Hackenthal open in the corner. “Hackenthal” would be tossed around 10 more times as Farokhmanesh explained how he thought the Rams should defend. Who Hackenthal is isn’t important. (Medved didn’t know, either, until finally catching on that it was No. 14.) What does matter is that Medved engaged in this exchange for 20 minutes before finally pulling rank.

It wasn’t that Farokhmanesh was wrong in his assessment. He wasn’t, and Medved told him as much. The problem was that CSU would have two starters suspended Wednesday, another waiting for his NCAA transfer waiver to clear and another out for the season recovering from knee surgery. Two true freshmen were starting, and only one guard was available off the bench. Farokhmanesh’s assessment wasn’t wrong; it was too complicated. Defending a Princeton offense is a thinking man’s game, and you don’t want to think too much.