Forest Stulting, Sports Editor
A native of St. Paul, Minn., Niko Medved began his collegiate coaching career at Macalester College, where he was the Associate Head Coach from 1997-99. He then was hired by former Furman Head Coach Larry Davis as an assistant in 1999. Medved was an assistant until the 2006 season, when he was hired by Minnesota for the 2006-07 season before moving to Colorado State as an assistant. He helped Colorado State make two appearances in the NCAA tournament in 2012 and 2013, and he plans to bring the same success to Furman.
The Paladin: You’re in your third year at Furman. How has the team improved since your arrival?
Medved: Well I think we’ve improved in so many ways. It’s a cliché but the culture of winning. We’ve got high character kids that believe in what we’re doing. And more than anything it’s being apart of a team and something bigger than themselves with guys really pulling for each other and not wanting to let each other down. That’s what I think has changed the most. We’ve got great kids and it’s been fun to see them have success.
P How do you think the culture has changed so much?
M I think, just like anything, it’s a people business. I’ve got a great staff and high character kids and I think that is how it changes — when the people in the organization are all pulling in some same direction. We’ve always believed we can do that. It’s been a process and there are no shortcuts in that process at all.
P What’s your favorite part about being the head coach of Furman?
M Getting to work with these people. Working with these kids and a great staff at an unbelievable university and a great community. What’s not to like? Living here in Greenville and working at one of the top universities in the country in my opinion and working with these kinds of people, it couldn’t be any better.
P What does the team need to work on to have another strong showing at the SoCon tournament?
M I think like every team it’s continuing the mindset of trying to get better everyday, executing in all areas. We’ve been a good defensive team and we need to continue to sure up things on that end and executing. When we play good defense with intensity, share the ball on offense and rebound, we’re a good team. But we’re like every other team. The teams that continue to get better and sure up all the little areas and get everybody at their best individually. The only way we can be our best is if everybody is at their best individually. So I think we’ve got a lot of improving to do in a lot of areas and that’s the key for us moving into the tournament.
P How has having a strong fan base at home helped you have a 13-1 record at Timmons Arena?
M It’s awesome. One of the first things when you’re turning a program around is you have to establish a home court. I’ve always believed Timmons can be a great home court. I think you’ve obviously seen it play out this season. The fans have been amazing. They do make a difference. They make a difference bringing energy to your team and helping them pull through tough situations and I think they have an affect on the opposing team. It works both ways. College basketball is really unique that way. The fans are close to the court and see the emotions of the players. You really feel like you’re apart of the game when you’re there. It’s been fun to see the fans do that and apart of our success.
P Is there anything else that fans can do to help the team?
M Just keep coming and supporting. It does make a difference. It was great to see the fans out at the Wofford game. It really brought a great energy to the game, and we’d love to see people in Asheville for the SoCon tournament.
P Was last year’s SoCon tournament a springboard for the success this season?
M I think so. People ask when did it turn and it’s turned slowly over time but the way we ended last season really was a springboard, believing we could do it and believing in the process. And another turning point was right after Christmas this year. I thought we really kicked it into gear. It’s all about playing your best in conference play.
P How has having depth played a role in this year’s success?
M Last year so many young players got a ton of experience. And those guys became sophomores by the end of last year. We have more depth than we ever had and there’s been so many times when different guys have stepped up on different nights. Whenever we’ve had to call on somebody they’ve been able to step in and do a nice job. It really helps you over the course of a season. The other place I think it really helps you is practice. When practice is competitive everyday that really makes a difference in your growth. That’s helped us over the season and hopefully it will help us down the stretch and into the conference tournament when you’ve got to win three games in three days.
P How have you enjoyed coaching Stephen Croone in his illustrious Furman career?
M He’s a better kid than player. I remember my first year as coach when he was a sophomore and talking to him about how he can be apart of turning this program around, playing for championships and being one of the best guards in Furman history. And he’s done all those things. But to see him do that throughout his career it has been awesome. I’ve been blessed to coach him and the other seniors.