Medved feels more and more at home

He didn’t stop talking about a good game, he went out and showed people he was serious. And sincere. And genuine. He was meeting fans at the first spring football game after he was hired, drawing a crowd of cheering fans to the stadium lobby. He was in public, with his growing family, participating and dropping the roots.

The Medved knew they loved Fort Collins, but now the bond is stronger.

His wife, Erica, and their two daughters, Aly and Taylor, are equally involved in building the bond. Team Together has become the team mantra, but it extends to staff and their families. They all participated in the construction process, and the extension of the contract also expresses Niko’s gratitude and trust in them.

As flattering as it is to hear your name mentioned to rebuild other programs, there are draws that are just as meaningful.

“Fort Collins is our home. We spent many years here, obviously with Niko as an assistant, and now,” Erica said. “You have so many friends – so many friends who are like family – and you really feel like part of the community. Especially this year, seeing the community rally around the team with sold out spectators and crowds, seeing more green and gold in the city is exciting.

“You appreciate the house. Any rumors or anything like that, you take it as a compliment to what you’ve done and you stay true to yourself and go on living the life that’s right for you. We feel like at home.

In the community, he won people’s hearts, but he also produced results on the ground. He picked up a program that was breaking apart and built a solid foundation with his first classes. He brought on board players who had not only skill, but also character.

They play hard for themselves, but just as hard for each other. The Rams have won at least 20 games over the past three seasons — only the second such streak in program history — each representing a step forward. The Rams went to the CBI tournament, then it was the NIT. Now they will play in the NCAA Tournament again for the first time since 2013. The team had been seeded twice this season.

He hasn’t finished building either. He wants and expects more, and when he walks into a rookie’s house, his talk is all the louder.

“Everything is a process. The one thing about college athletics is that there’s only one window in time that these youngsters can play, so you’re always looking to build. What’s next, what’s next? said Nico. “I think we have a lot of momentum right now in our program. The way the fans support us, the level at which we win, the success of our players on the pitch individually, where we live, the conference in which we play. You go on and on, but I think there’s a lot to sell here.

Isaiah Stevens agrees. He was sold on his trainer before, but even more so now. The ideals Niko shared with him as a rookie he still sees in place as a player and team leader.

Stevens isn’t naive, and he’s pretty sure his coach is a popular target for other schools, and yes, he wonders if the time would come for Niko to move to a new school. He is also delighted to know that he will still be her coach next year.

“For sure. As a player you’d be crazy not to because he’s such a good coach,” Stevens said. “He’s still here. I’m glad our superiors were able to do what they had to do to make sure he stayed a little longer.”

Every Sunday game was a reason to celebrate. The Rams knew they were going to play in the NCAA Tournament, accomplishing a major goal set the moment they felt the heartache of not getting an invite a season ago.

The coach who guided improvement will return. It was a lot to take in, even for a man who didn’t want to be in the spotlight, not without his players. Not for a man who just wanted to coach, but is doing it on a bigger stage than he originally imagined.

“I’ve said it from day one how much we love being here and how much we love being part of this community and having the chance to coach here,” he said. “I’m just so grateful that people want to do this for us. I just wanted to be a high school coach, man. I knew I had always wanted to coach, and to do it in a place like this and at this level is a dream come true. It hasn’t even really hit me yet, but it does, it’s awesome. We have a group of people, end to end, who are committed to what we do.

Committed to him. He deserved it, because he built it. As he has done everywhere he has been. At Furman, then at Drake. Sunday covered every part of the trip. The return of the former assistant coach charged with a turnaround. The present, with what this team can still accomplish on the biggest stage of the year. The future, for goals not yet achieved but still being developed.

For Niko and his family, Fort Collins sounded like a great place to do it all. It’s always like that.

“I think, again, we obviously love being here, and we love everything about it,” he said. “Maybe it’s better than ever.”

About Paul Cox

Check Also

Retrospective: Delve into the heart of Tahoe’s history and drive

Thunderbird Lodge was the summer home of eccentric millionaire George Whittell Jr. Provided/Fieling Cathcart “History …