Medved hoping to reverse losing ways at Drake
DES MOINES — Niko Medved knew all about the recent sad history of Drake basketball — the losing, the struggle to stay competitive in the Missouri Valley Conference, the general apathy surrounding the program.
But he took the head coaching job anyway and now, a week into his first preseason practices with the Bulldogs, he is headlong into the process of trying to change that culture.
It won’t be easy.
Medved engineered a turnaround at Furman, taking over a team that had won seven games and producing a 23-victory season four years later. That earned him a chance to do the same thing at Drake, which has seen only two winning seasons and has gone through three coaches since a magical run to the MVC championship and NCAA tournament under Keno Davis in 2008.
“I think the biggest challenge is just apathy,” Medved said Wednesday at the team’s media day. “Let’s call it what it is: Drake has not had a lot of success in men’s basketball throughout the years. And I don’t shy away from that. I wouldn’t be here if I didn’t believe a thousand percent that not only can we, but we will. We’re going to have a great program. We have everything here to have a great program.”
The Bulldogs have gone 23-70 over the last three years and the average attendance last season sank to 2,843 in a 7,000-seat arena as the team went 7-24. Coach Ray Giacoletti resigned after a 1-7 start and assistant Jeff Rutter ran the team the rest of the season.
Winning is the obvious cure for what ails a program, and Medved’s job is convince his players they’re good enough to win, despite what they might hear from the outside.
“They start to believe that they’re not supposed to be good. That’s garbage,” he said. “We have to fight that constantly here. When your guys start to believe they’re good and you change the way you think, not just as a team, but as a university, your donors, your fans, it’s a process, but we’ll get there.”
Medved has a veteran group to attack that challenge. Four starters return on a team that has five seniors and two redshirt juniors.
Senior guard Reed Timmer comes back as the leading scorer (15.3) and six others averaged at least 14 minutes a game. Guards De’Antae McMurray (9.1) and Graham Woodward (7.2) and 6-foot-8 Nick McGlynn (4.9) also return from the starting lineup.
“I think us as a team, we’ve really kind of enjoyed the difference that he’s brought,” Woodward said. “It’s kind of an up-tempo, exciting personality from him. He’s intense as well as very easy to get along with. He’s someone who wants to have a relationship with his players. I think we’ve really enjoyed that from a player’s standpoint.”
The Bulldogs had some decent outings offensively last season but shot only 41 percent as a team and gave up way too much at the other end — 80 points a game in conference play. They showed some spark early in the league season, winning three of their first five, only to finish the year with 10 straight losses.
“It doesn’t matter what happened in the past,” Medved said. “It’s just about letting that go and just trying to figure out a way, how can we become our best as a unit. I don’t know what that means as far as wins and losses. I know that’s the end result we want. But we’re just trying to get the most out of these guys and have a great experience.”