“Only 6 today, that will do it, Drake victorious, 80-73..” -ACU game Broadcast
They were on top of the world, a playoff victory, the first since 2011-2012, then the news hit.
“Drake University is looking for a new head men’s basketball coach” –KCCI Broadcast.
“Niko Medved is moving on after a season with the Bulldogs” –We Are Iowa
“This morning he called and said he was taking the job. I thought he was joking, I said you got to be kidding me, he said nope, They called back, it’s too good of an opportunity and I am going to take it” -Brian Hardin
6 people are in a gym, an interim coach and 5 players. This is what is left of the Drake basketball program. 1 senior and 4 sophomores encompass the Schivers Practice facility, which is right next to their home, the Knapp Center, home to their basketball games. Once everyone leaves, there is just Nick McGlynn, the lone returning starter on Drake’s team. McGlynn, a 6 foot 8 sophomore, is coming off of his best season in which he recorded nearly 12 points per game in a career high 23 minutes a game. Yet, he seems lost.
McGlynn has been there for 4 years, seen 3 coaching changes, but this one hit hard.
“You know it’s a familiar feeling which is sad. I was pretty upset, I mean, it was more of a personal thing because I know he was doing what he needed to do, I connected with him, I connected with coach Thorson, with Coach Blount and Ali, so to see them leave after one year upset me”
Medved connected with the players, and so did his staff. This is why it was taken so hard when he left. McGlynn was considering transferring with Medved’s departure.
“I went home easter weekend, like two weeks after, and I had multiple conversations with my parents and with coaches that I respect”-McGlynn
The feeling that McGlynn felt was something that the team felt – confusion. Coach Dave Thorson, an assistant at Drake last season, instilled in McGlynn the mindset that McGlynn could play professionally. When he left, this left McGlynn with an empty feeling.
“I had a guy that said, ‘don’t worry, we will make sure you are taken care of and we will get you in the right path.’ He is gone now, so what’s the right path anymore.”
It wasn’t like this, and it wasn’t supposed to be like this. This program was supposed to be on the rise.
A New Coach
It was the beginning of the season, Drake was coming off a 7 win season. Medved was coming off of a postseason appearance at Furman University. Drake had finished a season with their second coach after Ray Giacolletti resigned from the program. Drake needed rejuvenating, Medved was the answer. When Medved was hired, the team was not looking good- 5 seniors and a junior was the core team. Yet still, Medved was positive about the program.
“That not only can we, but we will have, we have everything here to have a great program.”-Niko Medved
He even spoke to the future.
“All I know is our job is to work as hard as we can to do a phenomenal job recruiting of bringing in talented prospects, to continue to develop those guys, and as we do that and we keep doing the right things, eventually we will be able to break through, I have got no doubt” -Niko Medved
One of the players he was able to recruit last minute was Noah Thomas, an Australian Speedster. Thomas said his instant connection to the coaches was the main reason for this.
“I was just excited about the relationship I made with all of the coaches and how fast the relationship formed. It was kind of like an instant thing. I felt a connection to all of them and I was really comfortable”-Thomas
McGlynn said this staff treated him like he hadn’t been treated before.
“They not only cared about how we are doing on the court, like you look tired you should get some sleep or you don’t look like you’re eating enough or the little things like you need to work on this or that and they really brought everybody, they thought individually, they got to everyone individually, but more than that, especially for me, they really cared how you felt of the court, and I hadn’t felt that in a coach before”-McGlynn
Even last year’s Senior Reed Timmer, who has seen it all as well, said in a press conference in February that he was grateful for the season Drake was putting together.
“With Niko’s guidance, and all the coaching staff’s guidance that it was the right choice, it has shown that your hard work may not come and you may not see the fruits of your labor right away, and for us it took 3 years, but it finally is and I think we are really proud of that and it has been one fun ride.”- Reed Timmer.
Drake didn’t have many expectations. Their main expectation was to lose. However, this was not what happened. Drake ended up winning 16 games, defeating Wake Forest, a close loss to Minnesota, and a season sweep of Missouri State.
“…Drake Bulldogs, who go to 12-9, 6-2 in the Missouri Valley Conference” -Drake vs Missouri State.
They were the 4th seed in the Missouri Valley Conference tournament, skipping the opening round for the first time since their last winning season in 2011-2012. Despite a loss to Bradley in the first game, they ended with trip to the College Insider Tournament, where they got their first postseason victory since that 2011-2012 season.
Cory Marquardt, the video coordinator who has been here since his freshman year of college in 2012, spoke to Medved as the reason for this change.
“It’s interesting because the team itself was essentially the same from the couple years previous, when you look at it that pieces were the same, I think this is why he is such a great coach, is because he took those pieces and he just arranged them in a little bit different way and he just arranged them in a little bit different way, and that’s what you got here and it worked”-Marquardt
With Medved’s abrupt departure, many were wondering why he left. One reason was it was one of his dream schools, as he said in an interview with Colorado media. He was an assistant there and made a connection with the program. Another were the terms of the deal. At Colorado State, Medved will receive a base salary of 700,000 dollars, and increase of 25,000 dollars every year, and he got a buyout of 425,000 dollars for his Drake contract.
What is next for the program? Hardin says longevity.
“I am not looking for someone who just wants to be a head coach, I am looking for someone who wants to be a head coach at Drake.” -Hardin
A week after Medved’s departure, Drake hired brand new head coach Darian Devries out of Creighton. Devries has been with Creighton for 20 years, something Drake would like to see.
“I can’t tell you for sure, on day one, when the wins will come or how many will come but it know I want to win, I know you want to win, we all want to win. I do know that we will give everything, we will give everything of our energy, of our passion, of our value system to make this thing work. Our players will give everything they have, not just to this basketball program, but to this community to make sure it is something that you are proud of.” – Devries
Yet, despite the drama, the gym remains empty. McGlynn is walking out. After 1 month of struggles with what to do, he came to a decision. He was staying.
“I just love drake too much, I have invested so much in the athletic program and the academic program, I couldn’t see myself going anywhere else”-McGlynn
The gym may not remain empty for long. Since Devries has come to Drake, 5 new players have signed, including 3 transfers. It might just be a sign of things to come. For the Drake School of Journalism and Mass Communication, this is Noah Manderfeld