Ali Farokhmanesh explains how the staff is trying to build a winning culture at Colorado State
When Niko Medved was named head coach of Colorado State men’s basketball in March of 2018, local hoops fans knew the program was beginning to trend in the right direction.
After helping play an instrumental role in the resurgence of CSU hoops as an assistant under Tim Miles, and then going on to turn around two different Division 1 programs as a head coach, Medved has already proven that he knows what it takes to build a winner. More important than simply winning games, Medved knows how to create a culture that will lead to sustained success.
“You can’t get too up, you can’t get too down,” Medved has said on multiple occasions this year.
What any good head coach will tell you though, including Medved, is that a program is only ever as good as its assistants.
When Miles was leading the Rams, it was Medved that secured many of CSU’s elite talents on the recruiting trail. And while the head coach will typically receive the praise in times of triumph, it takes everyone in the locker room to establish a winning tradition.
That is why when Medved took the head job at CSU, the 45-year-old brought his entire staff from Drake with him. Instead of thanking his assistants for their work and riding off into the sunset, Medved recognized the value of his staff and presented them with the opportunity to join him in Fort Collins.
One of those assistants, Ali Farokhmanesh, has been referred to as the best shooting coach in the country by multiple players on the roster.
If that name sounds familiar, it’s probably because Farokhmanesh became a national icon in 2010 when he drilled a 3-pointer with 34 seconds remaining to help No. 9 Northern Iowa advance to the Sweet Sixteen with an upset victory over No. 1 Kansas. Since that shining moment in the NCAA Tournament, Farokhmanesh has quickly shot up the coaching ranks though.
Following his career at UNI, Farokhmanesh played professionally for four years overseas, before spending three seasons as an assistant at Nebraska, where he also earned a master’s degree in educational administration. At Nebraska, Farokhmanesh managed and oversaw the off-the court responsibilities of the student-athletes and also directed recruiting operations, including on-campus hosting duties.
Farokhmanesh then joined Medved’s staff at Drake and helped guide the Bulldogs to its best performance in the Missouri Valley Conference in a decade. Now at Colorado State, Farokhmanesh feels at home. Partly because the vibes of the people and Old Town remind him of the midwest, and partly because of the established continuity within the staff.
Farokhmanesh explained that with everyone coming over from Drake, the transition was smooth because it allowed the coaches to hit the ground running. The assistants already knew what was expected of them and how the program should operate on a daily basis. So, instead of coming in and having to learn their own responsibilities, they were able to keep recruiting some of the guys they had previously established relationships with at Drake, and begin the process of building the program on Day 1.
“There’s no learning curve of figuring out how the culture works or how we want things done,” Farokhmanesh said. “We all know how we did it. So, that is the nice part about it. We could instill our culture right away because all of us knew it already.”
As a result, Medved and Co. swayed key freshman contributors, Kendle Moore and Adam Thistlewood to follow them to CSU. For the 2019 cycle, the staff has also secured one of the program’s best recruiting classes in years, with guys like David Roddy, Isaiah Stevens and Dischon Thomas all expected to be able to come in and make an impact.
While the staff feels there is a bright future, Farokhmanesh knows that the process of building a winning team is not something that happens over night. There have certainly been glimpses of CSU’s potential in 2018-19, but Farokhmanesh feels this squad is still learning how to grind on a daily basis and keep up the intensity when things don’t go as well.
“When you lose like that, it kills your confidence a little bit and that’s natural,” Farokhmanesh said.
Farokhmanesh explained how when their staff got to Drake, the Bulldogs were coming off of a three-year stretch in which the program won only 21 games. So, before they were able to have any kind of breakthrough, the coaches had to first teach the players to believe in the process.
“When you have a losing culture--just changing that and learning how to win--that’s the biggest thing,” Farokhmanesh said. “Learning how to win is a process in itself.”
As Farokhmanesh sees it, the toughest part of the whole process is getting the players to understand that there may not be instant gratification, but if they stay the course, good things will ultimately come their way. The problem is basketball players are competitive and when the losses begin to pile up, it’s easy to abandon the principles being preached by the staff.
“They don’t know what it looks like, and you don’t really know until you feel it,” Farokhmanesh said. “It’s something that you have to go through. You don’t just start with winning and that’s the hard part.”
According to Farokhmanesh, preaching patience is becoming more difficult each year too, thanks to the rise of Instagram, Snapchat and Twitter.
“You get everything right away, so everything happens a little faster,” Farokhmanesh said. “So these guys want it to happen a little faster. Like if I came in the gym and shot six days this week, why am I not shooting 40 percent now on the year? Well you should have been doing that for six months... What we’re trying to teach them is it’s going to take time and that’s okay.”
With just over one month remaining in the season, Farokhmanesh obviously hopes the Rams can make a little noise in the 2019 Mountain West Tournament in Las Vegas. But, more than anything, the up-and-coming assistant wants his team to continue building off the groundwork that the staff has been trying to lay all season and further establish continuity inside the locker room.
“I think what we have to figure out as a group is you can’t take plays off,” Farokhmanesh said. “You can do something nine out of 10 times, but that tenth time when you don’t do it, could end up costing you the game.”