After long wait, basketball players hopeful for next season’s potential
For members of CU’s basketball team, Wednesday morning provided a chance to exhale.
After five long months of waiting, the players finally have a coach they can call their own.
When United States Air Force Academy head coach Jeff Bzdelik was announced as the new basketball coach at CU on the terrace of the UMC Wednesday, it marked 160 days since the members of the team knew former coach Ricardo Patton would be leaving at the end of the season.
Since that day, it has been a long and arduous trek for the Buffs. Going through a difficult 7-19 season and losing the head coach, the Buffs were in need of some good news. The players seem to believe they have finally gotten some with the announcement of the new head coach.
“I think (Bzdelik) is going to be a great guy for the program. He seems like he’s a great man first of all, and a great basketball coach who knows what he’s doing and can help us be a successful basketball team,” said rising sophomore Dwight Thorne.
Rising sophomore Xavier Silas shared the same sentiments.
“We’re all excited to get back on the court and play for a new guy. He has a lot of experience and he has made a run this year so we’re all excited,” Silas said.
The team’s leading veteran, Richard Roby, matches the excitement of CU’s young players. Roby, who has said he is definitely coming back to school for his senior season, said playing for Bzdelik will be a good opportunity.
“It’s kind of scary having a new coach after having the same one for three years, but (Bzdelik) has coached a lot of great players and he has a lot knowledge about the game that he can share with us. I’ll certainly listen to him to get better,” Roby said.
Regardless of what class, all of CU’s players will have a major adjustment to make with the arrival of Bzdelik. The new coach made the Princeton-style offense he runs very effective at Air Force the past two years, and he says he plans on bringing that same style to CU. The drastic change of playing styles will be a big challenge for CU’s players. Despite the change, the players sound optimistic about their ability to adjust.
“I think that we can play that style. I think we’re all disciplined enough to play that style and I think it’s going to pay off if we start working hard at it,” Silas said.
Roby agreed with Silas, saying that it just is going to take some discipline.
“You just need guys to buy in and be able to do it. I feel like I can play any style but our team can definitely adapt,” Roby said.
While realizing that the offense is going to take some adjusting, Thorne pointed out that it is successful for a reason.
“It’s different. It’s hard to guard, so I think if he brings a variation of that here with the kind of athletes we have, then I think good things are going to happen,” Thorne said.
Bzdelik arrives at CU with a stellar reputation around the state of Colorado. After pulling off one of the biggest turnarounds in NBA history with the Denver Nuggets, Bzdelik moved on to the Air Force Academy for the past two years, where his teams went a combined 50-16.
“He’s certainly shown that he can be successful at both levels, and he knows what it takes to make a successful basketball team,” Thorne said.
At his introductory press conference, Bzdelik said the good feelings that his new players had for him was mutual.
“I can tell a lot about how a player looks at me,” Bzdelik said. “Every one of those players looked me straight in the eye. They want to succeed. They want to be good. I’m so impressed with them.”
The upbeat attitudes of Bzdelik and his players were complemented by the news that the athletic department has, in writing, a plan for establishing a practice facility adjacent to the Coors Events Center sometime in the coming years. Bzdelik also found out that he and his staff, which isn’t completed yet, would be able to move into offices at the Events Center by the end of the summer.
Rising sophomore Sean Kowal said those facility improvements can only help to make CU more competitive.
“To compete with the Big 12, we’ve got to at least have the same facilities as the rest of the Big 12, so I’m excited,” Kowal said.
Contact Campus Press staff writer Stirling Wade at firstname.lastname@example.org.