Metropolitan State University of Denver hired Dan Ficke in April to take over the head coaching responsibilities of the Men’s Basketball team. Prior to MSU Denver, Ficke has been all over the U.S. as a player and a coach. Ficke spent the past three seasons at Division II Belmont Abbey after working as an assistant coach at the University of Denver and his alma mater, Loyola Maryland. He also spent time on the staff at Wake Forest in several coaching roles. 

Now, the Denver native has returned home to lead the program he remembers firsthand winning NCAA Division II national championships in 2000 and 2002, with hopes of returning the Roadrunners to a championship standard.  

What is it like returning home to metro Denver as a head coach?

Returning home and having the opportunity to lead one of the nation’s top Division II basketball programs at the top public university in the state is a dream come true. In addition, working under Dr. (Janine) Davidson and Todd Thurman, who have a bold vision for both the University and the athletic department, was an opportunity we couldn’t pass up. 

Do you have any specific memories of MSU Denver basketball from growing up?

I have great memories of MSU Denver basketball from when I was growing up. I was just entering high school when we won our first national championship in 2000 and then vividly remember the second one in 2002. My dad was a former coach, so growing up I went to several MSU Denver practices, always at 6 a.m., and got to see how coach (Mike) Dunlap ran his program and what it was like to be a collegiate student-athlete. My most vivid memory of those practices was how he had his guys wearing heart monitors in practice so he could measure how long it took them to recover during timeouts very innovative. I also attended a number of the MSU Denver basketball camps as a kid in the Events Center.  

How can MSU Denver faculty and staff members support you on your mission to restore MSU Denver basketball to regional and national relevance and have your team, as you said, “make a difference in the community and an impact on our campus socially and academically”?

I think first and foremost I want our faculty and staff to know that this is their team. What makes college athletics special is that you are representing something bigger than yourself. When we put on the MSU Denver jersey, we represent the entire University — the student body, the faculty and staff and all the MSU Denver alumni who came before us. We are going to play an exciting and uptempo, unselfish and unrelenting style that will be fun for even the most novice fan to enjoy. What we need most from our faculty and staff is for them to come out and check out a game this season. We need to fill the seats in the Events Center and make it a true home-court advantage when our opponents come to town. 

As far as our impact on the campus community and the Denver community, our faculty and staff can expect to see us actively out in the community. Our program will be taking part in the many events our campus has to offer — academic, athletic and social. Our players will be in class and will compete in the classroom the same way they do on the basketball court. Our players will be active participants in their classes and in other organizations on campus as well. 

In January, it was reported that a record 118 student-athletes made the University’s honor roll. How important is it that you see your players succeed in the classroom and not just on the court?

Our student-athletes academic success and graduation from MSU Denver are our program’s top priority. We not only want our students to be champions on the court but in all aspects of life. We want to help them develop as young men and future leaders in their communities. My staff and I will recruit and develop student-athletes that are not only capable of competing at a high level on the court but also who compete in the classroom and value the opportunity to get their education from such a tremendous University.  

Is there anything you want your colleagues to know about you?

My wife and I are both Denver natives, and our families are still in the area. We love this community and couldn’t be more excited about the opportunity to be back and raise our family here. Giving back to the Denver community is something we are extremely passionate about and have been doing since 2007, when we started the JoAnn B. Ficke Cancer Foundation in honor of my mother who passed away earlier that year after a long battle with cancer. We have raised over a million dollars in the last decade through our annual Day of Giving on Sept. 11, and every single penny has gone to aid patients and families who are battling cancer here in Colorado. I look forward to being able to be more handson with the foundation now that we are back in the area.