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Gazette Premium Content Air Force hires former Drake coach as basketball assistant

photo - Kurt Kanaskie will join Dave Pilipovich's staff at Air Force after a career that has included head coaching stints at Drake and two Division II programs in Pennsylvania, along with assistant positions at South Carolina, Penn State and Virginia Tech. + caption
Kurt Kanaskie will join Dave Pilipovich's staff at Air Force after a career that has included head coaching stints at Drake and two Division II programs in Pennsylvania, along with assistant positions at South Carolina, Penn State and Virginia Tech.
By Brent Briggeman Updated: August 26, 2014 at 6:58 pm

Air Force basketball wasted no time filling an opening on its coaching staff, announcing the hiring of Kurt Kanaskie the day after Steve Snell departed for Santa Clara.

Kanaskie was the head coach at Drake for seven seasons between 1996 and 2003 and has been an assistant at South Carolina, Penn State and Virginia Tech in a career that began in 1980.

Coach Dave Pilipovich alluded to Kanaskie without naming him on Monday night, saying the new hire would be “somebody who’s been a head coach, had their own program and had to call timeouts. I’d like to get some insights from someone who has done that.

“We’ll try to punch all the boxes with this next hire.”

Kanaskie was a standout player at LaSalle and was drafted by Golden State. He began his coaching career while earning a master’s degree at South Carolina, then moved to a pair of NCAA Division II programs in Pennsylvania (Lock Haven and Indiana, Pa.) where he was named Pennsylvania State Athletic Conference Coach of the Year four times.

After leaving Drake he spent 10 seasons as an assistant at Penn State and two years at Virginia Tech.

After losing Snell and Silvey Dominguez from the staff during this offseason – along with their combined 48 years of coaching experience – Pilipovich has now brought in a pair of coaches in Andy Moore and Kanaskie who have recent experience in major conferences and a combined 54 years on a bench, including 18 as a head coach for Kanaskie.

“He is an outstanding all-around coach,” Pilipovich said in a press release Tuesday. “He’s a very good recruiter; he is an excellent skill development coach and is extremely good on the floor as a teacher.  He has developed great relationships with the players he has coached.”

The remaining unknown on the staff involves Drew Long, who remains on medical leave as he battles cancer in Houston.

Long, a married 33-year-old father of three young girls, missed the majority of this past season as well after being diagnosed with colorectal cancer in November.

Pilipovich said a scan this summer showed the cancer had returned, but a more recent test showed no signs of it. Long is currently undergoing treatment and another test will be performed next month. The team figures to know more about Long’s coaching status at that point.

“When things like that happen I don’t think blocking out and making a free throw probably mean as much as they did before,” Pilipovich said. “With a family and three little ones, we just told him to take his time and figure out what he wants to do moving forward. We’ll just wait and see what he decides.”

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