With the retirement of San Diego State’s Steve Fisher, Air Force’s Dave Pilipovich moved to within a few months of being the longest-tenured men’s basketball coach in the Mountain West.
Pilipovich took over for Air Force as head coach in Feb. 2012. That 2011-12 season was also Boise State’s first in the conference. Leon Rice at that point was in his second season with the Broncos. So Rice has a couple of months on Pilipovich when it comes to tenure in the league, but both debuted in the conference in the same season.
Pilipovich served 4 ½ seasons as an assistant with Air Force prior to his promotion, so he has Rice easily beaten in terms of time spent in the conference. Only new San Diego State coach Brian Dutcher, Fisher’s longtime assistant, has logged more total time as an active coach on a MW coaching staff than Pilipovich. Dutcher came to the Aztecs with Fisher in 1999 after previously serving as Fisher’s top lieutenant at Michigan.
This is an interesting time for Mountain West basketball coaches. San Diego State saw its first turnover in nearly two decades. New Mexico fired coach Craig Neal and hired New Mexico State coach Paul Weir. UNLV finished last in the league under first-year coach Marvin Menzies this past season. That puts the three teams in the conference with the most tradition and consistency in flux. For a league that has slipped to just one NCAA Tournament bid for two consecutive seasons, that could be seen as a frightening turn of events or a new opportunity for growth depending on how the new coaches fare.
A team that surprisingly didn’t see a change was Nevada. Eric Musselman reportedly interviewed at California and many expected him to take the job, but he instead returned to the Wolf Pack, who won the regular season and tournament championships this past season.
But Air Force remained steady. The Gazette has reported Pilipovich will receive a two-year extension to remain with the Falcons.
Standing pat has become the standard operating procedure for Air Force, as football coach Troy Calhoun owns the longest tenure of any current Mountain West coach as their current spot.
Calhoun, who began his run at Air Force in 2007, signed an extension following the season that locks him up for five more years. The next closest coach in the conference to Calhoun’s tenure is San Diego State’s Rocky Long, who has been the head coach for the Aztecs since 2011. Longe also logged 11 years as coach at New Mexico from 1998-2008. So he’s got Calhoun in total years in the conference as a head coach, but not at the current stop.