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Ramsey: Extending Reynolds' contract is curious move

By: DAVID RAMSEY
April 9, 2009
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photo - Jeff Reynolds Photo by JERILEE BENNETT, THE GAZETTE
Jeff Reynolds Photo by JERILEE BENNETT, THE GAZETTE 

Jeff Reynolds doesn't need more security. He needs more urgency.

He stands in the middle of a decimated basketball program after watching over the worst season in the academy's history.

His Air Force Falcons lost 16 conference games - 11 by 10 or more points. From 2003 to 2007, the Falcons lost two home games.

This season, they lost 10 at Clune Arena.

Those are depressing numbers.

Yet athletic director Hans Mueh plans to offer Reynolds an extension, giving his coach five more seasons to revive the Falcons.

The team's record suggests - no, shouts - the extension is a strange move. The extension rewards failure. The extension is baffling.

Mueh is untroubled by doubts.

Reynolds just needs time, Mueh said. Today is gloomy. Tomorrow will be sunny.

"I have faith in Jeff Reynolds," Mueh said. "I believe in him."

Mueh's faith will not be tested next season. He's a true believer who still will see good times around the bend.

The faith of fans, no matter how loyal, will be tested. On paper, the 2009-2010 team looks weaker than this season's team.

A trio of graduating seniors - Andrew Henke, Matt Holland and Anwar Johnson - scored 60 percent of the Falcons' points.
Trevor Noonan, the team's best freshman, plans to transfer and he soon could have company.

Reynolds said "a couple" of other Falcons might depart. He declined to name the players.

The Falcons will struggle to escape the league's basement. It's a grim picture, but give Reynolds credit. At least he's honest about the road ahead.

The Falcons were in a "rebuilding stage" this season, Reynolds said. "We're going to be in that same scenario next year."

Translation: Get ready for another rough ride with a team in danger of falling into an eternal rebuilding mode.

Reynolds is different from football coach Troy Calhoun and hockey coach Frank Serratore. They were asked to rebuild losing programs. Reynolds inherited a winning program. They had no responsibilities in the previous regime.

Reynolds served as former coach Jeff Bzdelik's lead assistant.

Sorry, but Reynolds can't escape the burden of this season's disaster and next season's lack of promise.

Air Force's sophomore and junior classes combined for 175 points in conference games, or 35 less than Henke scored. These classes were recruited primarily by Bzdelik and Reynolds.

Mueh said the weak classes should be blamed on Bzdelik.

"Jeff Bzdelik didn't do a lot of personal recruiting," Mueh said. "He just didn't. I don't know what to make of that. It just is."

Bzdelik has plenty of shortcomings as a college coach. You don't need a microscope to find his faults. His Colorado Buffaloes finished 1-15 this season in the Big 12.

Still, blaming Bzdelik is too convenient. Just because he's gone doesn't make him the only villain. Reynolds, his top sidekick, can't escape his fair share of condemnation.

The Falcons ranked among the nation's worst teams this season. Only two seasons ago, they ranked among the MWC's best.
Reynolds is a prime culprit in the collapse. There's no way around this conclusion.

It's not time to fire him. Not yet. He did a good job with the 2007-2008 Falcons, pushing a limited team to eight conference wins.
If Reynolds can recruit and keep talent at Air Force, he has the skills to grab a respectable number of wins.

But that - extension or no extension - remains a massive if.

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