A change at athletic director has not impacted Air Force’s faith in basketball coach Dave Pilipovich.
The Falcons have signed Pilipovich to a three-year extension in addition to the one year remaining on his current deal in a move first reported by The Gazette. The move extends him through the 2022-23 season.
The deal comes after the Falcons posted their best season in five years, going 14-18 with an 8-10 mark in Mountain West play. They’ll return the lineup — including third-team all-Mountain West selection Lavelle Scottie and honorable mention pick Ryan Swan — nearly fully intact next year, losing only senior reserve Pervis Louder.
“I am extremely excited about the future of Air Force basketball,” Pilipovich said in a press release.
An extension, however, looked like a long shot just three months ago. Air Force, which entered the season with higher-than-usual expectations, started the season 5-10, including a home collapse against Army and an 0-3 start in the conference. It had also just announced Nathan Pine's hiring as new athletic director. Then came a run of four wins in five games that launched one of the best two-month stretches for the program since its run to two NCAA Tournaments and an NIT Final Four from 2003-07. The Falcons earned the sixth seed in the 11-team Mountain West Tournament and defeated San Jose State in the first round before falling to No. 3 Fresno State.
“Coach Pilipovich is a talented coach and he embraces the mission of the academy and his players exhibit that in the way they play and how they excel on and off the court,” Pine said. “The program made important progress competitively this last season and I believe with the talent we have on the team and under Coach’s leadership we will see even greater success in the future. I look forward to working with Coach Pilipovich to continue to improve our program on all fronts.”
Pilipovich has coached Air Force to the program’s only two victories over Top 20 opponents and guided five of its 11 seasons with six or more conference victories. He owns a 98-131 career record. The Falcons went 18-14 (8-8) in his first full season in 2012-13 but have finished below .500 in the past six years.
Transfers of key players impacted much of Pilipovich’s early tenure. Guards Tre’ Coggins (Cal-State Fullerton), Cam Michael (Northern Colorado) and Matt Mooney (South Dakota before a Final Four run at Texas Tech) departed and found success elsewhere. A season-ending injury to senior captain Kamryn Williams put a damper on another year. But the Falcons haven’t suffered a significant hit to the roster in more than four years and feature a veteran lineup that helped it to a 5-3 home mark in conference games this past season that included wins over Boise State, San Diego State and UNLV.
Pilipovich served as an assistant at Michigan prior to joining Jeff Reynolds’ staff at Air Force in 2007. He succeeded Reynolds as head coach in the middle of the 2011-12 season.
ALL-TIME AIR FORCE COACHES
Bob Spear 1956-71 177-175 (.503)
Reggie Minton 1984-2000 150-296 (.336)
Hank Egan 1971-84 148-185 (.444)
Dave Pilipovich 2012-present 98-131 (.428)
Jeff Reynolds 2007-12 63-82 (.434)
Joe Scott 2000-04 51-63 (.447)
Jeff Bzdelik 2005-07 50-16 (.758)
Chris Mooney 2004-05 18-12 (.600)