Dave Pilipovich was like a windup toy that was just cranked up and let out of the Air Force locker room.
The interim coach almost speed-walked right by a group of reporters waiting for him, even though he was coming out to talk to the media stationed right outside the door. Then he stopped, but decided he needed some water. He asked someone for a bottle, waited for about a third of a second, then happily announced he was going to get it himself. Sure enough, he went to get himself a bottle of water.
“This is all new to me,” Pilipovich said when he finally stood in place long enough to talk.
Pilipovich started his coaching career in 1986. Air Force’s 58-53 win over Wyoming was his first official victory as a head coach. He was allowed to enjoy the moment.
“I feel real good for coach,” guard Michael Lyons said. “It’s good to get him a win under his belt.”
Pilipovich talked about his wife, son and daughter and knew they were excited about Air Force’s win. But he usually deflects attention, and did so after the Falcons’ first win since Jan. 14.
“It’s a great time to retire, isn’t it?” Pilipovich said. “Our staff is an unbelievable staff. Those guys, I looked over and they had the next defensive adjustment, the next offensive adjustment, the next substitution. Our staff is really good.”
Indeed, the Falcons’ staff made a great halftime adjustment, switching up its defensive plan to limit outside shots by Luke Martinez and Francisco Cruz, and to limit penetration from point guard JayDee Luster. That strategy worked to perfection.
The reality of the Falcons’ final few weeks is every remaining game will be part of a job interview for Pilipovich and his staff. Athletic director Hans Mueh is going to give this staff the rest of the season to make a positive impression. He said Pilipovich would be given a fair shot to win the job permanently, and that was genuine. An unlikely comeback win against Wyoming, and the players’ exuberance (perhaps “elated” is the better term) after the win will definitely be a mark in Pilipovich’s favor.
He just won’t make the final games of the season about himself.
“What great character. Great kids. Just so happy for them,” Pilipovich said, as he excitedly spoke about as fast as an auctioneer. “We’ve been through a lot. We needed something good. We needed something to smile about.”