Feb. 8, 2012
U.S. AIR FORCE ACADEMY, Colo. - Air Force men's basketball coach Jeff Reynoldshas been relieved of his duties effective immediately as announced today by Director of Athletics Dr. Hans Mueh.
Reynolds was in his fifth season at Air Force with a 63-82 overall record. Reynolds, the seventh head coach in Air Force basketball history, guided the Falcons to a 16-16 record in 2010-11 and a spot in the CollegeInsider.com tournament, AFA's first post-season appearance since 2007. Air Force was 10-21 in 2009-10 and 2008-09 and 16-14 in his first season in 2007-08. Reynolds, who served as an assistant coach with the Falcons for two seasons before his promotion to head coach on April 17, 2007, has an overall career record of 145-116 in his nine seasons.
Associate head coach Dave Pilipovich will serve as the team's head coach for the remainder of this season. Pilipovich is his fifth season on the Air Force men's basketball coaching staff and first as associate head coach. Prior to joining the Falcons, Pilipovich spent two years with the University of Michigan basketball program. Pilipovich has 25 years of coaching experience under his belt. He served as an assistant coach at Eastern Michigan University for five years (2000-05) prior to joining the Michigan staff. Before his stint at EMU, he served four years as an assistant coach at Robert Morris University (1996-2000), two years an assistant coach at Georgia State University (1994-96) and two years as the assistant head coach at Florida Atlantic University (1989-91) before being named associate head coach the following four years (1991-94). Pilipovich began his coaching career serving as a graduate assistant at California University (Pa.) for two years (1986-88), before being named as an assistant coach for one season (1988-89). A 1986 graduate of Thiel College in Greenville, Pa., Pilipovich earned four varsity basketball letters and served as team captain during his senior season.
Air Force, 11-10 overall and 1-6 in the Mountain West, hosts Boise State on Saturday, Feb. 11, at 7 p.m. at Clune Arena.
Statement read by Director of Athletics Dr. Hans Mueh
“I’ve decided that it is time to move the men’s basketball program in a new direction. So I have removed Jeff Reynolds as head coach effective immediately. Associate head coach Dave Pilopovich will replace Jeff for the remainder of the season. I want to thank Jeff for the program that he has built and wish him the very best moving forward. This was difficult decision because anytime you make a change during the season it makes the situation ever tougher. But I feel it really is in the best interest of the program moving forward.”
From Director of Athletics Dr. Hans Mueh
Why was this decision made?
“It wasn’t just a slide in wins and losses, but it was a slide in the look in the player’s eyes. They weren’t having fun playing this game anymore. And when it isn’t fun playing a game that you love, it is time to make a change. We are all about producing leaders of character for the Air Force and we feel strongly that the athletic program we offer at the Air Force Academy is part of that leadership development. This one wasn’t doing what we hoped it would do as a leadership development tool. With all due respect to coach Reynolds, it was time to make a change and infuse a little bit of energy, laughter and fun into this program and to the great athletes that are out there.”
Was there any one incident that went into this decision?
What had everything to do with this decision is trying to get these young men back to this game that they have loved since they were three or four years old and going out and having fun. I could care less if we don’t’ win another game, but I care a lot about their atmosphere and attitude out on the floor. I want them to jump up and high five each other. I want them to smile. I want them to give it their best shot out there and whatever happens happens.
Why was the decision made now?
There are a couple reasons. This is a break in the schedule. This is halfway through the conference schedule and there is a lot of basketball left. This was a real opportunity during this dead week when we don’t have a Wednesday game to assess this and I felt that after all the data I took in, I had to make the move now.
From Head Coach Dave Pilopovich
First and foremost I want to say thank you to Jeff Reynolds. He gave us, my family, an opportunity five years ago to come to this great institution and to Colorado Springs and we will never forget that. He has been a great friend and great mentor and has done some great things for myself and my family.
Now we have to regroup and recharge and move forward. Carry this program on like we are supposed to do. We have great young men. They are unbelievable guys. We are excited about them. We have to move forward. We have the second half of the conference season in front of us and the conference tournament approaching us. We are 0-0 right now and starting over. We have to let them be basketball players again and let them be kids. We appreciate the opportunity here from Gen. Gould and Dr Mueh and the administrative staff, to represent the Air Force Academy likes it needs to be represented. We are excited.
Is this an opportunity for you to prove yourself that you could be the permanent head coach next season?
As a staff, we would like the opportunity, but we will let that fall when the decision comes. We are just going to rally the troops together and get those guys playing to the best of their ability. How many games we will win, I don’t know. But we are going to play hard and play with passion and we are going to have fun. And if it turns out to that the administration thinks maybe we can continue on, then great. If not, we will support everything they do. They have been great to us since we’ve been here.
Is this a little bittersweet for you?
It is bittersweet. I’ve known Jeff for a long time and he gave us the opportunity to come out here and coach and our family loves it out here. So we are very torn. Personally, Jeff and Janet, wherever they go now, we’ll be friends forever, we wish them the best. We are excited for the opportunity, and what we have ahead of us. It is a hard day, but that is athletics. You take what is placed in front of you and move ahead.
What is it going to be like being a head coach?
You feel you are prepared, but are you ever prepared, who knows. But all the experiences, and I’ve worked for some really good coaches and good guys. You take all the years of experiences as the assistant and all the talks from of the head coach and you add a little of your own in there, because it is your program, and see what comes from that.
“I think that when I got hurt, you kind of take a step back. You’re not as involved, I think, but you can almost see players change their attitude. Just the mindset of the team was down. Even with the close loss of UNLV, playing really well against them. It was almost just heartbreaking when we lost to them, because we in the right position. I think, with each loss building on it, it was just a punch to the stomach each time.”
If there was a loss of hope/belief: “I don’t think that was it at all. I think that for the second half of the conference, I think that everyone in the locker room we can go right out and almost win and compete with everyone in the conference. I think that’s not the issue at all. I think that we just lost our passion though to get after it. I think that we weren’t pushing each other as much as we probably wanted to during practice and stuff. So, I think we possibly lost a little bit of focus, but we still have the ability to compete and go on with the season.”
“Whenever something like this happens, I think it’s a shock. You always think ‘what if something happens’, but when official news comes out with anything, I think everyone was officially shocked.”
“Dr. Mueh came up to us and asked if we would like to meet with him. We took that opportunity and we kind of spoke freely of where the program is at, what we think of what’s going on. I mean, it was ultimately his decision, but I think that we thought there needed to be a change, but it was up to him for what it was.”
On losing joy of playing the game: “It was. Absolutely. I think that we kind of loss the fun out of it … the joy. I don’t think that any of us had ever experienced that. All of us have probably played on really good teams in high school and nobody likes to lose. I think that any change is good. With Coach Pilipovich as our head coach now, I think that he brings a lot to the table and excitement and everyone in the locker room loves when he rallies the troops with us. So, we definitely will play hard for him.
“Going off of what Shawn said, he wants us to succeed for ourselves and not for him as the head coach. When’s he going to be head coach for now, he wants us to succeed for the team, not for him to get the job or anything like that. It will definitely be for us to feel good about ourselves.
“You know, we’re really just looking forward to the second half of the season. What’s in the past is in the past. We’ve got a tough group of guys and we’re really just looking forward to coming together and excelling in the second half of the season … putting the right foot forward, playing hard every game and just coming together.”
“He’s a great motivator for us. He’s always encouraging and really looks at our team as one big family. We’re all a part of one thing and we’re all in it together. Especially for the younger guys, just seeing him be that motivating guy who everyone is ready to go out and play for and play as hard as they can for is really important. I know, I think I’m speaking for everyone in the locker room, when I say that everyone will play as hard as they can for him. Whatever happens, happens in the future, we can’t really say anything about that, but I do hope the best for him.
On if something needed to change: “Maybe to some regard. Maybe we needed some change. It’s obviously been very frustrating these past few weeks. It’s a tough decision to make. I feel for (Jeff Reynolds) and Janet and hope for the best for them.”
On a change in Jeff Reynolds: “I don’t think that there has been a huge change in him. Nothing specific. Like I said, it has been very frustrating and it makes it worse when we’re losing. We needed a change. Again, it was a very tough decision for this to happen, but it had to happen and we’re really looking forward to turning things around in the second half.”
“I won’t say guilt. When we talked to Dr. Mueh, we gave him our honest opinion. I’m not going to go into detail what was talked about, but we gave him our honest opinion. But I wish the best for him and his road ahead.”
On whether the coaching style wore on players: “To a certain extent, it wore on some players, but I think what really wore on us was losing. When things go bad, it just brings the mood down for everyone. We weren’t winning games, so the mood was partially down to that, as well.”
“We always talk about what we can do as a team to get better. We always try to push each other in practice, or whether it was just talking to each other to see what we can do to get back on track. We’ve been doing that a lot lately, and hopefully, it’s going to continue and hopefully we can have some better results.”
On a fresh start: “Going into the second half of the season, I think that we’re really excited about it. To show people that we can bounce back from something so negative happening to the program right now. I think it’s a good thing right now to say that it is a 0-0 start to a new season. I think we’ll take advantage of it and hopefully do well.”
If the CSU game was the low point: “It’s been low for awhile because we’ve been losing. Honestly, I think that if we were winning, a lot of stuff wouldn’t have been going down the way it is right now.
From former head coach Jeff Reynolds
"Janet and I would like to thank all the staff and their families, the players and their families and fans for the past four and one-half seasons. We appreciated the opportunity and everyone’s support to coach at such a great institution, the Air Force Academy. While I am very saddened and disappointed with the decision, I do think our staff did many good things. I want to thank Dr. Mueh and the leadership at the Academy for the opportunity. I wish the program much success."