Popovich returned to the Air Force Academy as an assistant coach in 1973 under head coach Hank Egan, a position he held for six years. Egan later became an assistant coach under Popovich for the San Antonio Spurs.
During his time with the coaching staff of the U.S. Air Force Academy, Popovich attended the University of Denver and earned his master’s degree in physical education and sports sciences. In 1979, he was named the head basketball coach of Pomona-Pitzer’s men’s team. Popovich coached Pomona-Pitzer men’s basketball from 1979 to 1988, leading the team to its first outright title in 68 years.
During his time as head coach at Pomona-Pitzer, Popovich became a disciple and later a close friend of head coach Larry Brown at the University of Kansas. Popovich took off the 1985–86 season at Pomona-Pitzer to become a volunteer assistant at Kansas, where he could study directly under Brown. Popovich returned to Pomona-Pitzer and resumed his duties as head coach the next season.
The Falcons are not only recognized by the lightning bolt on the side of their helmets, but their traditional option attack. Air Force is one of the premier rushing teams in the nation. Since Fisher DeBerry took over as Falcons head coach in 1984, they have ranked among the nation’s top 10 in rushing 19 times in 21 years. The Air Force football team has enjoyed success not only on the field but also in the classroom. In 49 years of Air Force football, there have been 39 Academic All-Americans.
College Sports Established
Colorado Springs, Colorado
United States Air Force Academy
1973 – Present / NCAA Division 1
1925 – 1973 / University Division of the NCAA
1999 – Present / Mountain West Conference
1980 – 1999 / Western Athletic Conference
1955 – 1979 / Independent
Falcons – The Class of ‘59, the first class to enter the Academy, chose the falcon as the Cadet Wing mascot Sept. 25, 1955, as they believed it best characterized the combat role of the Air Force. They didn’t specify a particular species, so any falcon can serve as mascot.
Some of the characteristics leading to its selection were: speed (Falcons can stoops or dive at 200 mph); powerful and graceful flight (the falcons’ strong and deep wing beats allow them to maneuver with ease); courage (falcons are fearless and aggressive and will fiercely defend their nest and young against intruders. They’ve also been known to attack and kill prey twice their size); keen eyesight (approximately eight times more accurate than a man’s); alertness; regal carriage; and noble tradition.
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