No, not mine. Jake Burtschi’s.
Burtschi, who helped spearhead Air Force basketball’s renaissance, graduated last year. But he is back at the academy, coaching at the prep school.
Burtschi – who played in more games (125) than any other player in academy history and is the school’s all-time leader in steals and 10th-leading scorer – attended the Falcons’ 65-53 victory over Norfolk State on Thursday night. It was the first game he’s watched in person, as he had been in Europe playing with the All-Air Force basketball team.
After the game, he shared his thoughts with me on the 2007-08 Falcons.
Jake Schaller: What’s your assessment, overall, of your old team?
Jake Burtschi: Not bad. A little slow out of the gates, they take a little bit. They’re kind of like a diesel engine, it takes a little bit to get going, but once they do, they can be an explosive team. They’re still young, but they’re not bad. They’ve still got some growing to do, but hopefully by about conference time they’ll really be clicking and things will be rolling along.
JS: How do you see the offense running? Seems like it isn’t as smooth as it was last year – maybe because these guys didn’t play together as much as you guys did.
JB: That is one thing, that’s a big thing. Especially (against) a zone. Because I think man-to-man was working pretty well, they were getting shots. But whenever (Norfolk State was) in a zone, sometimes they were stagnant. That just comes from time, being with one another, knowing where guys are going to be at all times, knowing their tendencies. That’s just one thing that’s kind of involved. But hopefully a couple more weeks, couple more games, they start getting the feel for one another. They haven’t had the luxury, like we had the last year, to have guys that have been together for four years. But they’ll start clicking soon.
JS: Talking about the slow starts, I’ve mentioned to some people that this team seems like it needs a Jacob Burtschi personality to get it fired up.
JB: (Laughing) I don’t know if they need a Jacob Burtschi. That’d be more of a head case, if they got anything. No, I mean, it’s tough, that was just my personality, that was how I played. I think some guys are trying to figure out their roles still on the team. I think that kind of personality, that type of hard-nosed mentality, is going to come out in some of the guys soon. That’s the biggest thing, they’re just still trying to find their roles on the team. But I think come conference time you’ll kind of find out who the spark is going to be, who’s going to do those certain little things.
JS: How’s the prep school doing?
JB: They’re doing well. They’re 12-8. We’re lacking size, a 6-foot-6 guy is our center, but he’s mainly a 3-point threat. We’re small, but the guys are really resilient. They’ve got a lot of heart, and they battle. Like this past weekend we were down 18 with 3 and a half (minutes) to go, and we cut it to 3 with 30 (seconds) to play. Ended up losing by 4, missed a big shot at the end. Just a great group of kids, never a head case down there. It’s been a joy coaching them.