Former Air Force great Nick Welch joins Dave Pilipovich’s coaching staff

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Capt. Nick Welch played an important role in Air Force’s most successful run of basketball in the Mountain West, helping to lead the Falcons to a share of a regular season conference title in 2004 and winning Mountain West Co-Player of the Year honors. During Welch’s four seasons on the court for Air Force, the Falcons won 78 games and made appearances in both the NCAA tournament and the NIT.

On Friday it was announced that Welch will return to Colorado Springs, as he’s been assigned as an assistant to head coach Dave Pilipovich’s staff.

“We are thrilled that Nick is rejoining the Air Force basketball program,” said Pilipovich in the release announcing the move. “To have a player and officer of his caliber come back and work with our players will be a great benefit to our team as well as the athletic department.”

Since graduating from the Academy in 2007 Welch has worked on Air Force bases in Louisiana and California.

Welch joins the Falcon coaching staff after spending four years at Barksdale AFB in Louisiana as an aircraft maintenance officer and two at Los Angeles Air Force Base as an acquisition program manager for IIF GPS Satellites since his graduation from the Academy in 2007.

His resume doesn’t have the look that one would expect for a college basketball coach, but that isn’t a problem here.

Why? The service academy experience for a student-athlete isn’t similar to what a student athlete at a “conventional” college would have to navigate, and Welch’s past experiences as an athlete at the school will help current players (especially the freshmen) get acclimated to service academy life.

Will Welch’s return help Pilipovich return the Falcons to the status they enjoyed during the mid-2000s? That remains to be seen, with the Mountain West being a much stronger league now (adding Utah State gave the league another boost in competition) than it was when Welch was a player. But it certainly can’t hurt given his past experiences.

Raphielle can be followed on Twitter at @raphiellej.

LaSalle parts ways with longtime head coach Dr. John Giannini

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La Salle announced on Friday that they are parting ways with head coach John Giannini.

Giannini had been the head coach of the program for 14 seasons, amassing a record of 212-226. Before taking over at La Salle, he spent seven seasons as the head coach at Rowan and eight seasons coaching at Maine.

“Today Bill Bradshaw and I mutually agreed that La Salle University could benefit from a new voice in leading the program,” said Dr. Giannini. “It is difficult to admit this but I have given every effort possible for success and I have received nothing but support and encouragement from Bill and President Hanycz. Greater things may be accomplished for this storied program and great university with the approach of a new coach. I am forever grateful, especially to my loyal staff and dedicated student-athletes. I look forward to my next challenge and La Salle’s future success.”

Kentucky clarifies ‘false reports’ they did not shake Kansas State hands after loss

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After Kansas State knocked off Kentucky in the Sweet 16, the purple Wildcats alleged that the blue Wildcats did not shake their hands after the game.

“They didn’t shake our hands,” Kansas State junior guard Amaad Wainright told ESPN last night. “It’s sorry.”

“They know what they did.”

Kentucky bristled at the allegations.

“They were turned and celebrating, so I walked off,” Kentucky head coach John Calipari said. “There was no disrespect for anything. It’s just that they were celebrating, and I was happy for them.”

“My team’s not like that. There’s no disrespect in any way. They beat us. They deserved to win the game.”

NCAA amends rule to allow Isaac Haas to play

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BOSTON — The NCAA has changed their interpretation of the rule that kept Isaac Haas out of the second round of the NCAA tournament.

Haas broke his elbow in Purdue’s first round win over Cal St.-Fullerton, but he was not allowed to play in a second round game against Butler because his brace did not meet NCAA standards.

So they changed those standards.

“With ample time this week to review the intent of the playing rule, the committee decided to provide a more contemporary interpretation, while keeping health and safety for all players the highest priority,” said Gavitt. “Technology has improved materials used in braces, so now there will be more flexibility in applying the rule as long as the brace is fully covered and padded. Isaac and other players in similar circumstances should be able to play, as long as the brace is safe for all.”

Sources have told NBC Sports that, despite Haas’ lobbying to get onto the court, he is not expected to play on Friday night. If he does, it will be in a very limited capacity.

“He didn’t practice the last two days,” Painter said on Thursday, “and when you don’t practice, you don’t play.”

“I don’t see him playing until he can practice and show me he can shoot a right-handed free throw and get a rebound with two hands.”

USC’s Chimezie Metu declares for NBA draft

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USC junior forward Chimezie Metu announced on Thursday evening that he will be declaring for the NBA draft:

This decision is not surprising. Metu finished his degree — Law History and Culture —  in three seasons. He held himself out of USC’s NIT games in an effort to keep himself from getting injured with NBA workouts on the horizon.

Metu averaged 15.7 points, 7.4 boards and 1.6 blocks for the Trojans this season. He is considered a borderline first round pick.

VIDEO: Kansas State legend celebrates revenge on Kentucky 67 years in the making

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In 1951, Kansas State lost to Kentucky in the National Championship game.

Ernie Barrett, who eventually became the school’s athletic director and is known as “Mr. K-State“, played on that team.

He’s wanted to get revenge on Big Blue ever since.

On Thursday night, Kansas State did.

Ernie was there, and here was his reaction in the locker room: