Before I start, congratulations to all the academy seniors who got to throw their caps in the air today.
I wanted to follow up on my article that appeared in today’s edition of The Gazette on Maj. Mike Kazlausky parting ways with the Air Force baseball team.
As I said in the article, some consider this a major blow to the struggling program.
Quick background: Kazlausky was one of the best players in academy history and served as an assistant in three separate stints. During his first, from 1993 through 1995, the Falcons had three straight winning seasons. That still stands as the program’s only stretch of three straight winning seasons since it joined a conference in 1981. During his second stint, earlier this decade, the 2002 Air Force squad set a program record for victories over Division I opponents.
Kazlausky returned for his third stint prior to the 2007 season. And some believe Kazlausky deserves much of the credit for the Falcons showing some signs of improvement in the recently completed 2008 season. One former player said the improvement would continue only if Kazlausky remained part of the program.
But now he’s gone. According to sports information director Troy Garnhart, Kazlausky and head coach Mike Hutcheon decided they couldn’t continue their working relationship, so they mutually decided to part ways (shades of the Avalanche and former coach Joel Quenneville).
Both Kazlausky and Hutcheon declined comment through Garnhart, so speculation about the divorce continues. But it sounds like a personality conflict. Kazlausky is fiery and intense – and maybe Hutcheon thought too much so for an assistant.
Two more notes on this:
-A great point about Kazlausky’s departure was made by a reader of this blog. You can see the reader’s whole post in the comments section of my previous blog post (on the academy award winners). The point the reader made that jumped out at me was that now that Kazlausky is gone, there are no baseball coaches who attended/played baseball for the academy.
As the reader wrote in his comments: “You don’t need to look any further than the football program to understand the benefit of having grads on the coaching staff of the academy’s sports teams.”
Couldn’t agree more. And I wish I had pointed out in my story that Kazlausky’s departure leaves the coaching staff without a graduate.
Having graduates on teams’ coaching staffs is especially important at the academy, where what kids go through is so difficult and so unique. You need someone – like Fisher DeBerry said about football coach Troy Calhoun when Calhoun was hired – who has “walked in the moccasins” of the players. Eight of Calhoun’s assistants went to Air Force and played on the football team – and that’s not by accident. The guys who have been through the academy can much better relate to what the current players are going through, and they have far better credibility when talking to potential recruits.
-Speaking of recruits, I got a call from the parent of an incoming baseball player today. The player was recruited by Kazlausky, and – according to the parent – wasn’t even considering coming to the academy until Kazlausky began recruiting him.
The parent was concerned – to say the least – that Kazlausky was no longer with the program (something he found out about from my article, by the way, not from a call from anyone at Air Force). He said he envisioned Kazlausky being a “second father” to his son while at the academy. He had yet to tell his son the news that Kazlausky would not be part of the AF baseball staff.