Air Force’s baseball team lost to BYU, 18-4, this afternoon to fall to 12-40, including 2-20 in Mountain West Conference play.
Tomorrow’s season finale will be the Falcons’ last game under coach Mike Hutcheon, who announced he would be resigning in mid-April, effective at the end of the season.
Hutcheon had a turbulent career filled with off-field controversies and on-field losses. I had a chance to talk to him after Friday’s 16-6 loss to the Cougars about his tenure and future.
Gazette: This is your farewell series, is that kind of strange?
Mike Hutcheon: Not really, because we’ve kind of known about it for a while. Just trying to go out on a good note and trying to get these guys some momentum into the summer and into the fall. So that’s what we’re trying to finish up with.
G: Will it be difficult for you, the last game?
MH: Haven’t really thought about it too much. I’m going to miss, obviously, the guys and the players that we’ve gotten close to and those kind of things. But it’s time. I think it’s time to move on and to turn the page and to continue to gain some momentum with my career as well, try to get that back, kind of re-establish myself. So it’s kind of bittersweet.
G: What made you decide this was it for you?
MH: It just got too tough. It was just the grind. I think the grind of just the academy, trying to compete at a high level. And I think we felt like we were making some headway, and you take two steps forward and take a step back on either academic hits or honor hits or alcohol hits. Just the whole, I think, seven years of just the grind. And I think you talk to a lot of coaches here, and a lot will tell you the same thing, that after a while it just kind of wears you down to where either you stay and be mediocre or you decide to turn the page and to go somewhere where you can revitalize your career. I came to the conclusion that I felt like I could do everything I could do here. And it just became a situation where we kind of felt like it was a no-win for a lot of different reasons. So it was more a career decision of whether or not I wanted to continue this grind or step back and kind of try to re-energize myself and just kind of get that energy back. And losing does that to you. No matter what sport it is, it just wears on you in every aspect of what you do. And the program needed it too. I think it needed kind of a change, just change the guard, get some new blood in here, some new energy in here and see what they can do. But we felt like we exhausted everything as a staff that we could have done.
G: There were some outside forces that were not happy with you. How much of an influence did that have on your decision?
MH: I think that’s expected. Any time you’re not winning – people expect great things, which is obvious. No matter what program you’re at, different levels you’ve got different expectations. And the expectations here are always high. And things have changed a lot since I started and 10 years before that. So I think people don’t realize the expectations are different now and what’s expected and being in the Mountain West and playing the schedule you have to play. And the rules changed a little bit with pro ball. And as far as the kids go, they haven’t changed. They’ve always been the same type of players we’ve always gotten. I think the circumstances have changed and it’s been hard for people to understand that – that circumstances change but the players don’t change, and you’re still getting the same kind of kid. And it’s tough. You always want to be recognized for doing things well, and when people don’t see it that way, it’s not easy to be criticized. But at the same time I think it’s expected in this profession. If you don’t win, you’re gonna get hammered. It kind of comes with the territory, I guess.
G: Any regrets or anything you’d do differently if you had it over?
MH: I wish we could have won more and taken this program to the level we wanted to, but I don’t think anybody’s ever done that. So it’s really hard to say the program’s been at a state to say where you’d like to maintain it or take it to a new level. So that’s a regret to say we haven’t taken it to a new level from a wins and losses standpoint. But, really, when you look back on it, I don’t think there’s anything else we could have done different, we tried to abide by what the academy’s mission was, we held up the rules and we followed the rules. I thought we recruited really well. I thought our talent level got better. But just the momentum of the program always stalls out when you don’t win on a consistent basis and you lose guys due to different hits. We just never could maintain that momentum you need for a three- or four-year period where you could keep guys together and kind of learn how to win and start winning big games, and we never got to that point in our tenure we were here. It felt like we were on our way, but we just kept going backwards.
G: What’s next for you?
MH: I’ve got a couple years (on contract at the academy), which is nice, to kind of look at it if I need to. Being in coaching for 23 years, I’ve acquired a lot of contacts. So right now just trying to get a hold of everybody out there in the field and let them know that I’m available and would like to try to stay in it. The longer you’re out, the harder it is. But it’s a pretty good fraternity of guys. We’ve all known each other, and you always get second chances to get back in, maybe as an assistant somewhere, and maybe get that energy back a little bit. So it would be nice to step back as an assistant, and that’s what I’d like to do, if possible. But after that two years, you’ve got a family, so you’ve got to make money and do what you’ve got to do, but I’d like to stay in baseball if I could.