Air Force Academy basketball coach Bob Spear, right, talks over old times with his former assistant, Joe Bradley, during the 1963 USAFE clinic. Bradley was stationed at USAFE headquarters.

Air Force Academy basketball coach Bob Spear, right, talks over old times with his former assistant, Joe Bradley, during the 1963 USAFE clinic. Bradley was stationed at USAFE headquarters. (©S&S)

WIESBADEN, Germany — The USAFE basketball training school for coaches and officials has afforded Air Force Academy mentor Bob Spear an opportunity for a homecoming of sorts.

Spear is one of the "USAFE alumni" to make it good in a big way within the athletic world.

The chunky Falcon coach first served for the Air Force in Europe during 1946-49 when he was special services officer at Rhine-Main Air Base. During that period he performed as player-coach for the base cage team and also was an outstanding tennis player, reflecting the two sports in which he excelled during his collegiate days at DePauw back in the late '30s.

Spear was again on the local scene in 1954-55 and directed the Chateauroux Sabres to a berth in the USAFE cage playoffs.

From this assignment in France, he proceeded to Colorado Springs, Colo., to take the helm of the Falcons' basketball forces — and he's been there ever since.

Having retired from the Air Force last August as a lieutenant colonel with 21 years service, Spear is preparing to embark upon his eighth season as varsity headman, intent upon improving a creditable 82-win, 54-loss record.

In this day of the basketball "big men," Spear has had a sizable chore cut out for him. The major problem was the limits of 6 feet, 4 inches and 215 pounds put upon ail entrants to the academy as the Air Force put the accent on producing pilots from its corps of cadets.

But the academy has gone beyond the infancy stage and is now a mature institute ... academically and athletically.

With many fields of endeavor to fill, the physical requirements have been relaxed and the coaches in all sports can now look at an athlete over 6-4 and do more than mutter under their breath. Now they can seek that type of lad, assuming, of course, he can meet all other requirements of admission, for there are no double standards at the AFA.

How has Spear met this problem of facing countless teams with much taller personnel and how will he meet it in the future (for the height limit has gone only to 6-8 — and that 6-8 youth must be well coordinated and able to stand up to the other physical rigors of being a cadet)?

"We have to take an unorthodox approach to the game for we know we can't overpower them." Spear explained. "We know full well that few rebounds will come our way so we employ a pressing defense, a fast-break offense and, if the fast break is contained, we use ball control and play for the high-percentage shots."

However, despite the height situation Spear doesn't feel the Falcons are at a tremendous disadvantage.

"We have some key factors going for us." Spear pointed out. "For one thing the coaching staff is dealing with a smarter-than-average boy, one with fine intelligence who can grasp things quickly and think for himself.

"Then, too, we are in better physical condition," he continued. "And I know where my boys are every night at 10 o'clock — they're in bed. That regimented routine is going for them."

And, perhaps most important of all, is the desire and enthusiasm borne out of the academy's esprit de corps which has been thoroughly ingrained in tomorrow's Air Force officers.

"We apply the team approach and believe that five good men playing together can win."

And win the Falcons do, with prospects looking brighter all the time despite the mountainous opponents and schedules to be faced.

And this sort of winning philosophy was passed on to the coaching prospects here for the just-concluded clinic.

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