Air Force basketball coach, wife put money behind cancer fight

Air Force men's basketball coach Dave Pilipovich during the game against Jacksonville University on Nov. 14, 2016.


By BRENT BRIGGEMAN | The Gazette (Colorado Springs, Colo.) | Published: October 26, 2017

COLORADO SPRINGS, Colo. (Tribune News Service) — For every person who attends Air Force basketball’s home opener, Dave Pilipovich will reach into his own pocket.

This isn’t merely a ploy from the Falcons coach to fill an arena, but a way to jab at a disease that has recently taken a massive toll on his family.

Over the offseason, Pilipovich lost his father and mother-in-law to cancer. So, Pilipovich and his wife, Kelly, are donating $1 for every fan who attends the Nov. 12 season-opener against Texas State.

Clune Arena’s seating capacity is 5,858.

“Once it hits your family it brings a whole new dimension to it,” Dave Pilipovich said. “We’re going to pass the word out and get as many people into Clune Arena that we can.”

Air Force’s first four games will be part of the Men Against Breast Cancer Showcase at the Academy and will raise money and awareness to the fight the disease. The team will wear jerseys that include pink outlines to the numbers and letters.

For Kelly Pilipovich, the efforts will continue beyond that point. She has recently become a volunteer driver in the American Cancer Society’s Road to Recovery program. The program assists cancer patients by providing rides to and from appointments.

She had intended to do this for several years, but with her own trips back and forth to Pennsylvania to care for her mother she knew she couldn’t fully commit. Now that she has committed, she has found herself routinely driving some of the same people to and from treatments and has forged relationships with them. Several have turned out to be Air Force fans, which provides an easy entry point for conversations for the coach’s wife.

The Pilipovichs in the past shared a table at a banquet with the family of Lauren Hill, who famously played for her college basketball team while fighting the brain cancer that would eventually kill her at 19.

The couple has seen enough of this to find the motivation to get involved.

“We just thought if we could raise the awareness and support the team at the same time,” Kelly Pilipovich said, “together we could make a difference.”

©2017 The Gazette (Colorado Springs, Colo.)
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