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Air Force program rallying around assistant Drew Long’s cancer fight

The Dagger

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Air Force coach Dave Pilipovich (right) talks with assistant coach Drew Long during a game. Long is on leave from …

Air Force has been playing most of the season a man down.

Sure, the Falcons have five players on the court at all times for each game, but there is a hole on the bench where assistant coach Drew Long would normally be.

Coach Dave Pilipovich told the Colorado Springs Gazette that Long has been on medical leave since mid-November when he learned he had rectal cancer. Long, 32, is in Houston, where he grew up, fighting the disease. He has had part of his colon removed and two weeks ago began chemotherapy and radiation treatments.

"He's doing well," Pilipovich told the Gazette. "High spirit, high energy. We think about him often, talk to him daily and text him. He texts the guys and checks in on us."

Melissa Long, Drew's wife, created bracelets with the word 'Fight' on them to support her husband. Members of the team wear them to support their coach.

Air Force is 9-8 overall and 3-3 in the middle of the pack in the Mountain West Conference this season. The Falcons will host Wyoming on Wednesday night.

Long was an assistant at Colorado for three years under coach Jeff Bzdelik, who was hired away by Wake Forest. Long chose to stay in Colorado and move 90 miles south to the Air Force Academy under former coach Jeff Reynolds. He was retained when Pilipovich was hired.

Long played two years of college basketball at Northwestern under coach Bill Carmody

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Kyle Ringo is the assistant editor of The Dagger on Yahoo Sports. Have a tip? Email him at or follow him on Twitter!

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