Joe Scott returns to Air Force as Head Basketball Coach

Joe Scott, who led the Air Force men’s basketball program from 2001-04 to unprecedented heights, is returning to the Academy to once again to lead the program, according to an announcement today by Director of Athletics Nathan Pine.

A veteran of 29 years in the coaching ranks and 16 as a head coach, Scott returns to the Academy after spending the last two seasons as an assistant coach at Georgia.

“I am pleased to welcome Joe Scott back to the Air Force Academy to lead our men’s basketball program,” Pine said. “Joe is a person of strong character and a leader who will continue to represent our core values at Air Force. He is also a championship-caliber coach who understands the Academy, what we stand for and he knows as well as anyone how to be successful here. Coach Scott is a gifted teacher with a passion for the sport of basketball and developing young men into leaders, he is the perfect person to reenergize our men’s basketball program.”

“I would like to thank Nathan Pine for the opportunity to return to the Academy, as we pursue our common goal of reenergizing Air Force basketball. Thank you to our Superintendent, Lt. Gen. Jay Silveria, members of the search committee and everyone else at the Academy connected with the search process. It was a first-class operation all the way. My wife Leah, our two sons, Ben and Jack, and I are extremely grateful and excited to be returning. The Academy is a special place and we loved our time here,” Scott said.  

“We will recruit players that fit the core values and ideals of the Academy and will help develop them into leaders of character on and off the court. We will help them strive to excel in every aspect of the Academy: academics, military training and athletics,” Scott said.

Scott, who in 2013 was tabbed one of the nation’s top-20 “Xs & Os” coaches in a survey of his peers by ESPN’s Jeff Goodman, was also head coach at Princeton, his alma mater, for three campaigns and Denver for nine seasons.

Scott first came to the Academy in 2001, taking over a program that had not had a winning season in 22 years and led it to new levels of success. In just four seasons he led the Falcons to their only Mountain West regular season title, first NCAA tournament appearance in 42 years, a top 25 national ranking and a then-school-record 22 wins. He was named MW coach of the year, National Association of Basketball Coaches (NABC) coach of the year and finished fourth in the balloting for Associated Press national coach of the year in 2004. Scott compiled a 22-4 (.846) record at home over his final two seasons, including a 3-0 mark in 2003-04. Attendance surged by more than 300 percent during his time leading the Falcons.

Scott was the head coach at Princeton from 2004-07. The Tigers finished first nationally in scoring defense in 2006-07 after being second in Scott’s first two seasons.

From 2007-16, Scott was head coach at Denver where he inherited a program that was 4-25 and ranked 335th (of 336) in the NCAA RPI prior to his arrival. He led the program to a school-record 22 Division I victories in 2012 and 2013. In 2012, Scott was a finalist for the Hugh Durham Award as the nation’s top mid-major head coach. In 2013, Denver shared the WAC regular-season title, earned a National Invitational Tournament (NIT) bid and secured its first postseason win ever. Within his first five years, Denver was a top 100 RPI team and a top 65 RPI team at the end of his sixth season. Denver was 75-15 (.833) at home over a six year stretch, including a 15-game home winning streak which tied as the ninth longest in the nation entering 2010-11. Denver also had the fifth largest attendance increase in the country in 2011-12.

Not afraid of difficult situations and rebuilding programs, Scott has a 235-240 career record in 16 seasons as a head coach while recruiting and coaching 29 all-league players (10 in the Mountain West, four in the Ivy League, six in the Western Athletic Conference, five in the Sun Belt and four in the Summit). His teams have been known for playing with tenacity, tempo and collective toughness. His teams showed continued improvement and developed a culture of winning. 

Before breaking into the head coaching ranks, Scott was an assistant coach at Monmouth and at Princeton. While at Princeton, Scott helped the Tigers to five consecutive postseason appearances, with trips to the 1996, 1997 and 1998 NCAAs and the 1999 and 2000 NITs. The Tigers won three Ivy League titles from 1996-98, including perfect 14-0 records in the final two seasons. Princeton upset defending national champion UCLA in the 1996 NCAA Tournament and ranked as high as No. 7 nationally in 1998 en route to earning a No. 5 NCAA seed, the highest ever for an Ivy League team.

Scott spent two seasons on Bill Carmody’s staff at Holy Cross. Carmody was an assistant coach at Princeton when Scott was a four-year letterwinner from 1983-87. Scott also served as an assistant coach along with Carmody under Pete Carril from 1992-96.

Scott was a three-year starter and two-time All-Ivy selection at point guard at Princeton. As a freshman, he helped the Tigers win the Ivy League title and reach the second round of the NCAA Tournament. Scott led Princeton in steals as a sophomore, junior and senior and still ranks No. 7 among the Tigers’ career leaders with 144. Scott connected on what was then a school-record 59 3-pointers as a senior. He scored 809 points in 99 career outings which is an 8.2 career scoring average.

Scott earned his bachelor’s degree in history from Princeton in 1987 and then secured his law degree from Notre Dame in 1990. He worked for the Morristown, N.J., law firm of Ribis, Graham & Curtin before beginning his coaching career.

A native of Pelican Island, N.J., Scott was a three-sport prep star (basketball, football and baseball) at Toms River East High. He has been inducted into four halls of fame – the Tom Rivers Schools Athletic Hall in 2004, both the NJSIAA and the Toms River Regional Schools Halls in 2005 and the Jersey Shore Sports Hall in 2013.

Scott is married to the former Leah Spraragen, a 1992 Princeton graduate who was a four-year starter at point guard for the Tigers and was an assistant coach at Princeton, Dartmouth and Arizona State. The Scotts have two sons, Ben and Jack.

Joe Scott Coaching Career
Monmouth – Assistant Coach – 1991-92 – 1 year
Princeton – Assistant Coach – 1992-00 – 8 years
Air Force – Head Coach – 2000-04 – 4 years
Princeton – Head Coach – 2004-07 – 3 years
Denver – Head Coach – 2007-16 – 9 years
Holy Cross – Assistant Coach – 20016-18 – 2 years
Georgia – Assistant Coach – 2018-20 – 2 years

Scott’s Head Coaching Year-By-Year Record
Season – School – Record – Conf/Finish – Postseason
2000-01 – Air Force – 8-21 – 3-11MW/7th
2001-02 – Air Force – 9-19 – 3-11 MW/8th
2002-03 – Air Force – 12-16 – 3-11 MW/8th
2003-04 – Air Force – 22-7 – 12-2 MW/1st – NCAA Round of 64
Record at Air Force – 51-63

2004-05 – Princeton – 15-13 – 6-8 Ivy/6th
2005-06 – Princeton – 12-15 – 10-4 Ivy/2nd
2006-07 – Princeton – 11-17 – 2-12 Ivy/8th
Record at Princeton – 38-45

2007-08 – Denver – 11-19 – 7-11 Sun Belt – West/5th
2008-09 – Denver – 15-16 – 9-9 Sun Belt – West/3rd
2009-10 – Denver – 19-13 – 10-8 Sun Belt – West/3rd
2010-11 – Denver – 13-17 – 9-7 Sun Belt – West/3rd
2011-12 – Denver – 22-9 – 11-5 Sun Belt – West/2nd
2012-13 – Denver – 22-10 – 16-2 WAC – T-1st – NIT Round of 16 (2nd Round)  
2013-14 – Denver – 16-15 – 8-6 Summit League – 4th
2014-15 – Denver – 12-18 – 6-10 Summit League – T-6th
2015-16 – Denver – 16-15 – 7-9 Summit League 6th
Record at Denver – 146-132
Career Record – 235-240 (16 seasons)

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