EXCLUSIVE: Restless and Ready — Billy Lange’s Big Moment
The new face at the head of Hawk men’s hoops has a pedigree and a passion. Now it’s time to get to work.
Wednesday, April 3, 2019
by Jeffrey Martin '04, '05 (M.A.)
Billy Lange didn’t get much sleep the night before the interview that would make him the 15th head coach in the history of the Saint Joseph’s University men’s basketball program. He was too busy preparing.
“I believe this is an epic opportunity,” Lange says. “I grew up in Philadelphia basketball. I've competed against the Hawks at Hagan Arena, so I understand the history. I wanted to have my thoughts well collected and well versed to explain my vision for the future.”
Though this is Lange’s first personal stop at Saint Joseph’s, his biography is rich with Hawk history. His parents, Billy Sr. and Kathryn, are members of the SJU Class of 1970. His brother Mark ’97 was a four-year manager with the program and, according to family legend, spent a one-game stint as the Hawk mascot. His two sisters-in-law are alumnae, and his wife, Alicia, spent five years working in student-athlete support services at the University.
Similarly, Lange’s coaching acumen was developed alongside names that are very familiar to fans of Saint Joseph’s and Philadelphia basketball: He worked under Herb Magee at Philadelphia University, got his start in Division I as an assistant to Speedy Morris at La Salle, and served as an assistant and associate head coach for Jay Wright at Villanova. From each, he found something to add to his toolkit.
“Coach Magee found a way to keep it fun,” he says. “I've really learned how to combine enjoyment and the discipline of details. Speedy Morris was a great in-game tactician, and what I learned from him was his ability to give confidence to his best players. From Jay Wright, I learned the importance of the whole program: how you embrace a community, a campus, the alumni, and the importance of relationships with your players, past, present and future.”
Lange spent the last five-plus seasons as a player development specialist and assistant under Philadelphia 76ers head coach Brett Brown. The team, which won 18 games in his first full season, is currently looking to lock up the third seed in the Eastern Conference and are a hot pick to compete for the NBA championship. The experience taught him valuable lessons about coaching.
“I think patience is important,” he says. “Culture is a buzzword in corporate America, but it’s more than that. It’s a set of systems, values and behaviors. Something important is not going to just get done in one great practice, one meeting, one weightlifting session, one player. But all those things add up over time.”
Even so, Lange is energized and ready to get started. He has a progressive, dynamic vision for the years ahead at Saint Joseph’s, balanced with an admiration for the program’s tradition.
“I'm looking forward to the chance to be the next steward of this program: bringing in the next crop of Hawks, working on the skills of the current Hawks, and connecting with the former players that have made this program what it is,” he says. “I'm also excited to implement a system and being able to test that system against great coaches and teams like VCU and Dayton and Davidson. I love to compete.”