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Lange at the helm for Navy hoops
Michael Shute ’93


t’s what Billy Lange ’94 didn’t do as a Rowan senior that proved to be one of the most important decisions of his life. After playing on Rowan’s 1992–93 men’s basketball team that went 29–2 and reached the NCAA Division III Final Four, (finishing third in the nation), Lange decided he would not return to the court for his senior year. Instead, he began working toward his goal of becoming a basketball coach.

Nearly 10 years after graduating from Rowan, on March 26, 2004, Lange was announced as the head coach of men’s basketball at the U.S. Naval Academy. Lange, 32, is one of the nation’s five youngest Division I head coaches. He beat out 80 applicants to replace Don DeVoe—a veteran coach who retired after guiding Navy for 11 seasons.

“When you’re a player with no Division I experience on your résumé, you have to work even harder to become a head coach, so I wanted to get a jump on that,” said Lange. Among the steps he took in his senior year to get practical sports-related experience was a job as a student building manager at the Rowan Student Recreation Center. “I really took a lot from my time at Rowan. I learned time management, organizational and leadership skills—all big assets. “Looking back, the one thing I really appreciated was the commitment to winning that the Rowan administration had toward the athletic program. It’s the type of thing I want to carry out in [the Navy] program.”

Lange cited former coach Dr. John Giannini as influencing his coaching style. Giannini coached Rowan for seven seasons (1989–96) and was inducted into the University’s Sports Hall of Fame in spring 2004. “A lot of things that I’ve taken from [Giannini] are his psychological approach to the game, as well as his ability to motivate and communicate,” Lange said.

“As a player, Billy was like having an extra coach on the floor and when he came to Rowan, he told me his goal was to be a coach,” said Giannini, who was named men’s basketball head coach at LaSalle University in August. “He had a tremendous understanding of the game and was dedicated to improving. Everyone in college basketball right now knows that he has a bright basketball mind and I’m really happy to see him get hired for the job at such a prestigious institution.”

Basketball is in Lange’s blood. His father, Bill Lange, Sr., has been a high school coach in southern New Jersey for 22 years and led Lenape to the 2004 State Group 4 Championship. Billy’s long-standing love for the game started with his father.

“I remember going to my dad’s practices at Overbrook High School when I was little. I was too small to reach the basket with my shot, so I would go by myself into the locker room and pretend to give half-time speeches and pre-game speeches,” said Lange, who played for his father in high school at Bishop Eustace Prep in Pennsauken. “The ability to teach and be a mentor is what I really learned from watching my father.”

Billy’s first head coaching job came at a steep price. His father, still the coach at Bishop Eustace at the time, suffered near-fatal head injuries after falling from the roof of their Haddon Heights home. Billy temporarily stepped into his father’s job and guided the team to a 20–6 record in 1995–96 and an appearance in the N.J. Group B State Championship game.

Prior to earning the job at Navy, Lange was an assistant coach and the coordinator of basketball operations at Villanova University (2001–04). He spent two seasons as the head coach at the U.S. Merchant Marine Academy (1999–2001) where he was the New York Metropolitan Basketball Writers Coach of the Year in 2001 and reached the Division III “Sweet 16,” compiling a 39–19 record. After his season as Bishop Eustace’s head coach, he was an assistant at Philadelphia Textile (now Philadelphia University) for two campaigns and an assistant at LaSalle for one.

Lange, his wife Alicia, and their son, Will, reside in Annapolis, Md. Endpoint

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Michael Shute ’93 is the senior copywriter at Fleer Trading Cards in Mt. Laurel. The Gloucester Township resident also writes freelance and works as a statistician for live sports broadcasts on CN8.

 
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