Lange at the helm for Navy
Michael Shute 93
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.
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.