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My interview with Villanova assistant basketball coach Billy Lange

Villanova Coach Billy Lange

 

My earliest memories of Billy Lange were from 1995-96 when I was a senior in high school at Bishop Eustace Prep (NJ). Bill’s father, Bill Lange, was the head coach of our varsity basketball team. The older Lange suffered an injury in December only a few weeks into the season and was unable to continue coaching. The younger Lange, Billy, was forced to take over as head coach. Billy was 23 years old at the time. The players on the team, which were all good friends of mine, were mostly 17 and 18 years old, just a few years younger than Billy. Putting knowledge and ability aside, I, like most people, would never have been “grown-up” enough to be a head coach of a high school varsity team at 23 years old. But Billy Lange was. It was because of this alone that I knew Billy would turn out to be a great coach. He led Eustace to a 20-6 record that season and had Eustace ranked top 5 all year in South Jersey. I recall watching Billy coach Eustace against the #1 team in the NATION, Shawnee High School (NJ) on Shawnee’s home floor in Medford NJ. Eustace lost that game however Billy did a masterful job of coaching against a hostile crowd and several future Division I players including inRecruit’s co-founder Malik Allen, who went on to star at Villanova and play 10 years in the NBA.

 

I lost track of Billy Lange over the years but watched his coaching career from a far as he had successful stinks as an assistant coach at Philadelphia University, LaSalle, and Villanova and as head coach of the Merchant Marine Academy and Navy. I was fortunate to meet back up with Billy this year when he returned to coach at Villanova.

 

Below is an excerpt of my interview with Billy Lange, assistant basketball coach at Villanova University.

 

Q: Most people don’t know about how you had to take over for your father as head coach of a high school basketball team when you were 23 years old. I always wanted to ask you, what were you thinking at that time? Were you “ready”? Were you nervous? How did that experience change you as a person?

 

A: the experience changed me a ton and in many ways. It forced me to grow up. Everyday I had to wake up and think about how to represent a great school like Bishop Eustace. I had to learn at an early age how to be diplomatic with parents and administrators. Those skills have been invaluable for me. In terms of being nervous, there was no time for that---all my thoughts were with my father dur to the nature of his accident and subsequent injuries. We thought he was going to die. I was focused on helping my mother cope. To be honest, the coaching was natural. It was what I had prepared for through my young life. Of course, there was pressure and expectations because Eustace had great tradition and talent so there was a curve that I had to learn when dealing with that scrutiny.

 

Q:  This is your second stint at Villanova. What is it about Villanova itself as a school that draws you here to coach?

 

A: Villanova is just a special place. The community, the people, the mission of the school, the synergy, the support, and the way people are treated is second to none. Once you have been touched by all that, it becomes a part of who you are. I'm blessed to be here.

 

Q: Along those same lines, what do you think draws the top youth basketball players in the country to make decisions of where to go to college?

 

A: There are many factors that recruits look at----location, playing time, recent success, history of program, style of play, facilties, campus size, academics, alumni network, etc... But ultimtately, a person chooses a program and school based on the quality of relationship and the level of trust he has with the coaching staff. That trumps all factors. And when that isn't the deciding factor, most times, it turns out to be a poor decision.

 

Q: Villanova’s head coach Jay Wright is a coach that is admired and revered nationally.  Tell me what is it like to coach with Jay Wright and to interact with him daily?

 

A: As great as Villanova is ----and it is great! ---- working alongside Coach Wright is what makes it a terrific job for me. First and foremost, he is a good person and he cares about people. His passion for Villanova, how he links the students with the team and  connects the past and the present, makes him special. It's not a job to Coach, its an honor and that permeates through to the staff.

 

Q:  What are some of the personal traits that you and Coach Wright look for in potential student athletes?

 

A:  It has to start with talent first. No one will admit that, but there is no doubt that a player's talent, is the first trait that coaches will use to identify a potential student-athlete. A player has to be capable of playing at the level to which he will be recruited. From there, all the factors then have to be met. Type of student is critical to us. We want people who aspire to be great in the classroom. They do not have to have incredible aptitude but they must have incredible attitude when it comes to their approach in the classroom. The final factor, and really the most important for us, is the fit to our program's culture. We want driven people who want to be a part of something bigger than themselves. They have goals as students, as athletes, and as people. However, they are willing to chase those goals within our team and family environment.

 

Q: How has college basketball recruiting changed in the last few years due to advancements in technology and social media

 

A: The impact of technology and social media has been enormous and its ever evolving. There is information at your fingertips and you can use it to make critical decisions. College coaches track twitter almost hourly. We use technology to help us organize databases and make additions and deletions within seconds. We look for ways within compliance to expedite communication with recruits. There's no telling where it will continue to grow.

 

Q: You have been lauded by others who have coached with you for your passion, energy, demeanor and enthusiasm? What  you attribute these traits to?

 

A: I love basketball. I'm fascinated by leadership. And I am driven by making individuals better and by building teams. I have been blessed to have been mentored and influenced by great coaches since I was born and all through my life. The glory goes to God for my gifts and He has chosen basketball as my platform for using them and building relationships. I couldn't be more grateful.

 

Q: This may be a tough question to answer definitively, but in terms of pure athleticism, who is the best athlete that you have ever coached at any level (including high school)?

 

A: Wow! That's a tough one. I've coached at so many different levels that's its not really comparable. Each spot had a player that was just special in terms of athleticism. I really feel that Randy Foye was the best pure athlete that I ever coached. He had incredible balance, explosiveness, and strength. His burst was mesmerizing. You forced me to answer that one!!!

 

Q: What are Villanova’s goals over the next few years with respect to recruiting?

 

A: lets stay away from this one

 

Q: One last question: What is your favorite movie of all time (I love movies so I love asking this question)?

 

A: Haha. Another tough one! I love movies. I'd say movie watching is a hobby of mine. I watch all kinds---kids movies with my four boys and romantic comedies with my wife----my preference is a great drama or thriller. But my favorite movie of all time, the one I always stop to watch when I am channel surfing regardless of what time of the year or where I pick the movie up in its time, is MY COUSIN VINNY. I laugh so hard each viewing. Joe Pesci was terrffic! So many great scenes and lines.

Notes: 

Exclusive interview for inRecruit

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