Lange, 32, appointed coach for Navy men

Citing need for `passion,' Gladchuk hands job to young Villanova assistant

College Basketball

March 27, 2004|By Kent Baker | Kent Baker,SUN STAFF

Energy and youthful enthusiasm were added to the Navy men's basketball program yesterday when Billy Lange was named the academy's 19th head coach.

Lange, 32, a member of the Villanova coaching staff the past three years, replaces veteran Don DeVoe, who resigned early last month after 12 seasons.

"I really feel as though the program needs passion right now," said athletic director Chet Gladchuk in introducing Lange. "This is a young guy whose time has come."

The Midshipmen finished with a 5-23 record this season, including an overtime loss to Patriot League champion Lehigh in the conference tournament. It was their third consecutive 20-loss season.

Gladchuk selected Lange from a pool of 14 candidates after the original choice, Doug Wojcik, Navy's Navy point guard during the glorious era of David Robinson, decided to remain at Michigan State as an assistant.

"This is something I've been preparing for my whole life, to be a Division I head coach," said Lange, who will retain DeVoe assistants Dave Wojcik, Victor Mickel, Brad Enright and Blake Flickner.

A native of Haddon Heights, N.J., Lange has an extensive coaching background despite his relatively tender age.

At Villanova, he served as the coordinator of basketball operations under Jay Wright, one of many coaches he has worked for and with and who recommended him unreservedly to Gladchuk.

"He understands from his years at Kings Point [U.S. Merchant Marine Academy] and Villanova how to run an entire program," Wright said. "I've known him through his years as a high school coach, college assistant and college head coach and he has a tremendous understanding of the game, a great passion for the game and an outstanding ability to relate to and inspire young players."

Lange's career started at Bishop Eustace High in Pennsauken, N.J., in 1995, when he led the team to an appearance in the New Jersey state championship game after his father, Bill Lange Sr., was involved in a life-threatening accident one week into the season.

He was on the staff at Philadelphia University for two seasons before moving to Division I as an assistant at La Salle. In his first head coaching job, Lange led the Merchant Marine Academy to a 39-19 record, two conference titles and to the round of 16 in the 2001 NCAA Division III tournament.

Gladchuk said Lange's experience at the Merchant Marine Academy was "very important" in the selection.

Midshipmen returning to the team are enthusiastic about Lange, who intends "to hit the ground running in terms of energy. We want to get 20-some guys feeling good about Navy basketball."

Sophomore Mike Higgins said his first impression was that Lange seems "generally enthusiastic and really cares about us as players, so I'm excited. I think last season we lacked a little bit of enthusiasm. Anytime you lose that much, that's probably what's going to happen."

Another sophomore, David Hooper, sees the addition as "real positive. It seems like he's full of energy and wants to win."

Lange said he relishes entering the Patriot League, in which Navy was a power during the 1990s before one league rival after another added scholarships and overtook the Midshipmen.

"I'm not going to say we have to be at a certain point next year," Lange said. "We will be patient in this process, but very persistent.

"The culture has changed in the Patriot League, but everybody has the same kind of guys. I think we're going to find the right guys for the Naval Academy. I'm not intimidated by this environment. What better kids would you want than those right here?"

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