New St. Joseph’s coach Billy Lange had gone as far as he could go.
He had been considerate of the feelings of the players who had been recruited by former Hawks coach Phil Martelli and had trepidations about the direction of the program.
Still, at least for Lange, it was time for St. Joseph’s to move forward, and he had to know which players wanted to go with him.
“Part of my task as the steward of this program is where do you use discretion and patience and where do you have to create a sense of urgency,” Lange said. “There’s not a textbook for that.”
Coaches deal with players leaving for various reasons, but few got hit the way Lange did.
In addition to graduation, starters Lamarr “Fresh” Kimble transferred to Louisville, junior Charlie Brown decided to test the waters as a professional, and freshman point guard Jared Bynum transferred to Providence.
And with top reserve Troy Holston Jr. leaving and Pierfrancesco Oliva not likely to return from a devastating injury, eight of the Hawks’ top 10 players likely were gone.
Those eight players combined for more than 63 points, 25 rebounds, and 11 assists per game. Those are staggering numbers.
Add in the fact that three recruits — Hakim Hart (Roman Catholic), Kenan Sarvan, and Jameer Nelson Jr. (Haverford School) — withdrew commitments, and the cupboard was bare.
When Lange was the head coach at Navy and an assistant at Villanova, the transfer portal did not exist and players’ switching programs wasn’t as prevalent.
He has had to adjust.
“It’s 18 years later [since Villanova], and things have changed,” said Lange, who spent the last six seasons as a 76ers assistant. “The transfer-portal opportunity gives everyone the freedom to see how many hits and likes and favorites they can get.
“I had to enter into that with compassion for the transition. I did not recruit these guys, and they’ve been given a new opportunity to see how wanted they are.
“But after what I thought was a fair period of time, a meeting and talk, you have to move on. I couldn’t wait here in a holding position. You can’t have so much patience that you are sitting here, waiting and stuck.”
Lange wished the players well when they decideded to leave Hawk Hill.
“In a different universe, maybe they would have stayed,” Lange said.
Despite getting in late, Lange signed four players for 2019 — Myles Douglas, a transfer from Central Florida; Imhotep forward Chereef Knox; wing Cameron Brown from Eleanor Roosevelt (Md.); and guard Rahmir Brown from Rise Academy (Canada).
Getting Knox and Moore, who previously played at Mastery North in Philly, is key to what Lange wants to establish at St. Joe’s.
“These are Philadelphia players,” Lange said. “The individual talent is big, but the concepts of what these players represent is big for us. We want to establish a recruiting base in this city. We will not exist without Philadelphia being a part of our foundation. I want Philly kids to look at St. Joe’s as their school.”
Lange has spent a lot of time meeting with alumni groups and supporters. The firing of Martelli after 34 years of association is still controversial.
“I am aware of the healing process,” Lange said. “It was 30 years of associations. I’m also aware of the impact on his team and a program.
“I have not stepped into this with a replacement mind-set. I’m not replacing [Martelli]. I’m the new head coach at St. Joseph’s. I have to be a steward and establish my own mantra, my own relationships.