There’s a lot going on, Billy Lange acknowledged after he was introduced as head men’s basketball coach at St. Joseph’s University. His first priority, Lange said, answering the first question put to him, is to connect with current Hawks players.
“They’re the most important recruits right now,’’ Lange said Thursday morning at his introduction on Hawk Hill. “They need a face. They need an energy. They need a love. And, just talk to them, just be honest with them. The current landscape in college basketball is complicated; it’s complex. There’s a lot of voices in their ears. And I just need to be one right now.”
Since Phil Martelli was let go, three Hawks recruits have decommitted and the three leading 2018-19 scorers have taken at least a step out the door, with freshman Jared Bynum and redshirt junior Lamarr “Fresh” Kimble entering the transfer portal, both not ruling out returning. Leading scorer Charlie Brown said he is putting his name in for the NBA draft. Thursday, reserve Troy Holston added his name to the portal list.
“Lamarr Kimble has not left yet,’’ Lange mentioned. “Charlie Brown has just said he wants to test the waters. So right now, they’re Hawks. And we’re going to treat them like Hawks. People, they’re always swayed by outside. I’m here to be a resource. If it’s the best thing for one of those guys to go, I support it. I just got done telling ‘em: I want them to chase their dreams. It starts right now. It starts with how I treat them right now. If Lamarr Kimble thinks there’s a better opportunity, fine.
“If Charlie Brown wants information and we can give him intel, we’re here to help him in any way we can,’’ Lange said. “If not, we’ll just take the guys who are here and we’ll go out there and compete for that jersey.”
St. Joe’s athletic director Jill Bodensteiner added that it’s a new world now.
“As of this morning, there were 9,998 student-athletes in the transfer portal,’’ Bodensteiner said. “There are 596 Division I men’s basketball players in the portal.”
That’s almost two per school.
“Over 30 of which are from the Atlantic 10,’’ Bodensteiner said. “It’s a new world.”
Lange talked about how many players were with the 76ers his first three years as an assistant on the team.
“When you’re a coach, whatever’s there, you just do your job,’’ Lange said. “If we’ve got guys now that are all in, we’re all in with them. This is what athletics has become, in college basketball right now. There’s going to be attrition. It’s going to happen, and you better be able to handle it. You better have a development plan. You better have a plan on how to get your guys better who weren’t playing a lot. We just embrace whatever the change is.”
As for his staff, Lange added, “You have to be innovative. I want creative people. I’ve just spent a long time on cutting-edge stuff [with the Sixers]. I want people that are fresh, that are innovative, that see possibilities. They have to see possibilities.”
Recruiting, Lange said, you have to go up and down I-95. “I see international flavor being really big here. … We want to tap into that in a smart, tactical way.”
Those 598 names in the Division I portal, how familiar is he starting to get with those names?
“I’m on it,’’ Lange said. “It’s dizzying. In a frenzied world, patience rules. And you don’t want to make a decision that just wows everybody for 48 hours and you turn around 24 months later and it was the worst decision. And I’ve made those mistakes. That’s why I sit up here as a guy with experience. I’ve seen the importance of diligence and prudence.
"We can fill a roster. That’s not going to be a problem. We need to fill a roster with people that represent St. Joseph’s, that want to work the way we want to work. We can’t talk about culture if they’re not going to represent it. I’ve come in every day, they’ve got stuff up on [a video website], I’m watching guys, placing calls, doing our due diligence. Right now, that is recruiting in college basketball.”
Lange, now 47, was the youngest head coach in Division I when he was put in charge at Navy. Lessons learned from that experience?
“Impatience,’’ Lange said of mistakes made. “Not losing confidence quickly. Understanding that it’s a big-picture thing. It’s a long-haul thing. And that’s it. You want to be urgent. You want to be intense. But there has to be a wisdom about it at this stage right now.”
The last question put to Lange was about lessons learned from the men he worked for. Lange went through some rapid-fire.
From his coach at Bishop Eustace, his own father, Bill Lange: “My dad, he’s got great strategy, organizational skills. Amazing vision. He can map something out from day one to the end. And he’s an amazing connector with his players.”
His first job as an assistant was with Herb Magee at Philadelphia Textile: “Herb Magee knew how to keep it fun. That’s important. This has to be enjoyable.”
His first Division I assistant job was under Speedy Morris at La Salle: “Speedy Morris had an amazing way to really dial in on the fundamentals every day and be unapologetic about it. And was also really, really good at getting his best players confidence. They knew they were going to get shots.”
From two different stints with Jay Wright: “I learned the whole program. The whole program. He’s a master at running a program. The importance of every single detail, from a graduate manager all the way up, what he has to do as the head coach.”
On Brett Brown: “I could go on and on. Brett Brown is an amazing basketball mind. He’s the most resourceful person I’ve ever been around. A great studier of the game. But, more importantly, showed me how to build a staff and empower them and delegate to them.”
All that will come into play. Right now, Lange is right, in addition to finalizing his staff, recruiting and re-recruiting is job one. Obviously, Lange will use his recent background on both fronts. He mentioned a conversation he’d just had with Kimble.