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Through own experience, Billy Lange looks to build on St. Joseph’s history

Billy Lange has coached in Big 5 games before, but Saturday against Villanova will be his first time as a head coach.

Billy Lange is entering his first stretch of Big 5 games as St. Joseph's head coach.
Billy Lange is entering his first stretch of Big 5 games as St. Joseph's head coach.Read moreCHARLES FOX / Staff Photographer

The Hawk will never die.

Those five words represent the culture at St. Joseph’s, and first-year head coach Billy Lange is emphasizing it every day.

“To have a motto that is so known nationally, we have to represent that to the best we can," Lange said. "It’s hard to do that because you have to fight, and sometimes you may want to relax a little bit.”

Lange is off to a 2-7 start this season, and the Hawks are on pace to finish with a worse record than last year’s 14-19 campaign. He admits that things haven’t been easy.

But this isn’t unfamiliar territory for Lange. He spent the previous six years as an assistant coach with the 76ers. The Sixers won 19, 18, 10, and 28 games in those first four seasons. The phrase “Trust the Process” became associated with the Sixers’ identity.

He has seen how a team can be turned around first-hand, and he believes St. Joseph’s has the ingredients.

“They have an incredible history here. It’s a place that sells itself, but we have to keep selling it,” Lange said. “You have to be patient. You have to be positive. You have to be transparent and real.”

Lange spent seven seasons (2004-11) as Navy’s head coach before his time with the Sixers. He also spent five seasons total in two separate stints as an assistant coach at Villanova under Jay Wright (2001-04, 2011-13), and one season at La Salle under Speedy Morris (1998-99).

Next up on the schedule are two Big 5 games, starting with Villanova and Wright in the Holy War. It won’t be the first time they have been on opposite sidelines. Villanova beat Navy twice in Lange’s tenure at the Academy. The teams will meet Saturday at 3 p.m. in Hagan Arena.

“I learned so much from Jay Wright,” Lange said. “One of the things that I take from him is it’s all about the program. I love the guy. I can’t say enough great things about him. He’s a mentor and a friend.

“With all that being said, when we get on the court Saturday, we’re going to try to beat each other’s brains out,” Lange added.

After Villanova is a date with Temple on Tuesday, Dec. 10. St. Joe’s has lost its last three to the Owls and seven to the Wildcats.

It’s only Lange’s first year, but he’s aware of those losing streaks. He knows the history of the Big 5 because of his experience at the other programs. He is making it his job to inform his players on the importance of this next stretch.

“It’s truly a blessing to be able to compete in this league,” Lange said. “And on top of that, the national attention of the Holy War with Villanova, we embrace it. These moments that you get will be etched in your memory for a very long time, if not forever.”

The next two games will be telling. Lange has said that he won’t make these games too big for his players. There has to be a balance of stressing the importance, while realizing that the season will go on, no matter what happens.

Villanova and Temple are going to play with the confidence of a team that expects to win. That’s what Lange is hoping to build at St. Joe’s.