Brett Brown will be using a St. Joseph’s graduate to replace the new St. Joe’s head basketball coach on his 76ers staff.
On Thursday, St. Joseph’s hired Billy Lange as head coach. Lange, a graduate of Bishop Eustace and Rowan University, has been an assistant Sixers coach since Brown’s arrival, the last six years. He was replaced by Jim O’Brien who was a senior advisor to Brown.
During Thursday’s game against the Brooklyn Nets at the Wells Fargo Center, Lange sat on the Sixers bench and coached the team one final time. This season, Lange has been in charge of the Sixers defense.
O’Brien has been a head coach for three NBA teams totaling nine seasons, including one year with the Sixers in 2004-05.
This year, O’Brien, 67, was a senior adviser to Brown after serving as a Sixers assistant the previous two years.
“To take a former NBA head coach and a man of his experience that has been with me, knows me, knows the system and the players and say 'OK, coach you are now coming in and sitting on the front of the bench again and assuming that leadership area with our defense, it all fits,” Brown said before Thursday’s game.
According to Brown, it was O’Brien who requested not to be an assistant coach this season. Brown said he really valued O’Brien’s experience and wanted to keep him around so he was hired as senior adviser.
Entering Thursday, the Sixers had only eight games left in the regular season, and Brown said he didn’t anticipate replacing O’Brien in his adviser job at this time.
Brown said he was naturally happy for Lange, but also feels that it will be a seamless transition with O’Brien handling the defense.
With 7 minutes and 9 seconds left in the first quarter, the Sixers ran a video tribute to Lange during a timeout. He then received a nice ovation.
Embiid shows his appreciation for Lange
After scoring 39 points and grabbing 13 rebounds in Thursday’s 123-110 win over Brooklyn, Joel Embiid sang the praises of Lange.
“I am so happy for him, he’s like family to me," Embiid said. “He has been here since I got here and we built a special relationship.”
Embiid says he has build a bond with Lange’s family.
“I am really close to his whole family, kids, his wife, they are good people,” he said. “Sometimes we spend time together, some other times we go to church. We have gotten closer the past 4-5 years. I am extremely happy for him. That is big time. I told him I will definitely go and check him out whenever I have time.”
Of the Sixers remaining seven games, only one is against a team with a winning record. That will be next Thursday at home against the Milwaukee Bucks.