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The Hawk News

The Student News Site of St. Joseph's University

The Hawk News

The Student News Site of St. Joseph's University

The Hawk News

Lange and Wright’s relationship goes beyond basketball

Villanova University men’s basketball coach Jay Wright (left) and St. Joe’s men’s basketball coach Billy Lange (right) command their teams from the sideline. PHOTOS: MITCHELL SHIELDS ’22/THE HAWK

The exchanges between Billy Lange and Jay Wright before and after the St. Joe’s vs. Villanova matchup were brief. They weren’t the usual “good game” or “good luck with the rest of your season”. In fact, they had nothing to do with basketball.

“We tell each other before and after ‘love you, love you too’ that’s it,” Wright said. 

Lange previously served two stints at Villanova as an assistant under Wright from 2001-04, and associate head coach from 2011-13. The impact that Wright has had on Lange’s career was something he couldn’t put into words. 

“It all comes down to this,” Lange said. “The greatest thing you can do for someone is believe in them. [Wright] probably did more for me just to try to get through before I got my first shot. Hiring me as a Division III coach, helping me get my job at the [United States] Merchant Marine Academy, teaching me in the time we had back at Villanova, the empowerment he gave me in my associate head coaching role.”

The two had squared off twice before when Lange was a head coach at the United States Naval Academy. Lange said that the “Holy War” raises the stakes.   

“What’s special about being a coach at Villanova and especially here at St. Joe’s is playing in the Holy War, coaching in the Holy War,” Lange said. “I love [Wright], but it’s more about St. Joe’s playing Villanova than it is he and I, at least on my end.”

Fans taunt Villanova junior guard Collin Gillespie as he attempts to inbound the ball. PHOTO: MITCHELL SHIELDS ’22/THE HAWK

Wright now has two yearly Big 5 matchups against both Lange and Ashley Howard, former assistant coach and current head coach at LaSalle University. Wright said he dreads these matchups. 

“I really don’t enjoy [playing former assistants] at all,” Wright said. “I would never schedule our assistants. I love those guys, I want them to be successful. When you play against them, you don’t want them to be successful at your expense.”

Lange agreed that the dynamic of competing against such a close friend can be difficult, but he said he wouldn’t go as far as saying he hated it. 

“We coached against each other twice before this, and it’s just not easy,” Lange said. “You’re going to root for them when you’re not playing against them. I want them to be good because they raise our boat too. They make us want to be better all around as a basketball program. I don’t hate it because I think it sharpens us a little bit. I don’t hate it, I wish he wasn’t there, but I don’t hate it.”

Wright said he makes it a point throughout the year not to keep tabs on Lange and the Hawks until he begins preparation a week before. Now that the matchup has passed, he said a weight has been lifted off his shoulders.

“I don’t want to watch any opponent until we have to prepare for them so I haven’t been watching them, but now I can,” Wright said. “It’s a killer when you’re trying not to watch them and your wife goes ‘Billy had a good win.’ Now I can [care].”

Lange said it’s his hope that these good wins will come more and more often, and he uses the success Villanova has had as his aiming point.

“The thing I told the guys before the game, there will be a time when that crowd is like that every game, not because we’re playing Villanova but because St. Joe’s is playing,” Lange said. “Not because of the opponent, but because of the program. And it has it, there’s great history here and we’ll get there.”

Wright said he thinks Lange has the ability to do just that. 

“I think he’s an outstanding coach, but I’m a little biased,” Wright said. 

Wright got the best of Lange in their first Big 5 matchup, but as the Holy War continues, Lange’s feelings about his former colleague will remain steadfast.

“I love Jay Wright and that will never change,” Lange said. “I’m sure we both wanted to beat each other’s brains in tonight, but I love the guy.”


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