Does Lange Deserve a Contract Extension?

The Fan Forum returns to analyze the Navy men's basketball season. Joining regular contributors, Mike James (MJ), Mike Althouse (86), and yours truly (DA), is everyone's favorite Navy sports beat writer, Bill Wagner of the Annapolis Capital. Topics discussed include whether or not Billy Lange deserves a contract extension and if Navy has closed the gap with Air Force on the court.

Do you think that Billy Lange needed the type of season Navy is putting together to keep his job past this year?


MJ: No. I think he would've been given one more year.


86: Yeah, I do.  He definitely needed to do better than the last couple of seasons and show improvement.  It looks now like he has the pieces to run what he wants to run - I'd love to see us get rid of the lapses we have every game though.


BW: I don't think Billy Lange was going to get fired following this season, no matter what. However, a decision was looming once his five-year contract was concluded and certainly athletic director Chet Gladchuk wanted to see progress. Clearly, this season marks progress.


DA: I was a little concerned with the recent departures of some of our better recruits like Trey Stanton last year.  I guess it would have been easy to hold the coaching staff partially responsible for that.  I think if we finished last in the Patriot League, Navy may have bought him out. 


If Navy makes the NCAA tournament, does Lange deserve a contract extension?


MJ: Considering the state of the team when he took over, yes.


86: Wow, that's a tough call, but probably.  I could see if we made the postseason (I'll include the NIT), then he could get a year or three.  I don't want to see any 10-year [Former Navy football coach Charlie] Weatherbie contracts, though.


BW: I refer to my previous answer. The story of the Billy Lange era cannot be told until after he completes the original five-year contract. If Navy manages to win the league and make the NCAA Tournament that should weigh heavily in his favor moving forward. But what if Navy regresses next year and finishes at the bottom of the league? Again, Chet Gladchuk should look at the broad scope of the five years and numerous factors beyond wins and losses. All that said, I think Coach Lange has done a very credible job in an extremely difficult situation. The program had hit rock-bottom at the end of the Don DeVoe era, which is why Doug Wojcik didn't touch the job with a 10-foot pole.


DA: I don't think Navy has to worry at this point about another school coming after him, so I'd say not yet.  Now if Navy gets into the NCAA's and (gulp) is competitive in a first-round game, all bets are off.


Fill in the Blank: Greg Sprink is the best Navy basketball player since ______?


MJ: Despite my man-crush on Matt Fannin, the right answer is probably Hassan Booker. Very different style of player, obviously, but as Sprink goes, so goes the team.


86: Chris Williams.  If we make the NCAA's, then he could be in Michael Heary territory in my opinion.


BW: Sitapha Savane. Sprink has put up some amazing numbers, but he's also done it as basically a four-year starter and with teams he was allowed to shoot 30 times per game. Savane is the last great player of the winning era of Coach Don DeVoe, was part of an NCAA Tournament team.


DA: I think he is having the best all-around season since Michael Heary in 1997.


Looking forward, what would you consider a successful Navy season...or is it already one no matter what?


MJ: At the beginning of the year I would've said to finish in the top half of the league would make this season a success, but the way the league has played out that doesn't seem like much of an accomplishment anymore. Is it too much to ask for postseason play, either in the NIT or the NCAAs? I don't know. I guess the fact that we're playing meaningful games into the end of February makes this season at least feel successful... Then again, the same could be said for everyone else in the conference, too.


86: This is going to depend on where we finish in the league.  If we win the regular season, I'd consider that successful because we'd be guaranteed an NIT berth.  If we finish 2nd or lower, then we have to win at least one game in the Patriot League tournament for me to consider this successful.  It is definitely NOT a successful season yet, because expectations are now high based on where we sit in the league standings with only 3 games left to play.


BW: I think Navy still needs to establish itself as a consistent upper echelon team in the Patriot League. That should be the goal in the coming years.


DA: From purely a fan interest standpoint, I'd have to say the season has already been a success.  By this time the last several years I had switched from basketball mode to lacrosse and spring football mode.  Now, I'm following every game either on-line or in person.


Who does Navy NOT want to meet in the first round of the Patriot League tournament and why?


MJ: The way the Patriot League has gone, I don't think it really matters who we play. Holy Cross has finally started playing better lately, so they'll probably be better than their tournament seed.


86: Lafayette, Bucknell or Holy Cross.  Both games with Lafayette have gone down to the wire and another game like that would really sap us for the rest of the tournament.  We've split with Bucknell this season, but they always give us trouble.  Holy Cross has size that always gives us fits.  I'd prefer to play Lehigh, Colgate or Army to be honest (in that order).


BW: Holy Cross. That team is coming together and looking like a defending champion. Navy escaped with a win on Wednesday, but might not be so fortunate next time.


DA: Army.  I hate playing them a third time with so much at stake.  I will never forget having beaten them during the 1996 regular season by 31 points only to lose to the Black Knights in the first round of the Patriot League Tournament.  Army came into that game with a record of 6-19 and Navy was the top seed.


Do you think Navy could have beaten Air Force this season if they played?  Has Navy closed the gap?


MJ:  If we played in November, Air Flop would have won easily. Now? I'm not so sure. They'd still probably win 6-7 times out of 10. I don't know that Navy has closed the gap as much as the Zoomies just aren't as good anymore.


86: Yeah.  It's too bad they never returned our phone calls when we tried to set up a game - so much for always wanting to play us.


BW: I have not followed Air Force this season so it's hard to say. I think Navy is capable of competing with just about any mid-major program right now.


DA: I have no idea which is precisely why I hope the two teams begin to play each other again. 


What frustrates you most about Navy's style of play?

MJ: Your column isn't big enough to list it all.


86: The continued second half lapses in judgment.  We blew a 15 point lead on Lafayette in the second half.  We continually take bad shots or throw the ball away and let teams climb back into it.  Championship teams don't do those kinds of things.


BW: The Mids still have a penchant to make poor decisions with the ball, both passing and shooting.


DA: If Navy had Brian Walker (1997) at point guard, we would be looking at 20 plus wins.  Brian took care of the ball.  Our current team could learn a lot from him.


If Navy could just _____, they would be the favorite to win the Patriot League Tournament.


MJ: REBOUND…which they've actually done a little bit over the last couple of games.


86: play better with a lead in the second half


BW: Navy lacks interior presence. The Mids still don't have an athletic but sturdy big man who fits their playing style but also can hold his own inside as a defender, shot-blocker and rebounder.


DA: Play more consistent.


Is Navy getting better or are their Patriot League opponents getting worse?


MJ: Both. Bucknell and Holy Cross are both down, so it feels like the league in general is down. But in reality, everyone else is basically playing the way they have the last few years. Except Lafayette, who is playing a lot better-- current losing streak notwithstanding.


86: I wouldn't call it getting worse - but I don't think the top of the league is as strong as it's been in the past.  The league definitely has more parity than ever before, but Navy also has much better players than we've had in a long time.  Seems like in the past few seasons there have been two dominant teams and everyone else.  Now, any team can win on any given night.


BW: This is a year of parity within the Patriot League and it has given every team an opportunity to be a championship contender. Navy has seized that opportunity. Bucknell and Holy Cross are not the dominant teams each had been in recent years.


DA: I hope Navy is getting better, but until they can string together 2-3 winning seasons, I don't think you can really say that.


Who are your current Final Four picks?


MJ: American, Navy, Lafayette, and Holy Cross. That's all that matters, anyway.


86: Haven't thought about this much, but I'll go with UNC, Memphis, Georgetown and UCLA.


BW: Kansas, Georgetown, North Carolina and Memphis.


DA: Louisville, UCLA, Tennessee and Kansas State. Top Stories