Billy Lange joins Villanova as assistant

Updated: May 9, 2011, 6:40 PM ET
By Dana O'Neil | ESPN.com

Jay Wright went back to his original drawing board to reconfigure his staff, naming Navy head coach Billy Lange as associate head coach.

The 39-year-old Lange spent three seasons on the Villanova bench -- Wright's first three there as head coach -- before moving on to Navy.

He replaces Chris Walker, who left to become associate head coach at Texas Tech.

"Billy is a passionate and dedicated coach who played a substantial role in instilling the qualities that our staff values most during our early years here," Wright said in a release. "Now he returns with the added experience of having built his own program at the Division I level. His knowledge and passion will be a great boost to our young team. We are thrilled to welcome Billy, his wife Alicia and their family back to Villanova."

From an outsider's perspective the move would seem curious. Lange has spent seven years at Navy as a head coach, bringing the program along steadily.

But the challenges at Navy are vast -- finding players who can play and compete but also are willing to accept the military commitment both during school and after graduation -- and more.

However, for Lange, Villanova is unique.

"Because of the reputation of our program and the things we've been able to do, I've had opportunities over the years to pursue jobs elsewhere and never did," Lange told ESPN.com. "But this was one, when you think about who you are and what you want to do, you have to do it. For me, Villanova is a place that is very dear to my heart. The role and the opportunity that Jay presented to me was just very right for me at the right time."

Lange will not be a "coach in waiting" per se but certainly with his strong ties to the university and head coaching experience (he also was head coach at the Merchant Marine Academy for two years) this move would put him on Villanova's short list should Wright ever leave.

Lange grew up across the river from Philadelphia -- in Haddon Heights, NJ, and his family still lives in the area.

"It's always hard because of the people involved," Lange said of his decision. "I have a special affection for the people here at Navy, for the culture, for the relationships I have built but this was the right decision for me."

Lange's decision puts the Washington D.C., area into even more basketball upheaval.

Whoever Navy names will be the fourth new coach in the metro D.C., region. Paul Hewitt recently took over for Jim Larranaga at George Mason, after Larranaga left for Miami; Vermont's Mike Lonergan was just introduced as the new head coach at George Washington, replacing the fired Karl Hobbs; and Maryland is zeroing in on its hire after last week's announcement that Gary Williams was retiring after 22 seasons at his alma mater.

Dana O'Neil covers college basketball for ESPN.com and can be reached at espnoneil@live.com.

Dana O'Neil | email

College Basketball