Houston Rockets: Pursuing Villanova assistant Billy Lange for head coach of Rio Grande Valley Vipers

By Phillip Pyle

The Houston Rockets have had numerous staff overhaul this offseason. The Dallas Mavericks signed the Rockets VP of basketball operations Gersson Rosas to become the franchise’s general manager, and the Philadelphia 76ers brought on Sam Hinkie as the new president of basketball operations and general manager for the Sixers.

The D-League affiliate the Rio Grande Valley Vipers are looking  for there fifth coach in their six-year history. The previous two head coaches, Chris Finch (2009-2011) and Nick Nurse (2011-2013), each won championships with the Vipers before departing for assistant coaching jobs in the NBA, Finch with the Rockets and Nurse most recently with the Toronto Raptors.

According to Yahoo:

 “The Houston Rockets are in discussions with Villanova assistant Billy Lange to become the head coach of their NBA Development League affiliate, the Rio Grande Valley Vipers, league sources told Yahoo Sports.

“I know he’s a candidate they (the Rockets) do like, but as far as being a finalist I’m not sure,” Vipers president Bert Garcia said.

Garcia said he knows little of Lange, other than his seven years as head coach of the Naval Academy, where Lange was the 2008 Patriot League Coach of the Year.”

ESPN later reported Friday that Lange, a New Jersey native, is also weighing an offer to join the Philadelphia Sixers’ staff, and is leaning that way. The ESPN report said the Vipers gig could end up going to Iona assistant Jared Grasso, who also recently interviewed with the Rockets.

It was while with the academy that Lange became familiar with the Rio Grande Valley, recruiting former McAllen High star J.J. Avila. Avila was the Patriot League Rookie of the Year for the 2010-11 season, Lange’s last at the academy before he accepted the job at Villanova, his second stint with the program after spending 2001-2003 with the Wildcats.

“He’s a real good coach,” said Avila, now playing basketball at Colorado State University. “He demands a lot out of you, for sure. He’s a no-nonsense kind of guy. He loves coaching and he loves winning.”

Avila said Lange personally visited him in McAllen a couple of times while recruiting the forward. Avila said Lange’s open style of play helped him develop into a more versatile offensive player. That style is also similar to what the Rockets run under coach Kevin McHale.