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Season Preview: CHD sits down with Colgate coach Matt Langel

Jon Teitel continues our season preview series by chatting with Colgate coach Matt Langel about helping to grow the Fran Dunphy coaching tree. 

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You have a pair of former Quakers on your bench (assistants Dave Klatsky, Mike Jordan), while a couple other Penn alums are also D-1 head coaches (Jerome Allen, Andy Toole).  Do you think that the Fran Dunphy coaching tree is starting to give the Pete Carril tree a run for its money? I have never really thought about it, but a lot of those Princeton coaches have become good friends of mine. It speaks to the impact of Dunphy and Carril on their players: they loved the game and they showed us that coaching was a lifelong option.

Your non-conference road schedule includes trips to Wake Forest, Syracuse, and Georgetown.  Which of these three games do you feel will present your biggest test? I do not know which will be the biggest test, but Syracuse and Georgetown are national championship-caliber programs. I like to put the Orange on the schedule because they are only an hour away. I remember playing at Phog Allen Fieldhouse and traveling across the country to Cal, so as we build a program we seek opportunities to build great memories for our guys.

Your roster has players from 11 different states and two countries: how big is your recruiting budget?! It is not that big, but when you are at an academic school like Colgate you have to turn over every stone. We are not in the hotbed of high school basketball up here so we follow up on every lead and touch every base.

Murphy Burnatowski led your team in scoring last year with 17.4 points per game.  How crucial is he to your team’s success? He is going to be a big part of it: he is the Patriot League’s top returning scorer. He had an awesome summer representing Canada at the World University Games so I think he is focused on becoming a better all-around player and doing all the intangible things to help make our team better.

What are your expectations for the upcoming season? One thing I learned from Coach Dunphy is that you always have to continue to improve. Ultimately we want to compete for a league championship: that is the end goal and we have to work toward it. When you are dealing with young people you do not really know how it will go until you are in the thick of it.

You played for Coach Dunphy at Penn and were an assistant under him at Penn and Temple.  What makes Dunphy such a great coach, and what is the most important thing that you ever learned from him? There are too many valuable life lessons to include them all: he is so accomplished but gets little notoriety because it is never about him. He is always looking to do more with the team and the community. The thing I admire the most is that his teams always get better as the season progresses, which is rare. His teams always play harder than the opposition, which goes to what he demands in practice. It is not about the individuals: it is about the team buying into his strategy and playing together.

In February 2000 you made eight three-point shots in a win at Brown.  Was it just one of those scenarios where every shot you put up seemed to go in because you were “in the zone”? It was a long time ago, but when teams played a 1-3-1 against us I would get a lot of open looks. The basket did seem a little bigger than normal that night.

In 2000 you made the NCAA tourney after going 14-0 in conference play.  How was your team able to stay focused for every single Ivy League game that year? We did not have nearly as much success as the guys who came before us, so we had to learn how to win because you cannot slip up during the regular season when there is no conference tournament. We focused on the task at hand and finally learned how hard it was to win it all.

In the 2011 NCAA tourney as an assistant at Temple, Juan Fernandez scored 23 points including an off-balance 18-footer with 0.4 seconds left in a two-pointwin over Penn State.  How much of a relief was it for Dunphy to snap his NCAA tourney-record 11-game losing streak? It was less important for him, but more important for his former players and his group that year that helped him get over the hump. It was difficult to lose to Cornell in 2010, but he gets a bad rap because very few times has he been the favorite.

Billy White had 16 points and 13 rebounds in a seven-point, doubel overtime win by San Diego State.  Where does that rank among the most devastating losses of your career? It was tough because we did everything we could against a really good team, but that is what March Madness is all about. 1 possession here or there can let you play a whole other week.

In 2011 you were hired as head coach at Colgate, why did you take the job? You do not get too many chances to be a D-1 head coach at a pretty young age, so it was an honor to get that opportunity. My family and I wanted to stay on the East Coast so it was a good fit for us.

JonTeitel