Kyle Lowry’s connection to the Philadelphia area is undeniable. He starred at Cardinal Dougherty High School in the early 2000’s, and later took a short trip down the road to Villanova to play his college ball. But his ties to the city—and perhaps this particular Sixers team—go deeper than you might imagine.
Some discussion of the topic with people in the know and a little bit of research turned up a person of interest: Billy Lange, current 76ers assistant coach and director of player development. What’s his relation to Lowry? Let Jonathan Abrams—then of Grantland, now of Bleacher Report—tell you the story of how a former Villanova assistant convinced Lowry to stay close to home:
Wright’s assistant, Billy Lange, began recruiting Lowry. Lange was young, about 30, and the son of a basketball coach. Lowry bonded with him like he had with few other adults. They talked basketball for hours. “The two of them were masterful,” Wright said. “Dave Distel was telling Kyle what to say to me. Billy was telling me how to handle Kyle. I don’t know if they really plotted it, but they probably were doing it together.” Lange did not try to influence Lowry’s decision or tell him what to do, and Lowry appreciated that.
Shortly after Lange recruited Lowry to the Wildcats, he left the school to take the head coaching gig at Navy. While that temporarily severed the ties between Lowry and Lange, Lowry was still close with another member of the Lange family: his spouse.
“After Lange’s decision to leave Villanova, Lowry felt betrayed,” wrote Abrams. “He remained close with Lange’s wife but ceased talking to Lange.”
Lange would keep an eye on Lowry once he made the jump to the NBA, and despite the distance between them, he eventually sought to close the gap.
That season, the NCAA held its Final Four in Houston and Billy Lange, the former Villanova assistant with whom Lowry had once been close, attended the event to network with other college basketball figures. He decided to reach out to Lowry and try to reestablish their relationship. Lowry agreed to meet. The city was so packed that they couldn’t find a restaurant to eat in, so instead the two just drove around in Lowry’s car.
“I’m still pissed at you,” Lowry said. “I’m still mad at you for leaving me.”
“He was real with it and it was the same reason that I loved him from the minute we got together,” Lange said. “It’s all about relationships with that guy.”
It appears Lange was eventually able to get through to Lowry once again. The Raptors’ point guard has been known to come back to Philly in the summertime to conduct workouts at his old school and hold charity events for local kids, and as it turns out, one of the people he tends to work out with is Lange:
Around the same time, Lowry connected again with Billy Lange. The two had spent some time training together the previous summer. Lowry told Lange he wanted to train again during the 2013 offseason. By then, Lange knew that Lowry had trouble dealing with authority figures, specifically those whom he believed had earned his trust and then left him.
“Look, there’s clearly some deep-rooted issues,” Lange told him. “I’m always around to talk if you want. I’m not going to force it. But if you don’t grow out of it, those issues are going to haunt you for the rest of your life and then those issues win. You don’t win.”
Although Abrams’ work here is indispensable, he’s not the only person who has tied Lowry to Lange in the past. Mike Jensen, who wrote a great feature story for Philly.com on Lowry back in 2015, later took to Twitter to share some nuggets from the cutting room floor. One piece that didn’t make the story—Lowry’s closeness with Lange:
One thing Kyle Lowry mentioned, Billy Lange, now a Sixers assistant, is still a main outside person he relies on for advice.— Mike Jensen (@jensenoffcampus) January 11, 2015
What does all this mean? Maybe nothing! Lowry can go to Lange for advice, work out with him in the summer, and have a history with Bryan Colangelo, and still have no real interest in signing with the Sixers this summer. There are more advanced teams with cap space and a point guard need, and if Lowry’s desire to win is real, he’ll likely explore other opportunities before he looks into a Billy Lange reunion.
For that matter, the Sixers can have a desire to chase Lowry without it being the max-level interest he and his agent are hoping for. The term “lucrative” has been thrown around by reporters tying Lowry to Philly, but that doesn’t necessarily mean “max contract”. To get a player to sacrifice chances at contention—or more realistically, stable footing for deep playoff runs—a team like the Sixers is unlikely to get away with a sub-max offer.
If you’re one of those people who believes in the power of relationships, there’s a pretty strong one between Lowry and a guy who is near the center of day-to-day operations for the team. Aren’t you glad you get to wait for another few months to figure out how much it matters?