In the two weeks since being named UNO's interim women's basketball coach, Brittany Lange has made key connections in preparing herself for her new role.
Among them have been discussions with her former Iowa State coach, Bill Fennelly, and former Nebraska football coach Tom Osborne.
“The best thing you can do is reach out to people who have been through (similar) experiences and have a lot to refer to in this profession,” Lange said. “I've gotten a ton of great information, and it's really helped us move forward.”
Lange, who took over when Chance Lindley resigned for personal reasons on Oct. 2, is one of the youngest head coaches in the country at 26. From Sac City, Iowa, she played one season at Creighton and two at Iowa State before spending her final two seasons with the Cyclones as a student assistant under Fennelly.
“I believe everything he does he does the right way,” Lange said. “I think he instilled a lot of knowledge and confidence in me in how things are supposed to be done.”
She said she met with Osborne individually after Osborne addressed the UNO athletic department.
“That was an amazing experience, one of the top experiences I've had as a coach,” Lange said. “With Coach Osborne, he gave that calming presence and that reassurance that you never neglect doing the right thing. He gave me an open door at any time to speak with him and opened the door to talk with our players at any time.”
Lange, who had spent two seasons as a UNO assistant, has taken over a program that is practically brand new on the court.
Only three players return from last year's 18-11 team that was a competitive 7-9 in the Summit League during UNO's first full season in the conference.
A nearly new roster was just getting used to things when the coaching switch was made.
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“At first it was a shock, but we got together as a group and we focused on moving forward and having a great season,” said point guard Brianna Bogard, a transfer from East Tennessee State.
Last year, UNO leaned heavily on three seniors — Paige Frauendorfer, Jamie Nash and Carolyn Blair-Mobley — all of whom played close to 40 minutes per game. Carly Cator was also a senior starter.
Junior center Taijhe Kelly, one of the Mavs' three returning players, said the transition to Lange has gone smoothly.
“Nothing has changed much at all,” she said. “We're still the same team and we're still after the same goal.”
With the player turnover, expectations are low for this UNO team. The Mavs were picked to finish seventh among eight Summit teams in a media poll released Tuesday.
Guards Ericka House and Cathleen Cox also played regularly for the Mavs last year. But an improved offensive game from Kelly and the addition of junior college transfer Janairrika Bland, another 6-4 player, could give the Mavs an added post dimension.
“I like what we see as far as having a well-rounded, inside and outside game,” Lange said. “In the past we've been a little more guard-oriented, but this year I think we've got a lot of options inside and out.”
Lange said the Mavs will stick with their unusual 1-1-3 matchup zone defense, which Lindley brought to UNO.
“We recruited to that, and we've had success in it,” Lange said. “As a coaching staff, you go back and forth deciding if it's the best fit, and we decided that it was. We can do more extensive guarding full-court this year because we're a little deeper and more athletic. But we'll stay true to the style that we recruited to.”
She said she'll continue to coach the same way she did as an assistant, even though she's now the one making the ultimate decisions.
“That's one thing, in speaking to my mentors, they told me — stay true to who you are,” Lange said. “I'm a very honest person, and I think it's important to teach them why we're doing something instead of yelling objective things at them. I think once they start understanding why, intrinsically they're more motivated and then they want to do it.”
As for one day becoming the permanent head coach, Lange said she's had no time to think about it.
“The bottom line is I love being at UNO,” she said. “Any person who enjoys where they are would like to stay there as long as possible. We can only take it day by day. Right now I'm just worried about how practice is going to go tomorrow. That's really not a big focus for me. I feel like if we really embrace this process and keep improving, good outcomes will result.”
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Video: Coach Brittany Lange
Video: Taijhe Kelly and Brianna Bogard