Penn grad Matt Langel (above) has turned Colgate into a Patriot League powerhouse during his nine years. (Photo courtesy Colgate Athletics)
Kevin Callahan (@CP_KCallahan)
Earlier this season, Matt Langel looked down at the other end of the court at Cornell coach Brian Earl.
Langel might have had to squint, perhaps thinking it was the early morning sun angling though the windows at the Moorestown Recreation Center that was playing tricks on his eyes.
Wasn’t it just yesterday, the Colgate coach must have thought, the he was back in South Jersey with his brother Casey playing two-on-two against Earl and his brother Dan, who is the head coach at Virginia Military Institute? Back at the old barn of a basketball court with the bouncy wooden floor and soft rims kissed by sunlight in the town the Langel and Earl bros grow up?
“Brian and Dan have become two of my best friends,” Langel said, reflecting on how their relationship has continued to grow all these years. “We bounce ideas off each other and we share thoughts of the coaching world.”
Langel won the December matchup against Brian Earl as the Raiders topped the Big Red 66-58 at cozy Cotterell Court. The two long-time friends are rather used to competing against each other as Langel played for Penn and Earl played at Princeton in the mid-1990’s.
“It’s not a fun one when you have to play your friend, so we try to catch up and talk about our families before the games,” Langel continued, “and when the games over, we try to watch each other‘s teams and try to help each other as much as possible.”
Today, Langel will look down the other end of the court and perhaps think the morning sun is also playing tricks on his eyes, taking him back to the Palestra days when he will see another friend.
“I feel so fortunate, I mean we play Lafayette (Wednesday) morning at 11 and Fran O’Hanlon was on the coaching staff that recruited me to go to Penn,” Langel said.
Langel learned the delicate balance of how to compete against friends and keep the relationship connected under the master of this, playing for Fran Dunphy. Langel also coached under “Dunph” at Penn for two seasons and later Temple from 2006 to 2011 before taking the Cornell job.
“To play for Dunph, who’s meant everything to my basketball life,” said Langel, before connecting more of his cherished past, “and Steve (Donahue, a Dunphy assistant when Langel starred for the Quakers) is back at Penn, now coaching my alma mater and I’m coaching with my roommate and teammate (Mike Jordan) for four years and another guy who was a freshman (Dave Klatsky) when I was a senior…
“He’s been with me all nine years,” Langel added about Klatsky. “He was working on Wall Street when I got hired and volunteering his time coaching at a school in New Jersey and he was adamant to come and coach full-time and nine years later.
“He has a couple children and MJ has three beautiful girls, so we have like a Colgate basketball family up here in New York, so it’s pretty neat and Mike McGarvey is at Lycoming College who was a great player at Ursinus, he was with us for seven years before he became the head coach of Lycoming…
“I just feel fortunate to come in contact with the people that I have
In this basketball life.”
(L to R): Matt Langel, Michael Jordan, Fran Dunphy, and Dave Klatsky reunite at Temple's practice facility. (Photo courtesy Colgate Athletics)
Indeed, Langel and his wife, Tara, with their daughter, Logan Anne, and two sons, Lucas and Jackson, are not just nurturing the same family atmosphere in Hamilton, N.Y. like Dunphy did at Penn, he is winning like Dunphy did, too. And taking his team to the NCAA Tournament.
Last year, Langel brought Colgate back to the NCAA tourney for the first time in 23 years while establishing program records in wins (24), Patriot League wins (13), and home wins (15).
Colgate won eight straight to storm to the Patriot League regular-season title before sweeping through the conference tournament, including dethroning two-time defending champ Bucknell, 94-80, before a crazed Cotterell Court crowd.
On the heels of the nation's sixth-longest winning streak going into the tournament, the No. 15 seeded Raiders lost to sixth-ranked Tennessee to end their magical season.
“I’m really proud of the work that has been done over a number of years,” said Langel, who is in his ninth season at Colgate and is under contract through the 2026-27 season. “Obviously, last year season was historic in so many ways. You know the number of wins in a season and the first championship since those two with the Adonal Foyle, who was an NBA lottery pick.”
Colgate (13-5, 4-1) is on another winning streak, now at seven games, after the Raiders handcuffed Navy, holding the Midshipmen scoreless over the final 2:17 in a 70-63 win on Saturday in Annapolis.
The Raiders got to 4-0 in Patriot League play for the first time since the 1996-97 season.
(Ed. Note: Colgate lost to Lafayette, 71-67, on Wednesday morning to snap the seven-game winning streak).
“I think that what I take the most proud of is when we first got here in 2011 and what we have built over time, from a program not competing for championships to being considered as a team who can win a championship in their conference,” Langel said. “The guys who were in last year‘s team but it’s also guys who were part of a second-place team five years ago.”
Langel is effusive of his gratitude for his loyal staff.
“Often, at a school like ours and a program at our level, assistant coaches are kind of like going through a revolving door, but our guys have been committed to staying and it goes a long way because the guys who have been here for four years build relationships and they trust the coaches,” Langel said.
Now one of Langel’s former players, Pat Moore, is an assistant.
“I think all of that goes into a culture that gives a team a chance to win a game or a bunch of games and hopefully compete for a championship,” Langel said.
“I gave our players a lot of credit for that,” Langel said. “Obviously we had a lot of a good players last year and we returned a lot of players from last season.”
“We have really good players. Basketball people, media people, they recognize that and I think that’s where the national attention comes.
“We won at Cincinnati, we kind a like went toe-to-toe with them,” Langel continued. “It wasn’t like some coaching genius where we ran some back door plays or anything. We got really good players and when you watch them, it’s important to them to win and so they’re not selfish and they share the ball and so I think some of those things happen when you have really good players that are performing at a high-level.”
Langel acknowledged his staff is tireless on the recruiting trail to land those players.
“Colgate degrees are super valuable,” Langel said, “and there’s successful people from Colgate and every walk of life.”
Langel is already one of those guys. He not only wins like Dunphy did but he expertly answers question with thought and insight. And Langel is modest like Dunphy, who was at Temple’s first game this year seen sitting alone in the upper deck of the Liacouras Center, eating popcorn.
“Yeah that was a good picture,” Langel said. “I almost hear his voice in my head when I’m answering a question. He is the best.”
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