Source says Lang out as coach of Mitsubishi

by Kaz Nagatsuka

Staff Writer

Antonio Lang has been dismissed as head coach of the the NBL’s Mitsubishi Diamond Dolphins, The Japan Times has learned.

A source familiar with the situation said that the Nagoya-based team told the American coach that it would part ways with him after four seasons in charge. This decision was revealed following Mitsubishi’s loss to the Aisin SeaHorses in the NBL Western Conference semifinals series in early May.

Contacted by The Japan Times, Lang confirmed he was let go by Mitsubishi.

Lang said that he was a little surprised by the decision because the team advanced to the postseason for the first time in seven years.

“We made the playoffs, where we hadn’t been for seven years,” Lang, an ex-NBA forward, told The Japan Times. “We went from a last-place team to third on our side (in the West this year). I thought I did a well enough job to keep my job, but obviously someone else thought that it wasn’t good enough.”

The Diamond Dolphins finished in last place in the 2008-09 and 2009-10 campaigns in the JBL, the NBL’s predecessor. Lang, a former NCAA title-winning player for Duke, was an assistant coach on those teams.

This was the NBL’s inaugural campaign, and the Diamond Dolphins posted a 29-25 regular-season record.

Lang, now 42, took over as head coach in 2010 after spending the previous nine years as a player and assistant. The Dolphins struggled in the first three seasons with Lang at the helm, posting a 35-85 overall record, but made dramatic improvement to finish behind the Wakayama Trians and Aisin in the West this season.

The source said that Lang was asked to guide the team closer to the NBL title, which the Toshiba Brave Thunders won.

For Lang, this was an unrealistic goal based on the roster he had to work with. The team acquired a few players before the season, all of whom had been cut by their previous clubs, the source noted. Mitsubishi had no players in the 2013 FIBA Asia Championship on Japan’s national team roster, either.

Lang said that he understood that his being axed was a part of the business and he had no ill feelings toward the team, which employed him for 13 years after he played in the NBA, CBA and the Philippines.

He added, however, that he was notified that he would be let go after Mitsubishi was eliminated in the playoffs, and it would’ve been better for him to know the deal earlier.

But Lang, who played for the Phoenix Suns, Cleveland Cavaliers and Miami Heat, admits he loves living in Japan and wants to remain here to coach basketball.

The fact that’s he’s learned Japanese is indicative of his attachment to the country.

“I definitely want to coach in Japan,” said Lang, a native of Columbia, South Carolina who grew up in Mobile, Alabama.

“I don’t want to leave Japan. I’m available,” he added.

Lang said that he would willingly listen to coaching offers from NBL or bj-league clubs.

“No, I don’t mind,” he said, when asked if he’d take a bj-league gig. “If it’s a good situation. I want to coach. If an opportunity comes up and the situation is right, and if it’s something I definitely have to look at. Basketball is basketball. Any league is fine with me.”

Lang’s best known for his time at Duke. As a forward, he was a part of the powerhouse collegiate team that won back-to-back NCAA championships in 1991 and 1992, along with eventual NBA players as Grant Hill and Christian Laettner, under the guidance of legendary coach Mike Krzyzewski.

Lang said that he talked to Coach K on the phone last weekend.

“He told me, “Tony, you’re an unbelievable coach, and people are going to realize the mistake they (Mitsubishi) made. So first of all, be confident,’ “said Lang, who was the Blue Devils captain in his senior season, 1993-94.

Lang added that he actually was going to Duke to talk with Krzyzewski and the topics would include his future.