Catching Up With Andrew Lang

Catching Up With Andrew Lang

by Micah Hart

Andrew Lang spent 12 seasons in the NBA as a rock in the middle. A solid, consistent low-post force on the defensive end, the former Arkansas product played for six teams during his tenure, including parts of three seasons here in Atlanta. A devout Christian and father, Lang has applied his love of religion to basketball, serving as the Hawks' team chaplain for the past two seasons. recently caught up with the big man to discuss his role with the team and how he spends his time away from the court now that he is retired. You are the team chaplain for the Hawks. What are your basic duties for that?

Andrew Lang: In the chaplaincy, before every home game, there is a chapel service. And in that service, players are invited to come in and hear a short message. There is a time for prayer, and if there are any prayer requests or if there is anything players want to speak about or pray about that's the time that I serve them. How did you come across this position?

AL: As a player, I always attended chapel services. Then, after I obtained my ministerial license I was invited to speak at chapel before a game. I began to really enjoy doing it because it kept me close to the game, which I really love. I love working with the Hawks because I enjoy the players on the team. Does every team have this program?

AL: Yes. The thing that you will find throughout the NBA is that players are very serious about winning games, competing, and being as good as they possibly can as teams and as individuals. Along with that, there is physical, mental, and spiritual. My job is to give them positive messages for off the court, outside of the business side of basketball, to try to uplift them and keep them strong. When you aren't with the team, what else do you do?

AL: I am an evangelist, so I travel around when I am not with the team, speaking at conferences, youth retreats, and others. I schedule speaking engagements around the Hawks' home schedule, and otherwise I try to make my schedule so that it allows me to spend time with my family and coach my son's basketball team. But being an evangelist is a year-round thing, so if there is a request brought to my attention even during the season I can still attend to it. It must be fun to coach your kids.

AL: Well, in the summer I won't be coaching my older son because, quite honestly, he's moved on to a better team (laughing). I'll start with my younger son this summer, just to get him acclimated to the game more. When they were younger, I was playing and didn't have that time away, but now that I have the time I can spend more time working with them. Do you see them following in your footsteps?

AL: To a certain degree. My oldest (Trey, 16), is 6-7, and he has started to get some recognition from some of the major schools in the area. He will be a junior this year at Wheeler. My younger son (Chad, 13) always played football, but has now said he wants to play basketball, which is a delight for me because he is about 6-3 at only 13, so he's a big boy. Can they take Pops on the court yet?

AL: Well, I am a half-court player. My oldest son has figured out that the way to compete against me is to stretch the game to full-court. So in the half court, I am probably still going to win that matchup, but when he starts dribbling and running, I generally take a water break (laughing). What do you miss the most about playing in the league?

AL: The friends you make and the challenges of being on a team are the good things about sports. Some of the teams I competed on in my career weren't so successful, and that's when it feels like more of a grind. But when you are winning, and the team chemistry is clicking, these are the memories you choose to keep. What I liked the most about the time I played was having the opportunity to do something that I loved, and I feel very blessed I got to do that for as long as I did. You were with the Hawks the season (1993-94) Dominique Wilkins got traded. What was that like?

AL: It was a difficult time. The thing I can point to is that team was able to win the Central Division title. You go to Philips Arena and that is the last banner that's there, and as a part of that team, you have to realize the Hawks efforts and reputation that led up to that title was all Dominique, all Kevin Willis. There are powers that be that make decisions you as a player have no control over, and as a player you have to respect that. It was certainly weird, because to us he was our captain - for most people, he was a highly electrifying player. When you see someone every day with his work ethic and you lend your hand to the cause, it's difficult to see him go. How nice is it to be back working with him in the organization again?

AL: Well, it's definitely nice to have him around again. You know, careers end, the ball stops bouncing, you have to press on with life. Having the opportunity to be around young men who are trying to obtain great things, make their mark in the game of basketball, it's a wonderful challenge. You played your college ball at Arkansas. Did you get to see Joe Johnson at all when he was there?

AL: I followed him from a distance. I didn't get to watch him as often as I would have liked, but I will say that of all the guards to come out of Arkansas, he is maybe the most polished I have ever seen. There are a lot of guards to come out of there - Sidney Moncrief, Darrell Walker, Harold Robinson - but Joe is a complete basketball player. There just is not much he can't do out there. How do you think the game has changed since you retired?

AL: There was a swing in power when I first entered the NBA; the Eastern teams were very physical, strong defensive teams. Over a period of time, the strength of the league went over to the Western side. Now, through talent and coaching, there is a swing back over to the East I think. I can see teams like Milwaukee and Cleveland coming up to a more competitive level. Today's players are well conditioned and they work out year-round. They take advantage of today's training methods to make themselves as polished and professional once training camp starts.

Andrew lives with his wife Bronwyn and their two sons in Marietta.

Micah Hart is the Assistant Wed Editor for the Atlanta Hawks.