SALT LAKE CITY — After an 11 a.m. practice session at Zions Bank Basketball Campus on Saturday morning, members of the Utah Jazz organization boarded a 2 p.m. flight to San Antonio.
For Jazz assistant coach Antonio Lang, that involved a sacrifice as he missed the tip-off of his youngest son, Alan Lang’s, basketball game at Vivint Arena as part of the Zions Bank Beehive Classic.
“I wish I could be at this game this weekend, but we’re out of town, but it’s different when it’s your child,” Antonio Lang admitted.
Still he found time to talk to his 19-year-old beforehand over the phone, telling him, “good luck and enjoy the process.”
Alan Lang is a redshirt freshman forward at Weber State University. The 6-foot-7, 195-pounder walked on for coach Randy Rahe after earning all-state honors at Judge Memorial High School in 2017.
Although Alan didn’t enter the game in the Wildcats’ 76-67 latest loss to Utah State University, he’s enjoying the process of trying to find his niche — outside of his dad’s shadows.
“I’ve got to just trust the process because sooner or later you’re going to get an opportunity to play,” said Alan Lang, who has appeared in two games this season. “When you get a chance, you learn from it and grow from it.
“There’s always pressure on myself to perform, but overall my family is there for me, so it is what it is,” he continued. “I just want to make them proud.”
Antonio Lang and the Jazz will be on the road for the next couple games to face the Spurs on Sunday, then Oklahoma City on Monday, but his mother Lekeshia was in the stands at Vivint Arena cheering on her baby boy. His older brother, T.J. Lang, is also a redshirt senior at the University of South Florida after transferring from Auburn.
When Antonio Lang was away coaching in Japan, it was actually Lekeshia who enrolled both Alan and T.J. in baseball and Upward Bound basketball when they turned 5 years old in Mobile, Alabama. T.J. will turn 23 on Dec. 26, but still maintains a close relationship with his little brother. They didn’t move to Salt Lake City until 2014 when Jazz coach Quin Snyder hired Lang for the staff.
“They’re close. They get online and play Fortnite every night. Just typical brothers … argue, fight, act like they do with typical type stuff, but they’re really close actually,” Antonio Lang said. “I funnel more conversations through my kids like if I want to say something to Alan, I’ll say something to TJ like, ‘Hey, hit Alan on that’ or if I have to say something to TJ, I’ll say ‘Hey Alan, get with TJ on that’ and it kind of works out better that way because I just want to be dad, I don’t want to be their coach. I never coached them and never wanted to.”
For some kids, playing in the shadows of their dads may be overwhelming, especially in Antonio Lang’s case, where he won back-to-back national titles under legendary Duke coach Mike Krzyzewski in 1991 and 1992.
Even as children, being around Coach K or NBA Hall of Famers Steve Nash and Grant Hill weren’t a big deal to the Lang brothers because of the relationships their dad built throughout his six-year NBA career. Despite all that experience, Lang makes it a point to stay away from trying to mix coaching with parenthood.
“I’m dad. Only if they ask and say, ‘Dad what you think?’ and I’ll do it, but other than that I’m dad,” Antonio Lang said. “I don’t coach, I don’t call the coaches, I just want them to enjoy the experience for themselves because a lot of stuff basketball teaches you is a lot about life.
“You’re not going to have your way all the time, so ‘What do I have to do in order to get through this certain situation?’ so I just give advice on that,” he continued. “As far as Xs and Os, I’m real careful about that so I stay away from that for the majority of time with that.”Comment on this story
For now, much of Alan’s time is spent helping the squad in practice where coach Rahe says he’s getting better. Outside of his family and the coaching staff, senior forward Brekkott Chapman has emerged as a mentor to him as he works to become a consistent contributor in his own way. That’s all he can do.
“Alan’s a walk-on for us and he’s on our scout team,” Rahe said. “I really like him and he’s a good kid. Last year, he was injured for most of the year, and this year he’s coming back, so he provides a good help for us in practice just when we’re preparing for the other teams and a really good kid, but I think he’ll continue to get better in our program.”