Driscoll reflects on La Roche coach: Late Redhawks coach lives on through team’s success


Every so often, a story so inspirational comes out of sports that it seems like it came straight out of Hollywood. Most people around the country don’t even know where La Roche College is. But this small Division III school from Pittsburgh is living a real-live Cinderella basketball season.

Head coach Scott Lang, who had never won a regular-season title in his 13 years as head coach of the Redhawks, had his team off to a hot start. At 7-1, it appeared they were poised to have the type of season that doesn’t come around every year. However, like many inspirational stories, this one stems from tragedy. Lang collapsed and died of a heart attack Dec. 10 during practice.

Most people don’t know this story has a UNF tie in the form of UNF men’s basketball head coach Matthew Driscoll. As the head coach at La Roche in 1993, Driscoll gave Lang his first coaching job as an assistant. Lang eventually took over as head coach when Driscoll moved to an assistant coaching job at Wyoming. The two grew to be great friends. Lang even stood next to Driscoll at his wedding as his best man. Not only that, he was the godfather of one of Driscoll’s sons.

“He was a special dude,” Driscoll said. “He would do anything for anyone. He was so consumed with what he was doing and helping people. He was just the guy that you’d want your daughter to marry, that you’d want your son to be like, that you’d want your son to be coached by.”

Before the season, Lang had painted “Suffer Together” on his team’s locker room wall. Since losing their coach, the Redhawks (21-2, 15-1 Allegheny Mountain Collegiate Conference) have done just that by winning 14 of their next 15 games. The team sits atop the AMCC with two games remaining, is on the verge of hosting the conference tournament as the top seed and has a chance to earn an automatic bid into the NCAA tournament.

“They were like typical young kids, and Duke came and blasted them in an exhibition game,” Driscoll said. “And then they scrimmaged a team up there and played pretty well, and the next thing you know they were figuring it out.”

Lang has reached out to more than just the Redhawks. When the Ospreys traveled north to play No. 4 Pittsburgh, where they lost 95-49, he sat right behind the Ospreys bench, next to the Gatorade coolers to support his friend Driscoll. The night before, as the Ospreys were traveling to Pitt after losing to Florida State, Driscoll realized it was too late to stop to get fluids for his team who needed to re-energize after a long trip. So Lang went out and picked up a couple cases of Gatorade and had them waiting for UNF when they arrived at the hotel.

However, the biggest contribution he made to the Ospreys was a speech he gave during their time in Pittsburgh for the game against the Panthers. He compared building a cathedral to what the Ospreys are trying to accomplish as a team on the rise. He talked about how every detail is so important and to never assume one detail is too small. He said that once you put all the details together, the outcome is beautiful. Driscoll called it a “blessing” that Lang was able to talk to his players.

“[Lang] was telling us that we’re a really good team, even though the outcome wasn’t as good as we thought it would be against Pittsburgh,” said sophomore guard Jerron Granberry. “He believed in us before we even believed in ourselves. [Driscoll] is always looking at us from within. It was good to have someone look from the outside. it was like ‘Wow, maybe this guy is right. Maybe [Driscoll] is right.’”

Throughout his coaching career, Driscoll had wanted Lang to be able to speak to his teams more often. In fact, Driscoll tried to get Lang to join him as an assistant coach once Driscoll got a head coaching job. The last time Driscoll tried was when he was hired as the UNF head coach before the 2009-10 season.

“We had talked about it our whole lives,” Driscoll said. “We talked about if I ever got the opportunity to be a head coach, we’d be back together again. He flew down, drove around campus trying to get a feel for this decision because he had lived in Pittsburgh his whole life. It just wasn’t in his heart. I’m sure if another opportunity came I was going to go back after him.”

Now as Driscoll watches the season La Roche is having, he can’t help but think about what his friend would be saying to his team. Driscoll has enjoyed watching the Redhawks’ run and said Lang wouldn’t be surprised at the success his team is having.

“They say that great leaders, when they leave a place it becomes even more of a better place,” Driscoll said. “It even becomes more of a better situation, and it just keeps growing and blossoming. It’s just powerful. To see them progress, I get a lot of emotions because I think of coach [Lang] all the time. I tell you what, it would be a heck of a movie.”