Georgetown Athletic Director Joe Lang met Wednesday night with campus media to discuss the embattled men’s basketball team, which is on a four-game losing streak.

In an interview that lasted over an hour, an emotional Lang described the philosophy of Georgetown athletics as “We run programs, no quick fixes; it’s long term … You get good people, and you work with them. And you just keep going and going and you end up winning more than not.”

Lang clarified his position on two issues – his expectations for the men’s basketball team and his position on the possibility of an on-campus arena – and also made remarks to the effect that there will be no abrupt personnel changes to the men’s basketball staff.

“We’re about winning,” Lang said emphatically. “We are about winning, and we win a lot more than we don’t. But we also are always trying to keep it in a perspective.”

Two weeks ago, a Jan. 20 article in The Washington Post by Ken Denlinger said, “Lang said that making the NCAAs every year is `an unreasonable’ expectation. He added that a larger on-campus facility, either a new one or a reconfigured cDonough Gymnasium, is not likely anytime soon. He said six or seven years was `optimistic.'”

Lang’s quote about the NCAA tournament seemed to contribute to an undercurrent of discontent with the administrative and coaching elements of the men’s basketball team that has come about on campus after a string of close losses. His statement was copied onto fliers that were posted anonymously around campus, including outside New South cafeteria. A large banner that read “WANTED: NEW COACH” was hung from the ICC building earlier this week.

But Lang feels that this reaction came out of a lack of understanding about the context in which his comments were made. “To me, it was benign, because it was exactly the way I was viewing things. But to some people who had not had the opportunity to have the whole conversation put into a context, they made some judgments that I think were uninformed,” he said.

Lang gave THE HOYA a copy of a page from the Athletic Department’s handbook that delineates the breakdown between local, regional and national athletic programs at Georgetown. The men’s basketball team is classified as a national sport. The first sentence of the paragraph on national sports reads, “The goal of each national sport is to reach post-season competition and compete for the NCAA Championship.”

Part of the misunderstanding, according to Lang, was a matter of semantics. He extrapolated at length the difference between a goal and an expectation. A self-described “crossword buff,” Lang described his shocked reaction at the firestorm his remarks created. He said he used his crossword dictionary, which is similar to a thesaurus, to look up the words “goal” and “expectation.”

“I went and I looked up goal . and none of [the synonyms were] expectation . so I looked up expectation – all the answers – and none of them said goal,” Lang recalled excitedly. “I said, `Let me take a look at both of them together and see if either one of them has one word that matches.’ And they didn’t!”

Although Lang says that the goal for the men’s basketball team is “unequivocally” to make the tournament and compete for the championship, he warned of the danger of allowing a goal become an expectation.

“When it becomes an expectation [and it doesn’t happen], the reaction to that can be an extremely emotionally difficult situation,” he said.

He likened his view of the Georgetown men’s basketball team to a family in which the members support one another and unite during difficult times. Lang’s brother-in-law, a firefighter, was killed in the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks on the World Trade Center. Visibly emotional, he described the memorial service that he and his eleven siblings attended in New York City, where they walked from the firehouse to the site of the service.

“The way we felt that day was so good because that day we were basically saying to the public, `as bad as it is, we’re going to get through it,'” he said. “And there are some similarities where we’re at right now, here with this program and your fellow students and my colleagues who are alumni. This is not easy … these are not easy times for this team.”

Lang put to rest any thoughts that the losing spell would result in a coaching change. When asked if there could ever come a point in which a member of the Georgetown “family” didn’t meet expectations, he said, “That has happened on occasion here. But, as you might imagine, anything that we would do would be very reasoned and . clear. In the case of what we have going on in men’s basketball, I don’t see that happening. I just don’t see that happening. Because we understand what we’re trying to do . Wins and losses are part of the equation but there are a lot of other things that are part of the equation too.”

Lang also tackled the issue of an on-campus arena, which he made clear is a high priority for him. “Most teams play eight home games and eight away games. We play the eight away games, and we play eight neutral games because we just don’t have the same atmosphere. So we need to try to create that. We have plans.”

Lang is “close to having [Big East Commissioner Mike Tranghese] come down here to spend the day with me and with our president to look at this facility and see what could we do in the short term to create a facility which would be acceptable for us to play games here.” This season, Lang has traveled to Pittsburgh and Notre Dame and will go to Miami, in each case to observe their courts.

However, he mentioned several problems facing the plans, “not the least of which is space.”

The financial cost associated with such a project are surely great, and a point on which Georgetown may not have the flexibility of its peers. Lang pointed out, “This year Maryland opened a $100 million facility, Pittsburgh opened a $100 million facility, iami opened a $70 million facility. And what did we do? We painted cDonough. That was our response. Because that’s all we got.”

But despite the obstacles, Lang spoke of a commitment to “get our team in this building, on this campus, sooner rather than later.” He mentioned methods of circumventing some of the hindrances, such as making a student section standing room only so that it could hold more people. “What can we do? What are our options within this thing? How do we reconfigure bleachers? Knock out the old stage wall, put the bleachers at the far end?”

Lang has been Athletic Director since 1995. Prior to that, he held a number of administrative positions after being part of Georgetown track team’s coaching staff for 11 years. During that time he produced 27 All-Americans, nine IC4A champions and one Boston Marathon winner.

“I coached for 20 years in intercollegiate athletics,” Lang said. “I know exactly what it means to compete, and I don’t like to lose. I didn’t like to lose when I was coaching, and I don’t like to lose now.”

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