Lantz gets his chance at Navy with promotion


Rick Lantz waited a long time for his opportunity to become a head football coach at an NCAA Division I-A school.

Now that it's here after 35 years as an assistant at various institutions, he is viewing the change optimistically. Just as Ralph Friedgen - with a similar employment history - did at Maryland.

Navy's defensive coordinator was named Sunday to replace Charlie Weatherbie, who was dismissed after the team lost for the 17th time in 18 games Saturday night.

"I'm looking at it as though they conducted a national search and I was the guy," said Lantz, whose new title is interim head coach. "We're going to practice and prepare as though this is going to be a longtime situation."

Lantz returned to the academy last winter to coach under Weatherbie. He spent six years in Annapolis during the '70s coaching under Rick Forzano and George Welsh. That experience is invaluable, he believes.

"When guys come up and tell me how tough they have it, I say, 'Good.' I've heard that before from lots and lots of guys. And lots and lots of them went on to become extremely successful,' " said the former Marine.

"I think it helps a lot being here for six years earlier. I've seen many guys just like these."

His objective for the final three games of this season is to make the 0-7 Midshipmen better. The change will affect the coaching staff only minimally, with the younger members on the defensive side being asked to assume some of Lantz's former duties.

The timing of the announcement surprised Lantz, who developed such NFL linebackers as James Farrior and Jamie Sharper while coaching at the University of Virginia.

To change in midstream is "unusual," he said. "This doesn't happen that often. There was some concern [for Weatherbie], but in this business, you know these kinds of things happen. You push on."

Lantz said athletic director Chet Gladchuk addressed the team and "did an outstanding job of explaining the reasoning. These are intelligent young men here, and they understood."

With no game scheduled this week because of exams, Lantz will have time to do some refinement without having to jump into game plans. It will also give him a chance to take a long look at younger players with an eye to the future.

Lantz's background after graduation from Central Connecticut State includes stops as the head coach at Bridgton (Maine) Academy in 1964, and as an assistant at Boston U., Buffalo, Miami (Fla.), Georgia Tech, Notre Dame, Louisville and Virginia.

In 1981, he was an assistant with the NFL's New England Patriots.

Finally, he is the head man.

"A lot of good things you have to wait for," Lantz said. "Sometimes the waiting for a long time makes it taste a lot better."

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