For the last four years, Ryan Langford spent time within Auburn University basketball during a time of unparalleled success for the Tigers’ program. Now, Langford has the opportunity to lead a program of his own.
Langford was hired by Lakeside School in Eufaula in May to take over the Chiefs’ boys basketball program, which captured the AISA Class AA state title in February. Langford arrives at Lakeside after spending the last two years as a graduate assistant at Auburn following two years as a student manager with the team.
Langford replaces Tom Clements, who resigned after seven seasons.
“It’s been great. I absolutely love the guys I’m working for from top to bottom. We’ve had more numbers. I’m also coaching football. We’ve had a good amount of kids showing up to the voluntary workouts, so that’s been good and encouraging,” Langford said. “I’ve always loved the town. I lived here in sixth grade, and they were good to me. They were pretty much the first organized basketball team that I ever played for. They let me play JV in the sixth grade, and we won a state championship.
“It’s always had a part of my heart, and that’s a big reason why I wanted to come back here and build a long-lasting program.”
Langford was previously an assistant coach at Lee-Scott Academy when the Warriors won the 2016 AISA Class AAA state title before former Lee-Scott coach Chad Prewett — who left the school to take a position on Bruce Pearl’s staff at Auburn — plucked him to join the Tigers.
During Langford’s time at Auburn, the Tigers achieved a tremendous amount of success. The highlight came in the 2018-2019 season when Auburn pieced together a 30-10 season and reached the Final Four for the first time in program history.
Auburn was 25-6 in Langford’s final season as a graduate assistant when the season ended prematurely due to the coronavirus.
For Langford, his time at Auburn taught him lessons about patience as well as what it takes to rebound effectively in the game of basketball. More than anything, he credited Pearl with showing him how to get involved in the community and how to also get involved with every player on the roster.
“He taught me about being hard on the kids but patient with the kids and setting his culture from the day he got there. He has a way of getting kids to do things that aren’t asked of them. That’s how you build a championship culture,” Langford said. “I definitely want to make it more than basketball. I want to get out and serve and teach these young men what life’s about. Basketball is a game, and I want to use basketball as a platform to mold these boys into young men and teach them how to serve a greater purpose.”
Langford said it meant a lot to be a part of Auburn’s ascent to one of the SEC’s top programs, explaining that he grew up in Auburn and knew the level the program was at for so long before its resurgence. He credited Pearl for the progress the program has made over the last few years, and he thanked him for always lending a helping hand and being willing to listen anytime Langford had input.
Langford said he is taking Pearl’s approach in wanting to make history from day one at Lakeside. He’s adopting the mantra of O-N-E for his new team: Only Now Exists, which means that the current game, practice or drill is the most important one to his players.
Langford had a chance to learn from one of college basketball’s top coaches and was part of Auburn’s arrival on the national scene. Now, he’s eager to take what he learned and help lead a program that’s always been near and dear to his heart.
“To the players I’d say that I’m going to be hard on you. I’m going to ride you. I’m going to be understanding. We’re going to have fun together, and we’re not going to have a lot of fun together at times,” Langford said. “From day one when we step on that hardwood — I’m going to steal this from coach Pearl — we’re going to try and make history. The only way to do that is to give it everything you’ve got every second of every day.
“I’m super excited, and I can’t wait to get to work. We’ve got a lot of work to do, but I’m excited about it.”