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Recalling a legend: Lebanon’s Metcalf in inaugural NHBCO hall class

  • Retired Lebanon High boys basketball coach Lang Metcalf is photographed at home in Lebanon, N.H., on Nov. 17, 2003, before his induction into the NHIAA Hall of Fame. (Valley News - Jennifer Hauck) Copyright Valley News. May not be reprinted or used online without permission. Send requests to permission@vnews.com.

  • Lebanon boys basketball coach Lang Metcalf rallies his team during a timeout at Lebanon, N.H., in the 1992 season. (Valley News - Robert Pope) Copyright Valley News. May not be reprinted or used online without permission. Send requests to permission@vnews.com.

  • A basketball, whistle and flowers were placed on the lawn of Sacred Heart Church as a memorial to longtime Lebanon coach Lang Metcalf in Lebanon, N.H., on Oct. 3, 2006. (Valley News - Jennifer Hauck) Copyright Valley News. May not be reprinted or used online without permission. Send requests to permission@vnews.com.

Valley News Staff Writer
Published: 10/13/2019 9:32:27 PM
Modified: 10/13/2019 9:39:50 PM

Talk to a cast of players and friends, and in every conversation about Lang Metcalf the same object is brought up: The famed red towel.

The most memorable red towel story occurred in a game at Stevens’ Hoosiers-style gymnasium.

Pacing up and down the bench, Metcalf threw the towel up in the air and a Stevens fan caught it. The referee walked over and told Metcalf that when the towel came down, he was getting a technical foul. Sure enough, the towel soon came down and Metcalf found himself with a T.

Stories such as that were retold on Sunday at Concord’s Red Blazer Restaurant and Pub as Metcalf was honored in the inaugural New Hampshire Basketball Coaches Organization hall of fame class.

Metcalf, who died in 2006, coached for 37 years and tallied 507 wins. He helped turn Lebanon High basketball into an annual championship contender; his teams qualified 27 times for the NHIAA playoffs, reaching the finals on eight occasions and winning state titles in 1967 and 1980.

He was voted NHIAA Class I coach of the year in 1988 and 1994. When he retired after the 1996-97 season, his 507 wins were the most by a boys basketball coach in New Hampshire.

“It’s very special that he’s in the inaugural class and very appropriate,” current Lebanon coach Kieth Matte said. “It’s really well-deserved. He was a great man and did a lot of great things for our community, even outside of basketball. It’s a just reward for a guy who gave so much.”

Metcalf joined an inaugural group that included Nashua’s John Fagula, Farmington’s Mike Lee, Portsmouth’s Danny Parr, Winnacunnet’s Jack Ford and Gary Jenness, who coached at Groveton and White Mountains.

Years later, there’s still the sense of the respect that Metcalf commanded from his players. They don’t call him Lang or coach; it’s always Mr. Metcalf.

Growing up in Lebanon, it was a third-grader’s dream to grow up and join a Metcalf team. Playing for the Raiders was playing for the Celtics, and Metcalf was their Red Auerbach.

“When he came into the junior high, it was like God walking in,” said Jim Vanier, Metcalf’s first 1,000-point scorer at Lebanon.

Metcalf was a player’s coach. He would never go after an athlete just to yell at him and he would always back them when there was a bad call.

“I was a captain and I lived up the street from him, so I would just swing by,” said Nate Camp, who is now the boys basketball coach at Kearsarge High. “We would just talk about basketball or life. Or even in the locker room after practice, and we’re just talking about what we’re doing later. And we would literally ask him if he’d come with us to go out for pizza. Who does that?

“He would come over to me when I was younger, and he’d put his hand on my shoulder and say, ‘I hear you’re a player; you’re gonna play for me someday.’ He just believed in people, man. He was constantly building bridges and relationships with people.”

Metcalf was a shop teacher at Lebanon, but what brought him the most joy in life was coaching the Raiders, something his entire family bought into.

His son, Chip, played for him and was an assistant coach. Wife Beverly was the cheerleading coach, and their daughter Teri was a member of the squad when she was in high school.

After games, Metcalf would have a cast of his characters over to his house to digest the game. Coaches, former players, media members, opposing coaches and even officials could be found in attendance.

But even after the social hour, the focus was onto the next game. Sometimes he’d give the team captain a call to chat about the game, or he’d get to work prepping the next scouting report.

Chip Metcalf graduated from Lebanon in 1977 and soon joined his father on the bench, mainly running the defense. Before every game, the father-son duo would walk out of the locker room together, give each other a kiss, say “I love you,” and then go on the court.

“He was a mentor; he was my best friend,” Chip said on Sunday afternoon. “We hunted together; we fished together. We did everything together. He was a great dad.”

Rich Parker, the Dartmouth men’s golf coach, played at Lebanon for Metcalf. He wasn’t an immediate star, but two years of grinding on the junior varsity team led to the varsity callup. More than 40 years later, he’s thankful that Metcalf made him earn his place on varsity.

Parker said he was a decent athlete but didn’t always pay attention in class. He found out after graduation that many of the teachers only thought he listened to one person: Mr. Metcalf.

“Mr. Metcalf would always say to me at practice, ‘Parker, I know you’re listening.’ It was the inside joke,” Parker said. “I kind of grew up in the house, and just the way it all played out, he played a big role in my life.

“Now there was more than basketball, quite honestly, but the basketball part was the best part of it.”

When Camp was a senior, Lebanon lost in the state championship game.

As Camp took his jersey off for the last time following the game, Metcalf went over to console him, putting his arm around him. Metcalf talked about how Camp had made the right decision to put his team first that season instead of focusing on scoring his 1,000th career point.

Camp repaid the favor to his beloved coach in 2017.

“I have a picture of Dan Metcalf (Lang’s father) handing Lang his championship trophy back in 1980,” Camp said. “My grandmother gave me the article, I still have it, and I keep it with me in my basketball coaching bag.

“I remember when we won the states at Kearsarge back in 2017. I pulled that out. I showed my team and I said, ‘You know what? We finally got one.’ ”

Pete Nakos can be reached at pnakos@vnews.com or 603-727-3306.

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