Before he was an Action figure, Rick Chandler was Jeremy Lin’s coach.
Chandler was a Lake Tahoe Action reporter from 2007-09 and with the Tahoe Daily Tribune in the late 1990s. In between those stints, he coached eighth-grader Jeremy Lin at Jane Lathrop Stanford Middle School in Palo Alto. Lin is the subject of what has been the biggest sports story of the year.
After being released from the Golden State Warriors and Houston Rockets, Lin made the roster of the New York Knicks, sitting on the end of the bench until injuries to other players allowed him a chance to play. He scored more points in his first four starts than had any other player in NBA history, including Michael Jordan and Larry Bird. The Knicks have won seven of nine games with Lin on the court.
“During tryouts I had the awesomely great idea of making him a forward and my instincts were not correct,” said Chandler, who lives in Redwood City and writes “Off the Bench” for NBC Sports, at http://
Chandler, who eventually moved Lin back to guard, said the player was a natural talent.
“He is one of the few players I’ve coached who came to me almost fully formed,” Chandler said. “His grasp of the fundamentals was so far and away above the other players’ that it just kind of amazed me, because in eighth grade you usually have to start from scratch.”
Lin went on to lead Palo Alto High School to a CIF championship and was named the top player in the state. However, Stanford, which was just four blocks from Lin’s middle school, turned him away, as did Cal, St. Mary’s and Santa Clara. In fact, Lin did not receive any Division 1 scholarship offers. He wound up at Harvard.
“I think it was based on him being Asian and coaches thinking an Asian guard has never amounted to anything in college,” Chandler said. “And this was in the mid-2000s. We had social media and YouTube and anybody could check him out, and he just had no offers.”
After Harvard, Lin was signed last season by the Warriors, whose coach Keith Smart kept the rookie on the bench and sent him to the minor league Reno Bighorns.
“Which is surprising to me because Keith Smart knows X’s and O’s,” Chandler said. “He knows fundamentals. He was coached by Bobby Knight, for Pete’s sake, so he should have known better.”
Last week Lin had some revenge when he led the Knicks to a blowout victory over Smart’s new team, the Sacramento Kings.
Although he is in the national media spotlight and plays in New York York’s Madison Square Garden where Spike Lee sits courtside wearing a Palo Alto High jersey, Lin has been soft-spoken and at times even self-deprecating.
“It took three weeks for Jeremy to say anything,” Chandler said of his eighth-grade player. “He was so quiet and so humble. Even then he was into his religion and his family. It sounds like a cliche, but when you say it couldn’t happen to a nicer kid, that really is the case with him.”