Adam Zagoria covers basketball at all levels. He is the author of two books and an award-winning journalist whose articles have appeared in ESPN The Magazine, SLAM, Sheridan Hoops, Sports Illustrated, Basketball Times and in newspapers nationwide.
Coach Says Jeremy Lin Was Misled By Stanford Coach
NEW YORK — It was the first week of January 2006 and Jeremy Lin was “dead set on going to Stanford” out of Palo Alto High School.
This, according to Peter Diepenbrock, Lin’s high school coach.
The problem was that then-Stanford coach Trent Johnson “[messed] this thing up bad, really bad,” Diepenbrock told SNY.tv Friday by phone hours before Lin went off for a career-high 38 points to go with seven assists in the Knicks’ 92-85 victory over Kobe Bryant and the Lakers at Madison Square Garden.
According to Diepenbrock, during that January 2006 meeting in Johnson’s office with Lin, Lin’s mother, Shirley, and Diepenbrock, Johnson said he had only one scholarship remaining for the 2006-7 season after three players — Will Paul and future NBA players Brook and Robin Lopez — had signed in the fall.
“We really want you on the team,” Diepenbrock recalled Johnson saying to Lin.
“What about a scholarship?” Shirley asked.
Her son didn’t have a single Division I scholarship offer despite being en route to leading his team to a California Interscholastic Federation Division II title and earning All-State honors.
According to Diepenbrock, Johnson said he was recruiting two other guys, adding, “Whichever one of these two guys commits, that’s who we’re going to give it to.”
“If neither of them comes, can Jeremy have the one scholarship?” Diepenbrock recalled Shirley asking
“If they don’t come, definitely, definitely,” he recalled Johnson saying.
“It’s reasonable of him to say that,” Diepenbrock told Shirley.
Johnson said by phone that he already had enough players committed and wanted Lin to walk on that year.
“Walk on fine, scholarship the following year, that’s what I remember,” Johnson said.
Johnson added that it’s not his policy to over-recruit because ultimately that’s not good for anyone.
“I don’t over-recruit,” Johnson said. “They’re not very happy and they leave.”
He added that there were a “lot of people who didn’t offer him the opportunity to walk-on.”
By early February 2006, Stanford accepted commitments from two additional players, giving them a five-man recruiting class.
One was Landry Fields, a wing who chose Stanford over Arizona. He, of course, is now the current starting shooting guard on the Knicks.
The other was Da’Veed Dildy, a 6-5 point guard out of Chicago whom Johnson had courted heavily.
“They both commit and they both get scholarships,” Diepenbrock said.
“Oh, boy did that not go over.”
Diepenbrock said Lin and his mother were so turned off by what happened, that when a Stanford assistant tried calling Lin later on to get him to walk-on, he never returned the calls.
“Come on, coach, I can’t play for somebody I can’t trust,” Diepenbrock recalled Lin saying.
Asked after the Knicks game if he was even aware Stanford was recruiting Lin at the time, Fields said, “No, not at all.”
Should they have used a scholarship on him?
“Maybe, you don’t know,” Fields said. “It’s in the past. And things might not have worked out for him the way they are right now because stuff happens.”
Lin ultimately landed at Harvard, which, along with Brown, were the only schools to guarantee him a spot on the roster.
He played three years for Tommy Amaker and went undrafted out of Harvard in 2010.
The kicker to the story is that when another scholarship opened up at Stanford in April 2006 after Tim Morris announced he was transferring, Diepenbrock said he went over to Johnson’s office to see if they would give it to Lin.
“You got a scholarship, what about Jeremy?” the coach recalled asking.
“Why didn’t Jeremy just walk on?” Diepenbrock recalled Johnson asking. “What happened?”
“You told him you had one scholarship left and all of a sudden you had two,” Diepenbrock said.
“Oh, you misunderstood,” Diepenbrock recalled Johnson saying. “I said I had one for a point guard.”
Johnson isn’t the only basketball person to have passed on Lin in recent years.
Houston Rockets GM Daryl Morey, whose team released Lin in December, Tweeted this week: “We should have kept [Jeremy Lin]. Did not know he was this good. Anyone who says they knew misleading U.”
Knicks coach Mike D’Antoni says it’s hard to argue with anyone who missed out on Lin.
“This is hard to predict,” D’Antoni said. “It’s like winning the lottery or something like that. Landry Fields, we had no idea he could help us.”
For his part, Johnson said he wishes Lin nothing but the best.
“One of the things that I feel really good about is that it’s worked out for Jeremy and it’s continued to wok out for him,” Johnson said. “He’s going to continue to get better.”
Lakers star Kobe Bryant was quoted before the game as saying he didn’t know who Lin was.
After the Knicks beat Bryant at the Garden for the first time since 2005 thanks largely to Lin’s performance, Bryant was asked if Lin had truly come out of nowhere.
“Players don’t usually come out of nowhere,” Kobe said. “If you can go back and take a look, his skill level was probably there from the beginning and no one ever noticed.”
***For Video, Notes & Quotes on the game from my NBA.com Notebook, click here.
Adam Zagoria is a Basketball Insider who covers basketball at all levels. A contributor to The New York Times and SportsNet New York (SNY), he is also the author of two books and is an award-winning journalist and filmmaker. His articles have appeared in ESPN The Magazine, SLAM, Sheridan Hoops, Basketball Times and in newspapers nationwide. He also won an Emmy award for his work on the SNY mini-documentary on Syracuse guard Tyus Battle.
A veteran Ultimate Frisbee player, he has competed in numerous National and World Championships and, perhaps more importantly, his teams won the Westchester Summer League (WSL) championships in 2011 and 2013.
He lives in Manhattan with his wife and children.