Harvard Coach: Wouldn't Have Predicted Jeremy Lin's NBA Success

Download Audio
New York Knicks guard Jeremy Lin (No. 17) has taken the NBA by storm. (AP)
New York Knicks guard Jeremy Lin (No. 17) has taken the NBA by storm. (AP)

New York Knicks point guard Jeremy Lin, a Harvard grad who as recently as two weeks ago was a virtual nobody in the basketball world, scored 10 points and a career-best 13 assists Wednesday night as the Knicks beat the Sacramento Kings. It was the team's seventh straight win.

Bill Holden, a former assistant basketball coach at Harvard and the one responsible for recruiting Lin to the Crimson, joined Morning Edition to talk about Lin's skills on the court:

You must have recognized some real talent in Lin to recruit him, but what's happening now? Lin is leading the Knicks to win after win, is this a huge surprise or did you always feel that Lin had this potential?

Well, he's really developed and really come a long way since the time that I've known him. If you had to ask me six years ago if I thought this is possible, I really wouldn't think so.

But he's put in tremendous amount of work over the years, physically he's developed his body into where he's capable to play and compete in the NBA. And it doesn't surprise me with his competitive drive, he's always had a unique competitive drive, and he's got a different kind of game as opposed to a typical college point guard, and it doesn't surprise me with how determined he is and how smart a basketball player he is, to see him be able to succeed.

Tell us about recruiting Lin: how did he first come to your attention and what's the story of how you brought him to Harvard?

"It is true that the first time I saw Jeremy ... I recommended to his coach that he should probably be interested in Division III schools."

Bill Holden, Harvard coach

Well, Jeremy came on our radar at Harvard and got on our recruiting list through his high-school coach and his family, entering his senior year during our summer evaluation process. I was the west coast recruiter for Harvard at the time and got to see Jeremy play at an A.A.U. (Amateur Athletic Union) event out in Las Vegas. And it is true that the first time I saw Jeremy, I happened to meet his high-school coach at the game and, upon watching the game, I recommended to his coach that he should probably be interested in Division III schools.

And the reason for that was it wasn't a very good game to evaluate, the opponent that he played against was not a very strong opponent, it just wasn't a good overall game to get to see him play. I actually got very lucky in the sense that I saw him a day or two later in another gym, and Jeremy was playing a very high level A.A.U. game against a team that was very competitive, had several Division I athletes, a lot of college coaches were watching, and Jeremy was just playing like a totally different player.

He was rising to the occasion, it was the high competition of the other team, he was showing his natural basketball instincts on the court to be able to read things, he was playing great defense against very good players, he was getting in to the lane and scoring like you're seeing him do right now, and he just showed some things that you just can't be taught on the basketball court and instantly to me he became my top priority as our No. 1 recruit for Harvard.

What kind of a player was he at Harvard?

At Harvard, really, it changed over the years. He didn't necessarily play point guard as much as he's playing now, there was always another point guard maybe on the court with him, but he certainly got the ball in his hands quite a bit, but as a freshman he started out as our first guard off the bench, and then as a sophomore he became a starter, and then he developed into an All League player.

But he's really a slashing-type scoring guard, he had a great ability to get to the rim, great ability to get fouled, a good sense of the game, good vision to see his teammates, and he really developed his defense over the years that he was there.

He seems to be taking all this attention in stride, what is he like off the court?

Well he's a very private kid and a very humble kid, and what you're seeing in these media interviews that he's doing is really who Jeremy is. He's got a very strong family life, he's a very good, easy kid to get along with, easy kid to talk to, very respectful. And, you know, what you see is what you get, there's nothing phony behind him and his humbleness and his teamwork ethic, and what you're seeing right now.

Finally, I have to ask, is Jeremy Lin capable of doing something really incredible, and that is to get folks from Boston to root for a New York team?

I think people everywhere are rooting for Jeremy. You know, it's so hard not to like him, he's an easy kid to like, you've got an underdog that rode the bench for a year in the NBA without much of a chance, and then having the impact so quickly that he's had, I think people, you know, not even just in this country but all over the world are cheering for Jeremy because it's such an underdog story.

This program aired on February 16, 2012.

Headshot of Steve Brown

Steve Brown Senior Reporter/Anchor
Steve Brown is a veteran broadcast journalist who serves as WBUR's senior State House reporter.



More from WBUR

Listen Live