Sunday, January 30, 2011

Dartmouth's Cormier on Harvard grad Jeremy Lin

Editor's note- for whatever reason, it appears that the links to Twitter we used below only work if you are logged into a Twitter account. As I've never faced this problem before, I don't know how to fix it. Sorry. -BR

UPDATED on 1/31 at 11:31AM- Added a response from Dartmouth athletics to the end of the post.
UPDATED on 1/31 at 3:22PM- Added a response from WVBR (Cornell radio) 
UPDATED on 1/31 at 5:02PM- Added a response from the Golden State Warriors
If you follow our twitter feed, you may have seen an interesting conversation pop up yesterday. The Cornell Basketball Blog reported through their feed that Dartmouth head coach Paul Cormier said in an interview with WVBR (Cornell student radio) that Jeremy Lin was signed by the Golden State Warriors "just to sell tickets."
(Ed.- The Cornell Basketball Blog has asked us to further specify the fact that they were recalling the quote from memory and like us, did not have the actual quote in hand when they made this post.)
Now, accepted at face value, this seemed to us to be quite an inflammatory statement from Coach Cormier- why bring up (and more specifically knock) Lin's signing? Not only would it be a knock on a league rival (that Dartmouth was done facing for the season) because it was saying their one NBA player in recent memory did not deserve to be there but also a knock on the Warriors with their former scout criticizing the signing of a player he did not feel was NBA ready. Cormier came back to Dartmouth as their head coach- it would be interesting for him to burn bridges of that magnitude since he was the Warriors scout looking at Lin. Why would Cormier use WVBR to lash out at his former employer for that decision?

(So that we're clear, this is getting an expansive post dedicated to it because firstly, I'm unaware how much our Twitter followers got of the whole story, so I think it's important that it gets made clear and secondly because, if Cormier's quote matches the CBB's interpretation than this is a big story in regards to Harvard, Dartmouth, Cormier, Lin and even Golden State.) 

The thing was, we didn't accept it at face value. Journalism 101 says consider your source and all we had was the Cornell Basketball Blog's interpretation and no actual quote. Now the Cornell Basketball Blog covers the Ivy League very well- I can admit freely that they are a better source of recruiting news for say, Harvard, than we are, as an example. Still, it is the Cornell Basketball Blog and not the Ivy Basketball Blog, so while it presents news, it does not purport itself to be a news source- it is, at its heart, a place for Cornell basketball fans to discuss Cornell basketball. Further, they certainly have shown, at times, a bias against the Cantabs. (For example, their game recap of Harvard vs. Cornell tried to say that a secondary recruiting violation was the reason for Harvard's win, not the fact that Cornell is currently a 4-14 (0-4 Ivy) team that lost six talented players from an NCAA Sweet Sixteen run. Again, that's fine, even though it seems like some sour grapes, but it just helps contextualize that this interpretation came from a fan blog, not a news source.) Here are some further editorializing quotes from the CBB's twitter feed regarding the Cormier/Lin story.
"The Ivy League coaches never voted Jeremy Lin as MVP of the Ivy League... and he goes to the NBA? All about marketing... now it is a fact."
Not a knock on Lin, he IS a terrific player, but he is not at a level above Cornell's BIG 3 from a year ago-- Foote, Wittman and Dale.
These quotes, plus the lack of the actual Paul Cormier quote, made us wonder: was the CBB projecting an interpretation of something Paul Cormier said to try to make sense of the (to them) illogical fact of the universe that Jeremy Lin received an NBA contract and is currently in the D-League while Foote plies his trade in Spain (Ed.- had Israel here before but while under contract to Maccabi Tel Aviv, he's on loan to a Tier Two Spanish team), Dale is in Germany and Wittman is getting a mutual release from a second tier Italian League? (I'd like to also note, the CBB told us Cormier mentioned Lin without prompting. As you'll see, Lin is not mentioned by name in the prompt. Cormier's time scouting for Golden State at the Harvard-Cornell game, however, is- CBB presented it as if Cormier brought up Lin completely out of the blue when, in context, it sort of makes sense to mention Lin.)

Admittedly, and to their credit, the CBB did walk back from the language of "just to sell tickets" to say it was an influence. Well, that's a very different statement. To think fan interest and ticket sales is not a factor in pro contracts is naive but it is a slight on a player to say he is "just" there to sell tickets, implying he does not have the talent to justify a contract in the league. More importantly, the difference in the language has NBA implications as well. How would you feel as a Golden State Warrior fan if you found out, from a former employee, that the front office signed a player in order to get you to buy tickets even though they did not think he was good enough? And how would you feel if, after falling for this plot, the GM demoted Lin to the D-League insuring you have to fly to Reno in order to see him? (It should be noted, I haven't seen anyone that covers Golden State buzzing around this quote. Seems to me a former scout saying his team signed a guy that they didn't see fitting in the NBA would be big news- unless that was never actually the implication.)

Further credit to the CBB, they were able to get the audio of the clip up on Youtube (WVBR did not respond to our request for the audio or a chance to speak with Barry Leonard, the broadcaster that conducted the interview.)  We present that to you now and ask what do you think? After the jump, we'll transcribe the interview and give our final thoughts.

Leonard: Coach Paul Cormier, things have come around full circle, college graduate at New Hampshire and you come back to the Ivy League. Welcome back.
Cormier: Thank you. I totally enjoyed it and I feel blessed to be in a situation where I can come back to a place that now that I've been at all levels of play, this is probably the one I'm fondest of coaching.
Leonard: I think the last time we saw you, you were scouting for Golden State last year. You were in attendance, I think there was what, over 40 media and scouts at the Cornell-Harvard game last year?
Cormier: That's right...right, and I actually recommended that they took the kid Lin and Golden State actually did take him. But I think it had something to do with his location and probably, um, the fact that he would attract people to the games [unintelligible- "but that's another thing"?] but he was a heck of a player and of course, I loved Wittman, I thought he was good, and the kid Foote was terrific and I think he has a chance, if he develops a little bit, to help someone in the league.

So what to make of all that? There's no denying that Cormier mentioned Lin's location (the Golden State Warriors are the hometown team of the Palo Alto, CA based Lin) and ability to sell tickets. I wish I had a better ear for what was said immediately between bringing people to the games and him being a heck of a player as it would shed more light on things. My interpretation, admittedly, is less harsh than the CBB's. Cormier makes no mention of Lin's talent level in regards to the NBA, other than to say he recommended Lin to Golden State. With no proof to say Cormier was dismissing Lin as an NBA prospect, he adds Golden State was willing to take a chance on him because of other factors such as hometown status and small band of following. Ultimately, I doubt it was his intention to suggest Lin was only in the NBA because of those factors, especially since it seems unlike the Warriors would sign Lin to a contract (worth $473k this year according to one source, though I don't know the intricacies of the contract to know what Lin actually was paid this year-it was a guaranteed contract so potentially all of it) in order to sell a few extra tickets.

Essentially, for the moment, we are going to give Cormier the benefit of the doubt. To interpret the words at this junction to mean Cormier suggests Lin has no NBA potential (or less potential than the Cornell Big 3) seems to be as fallacious as arguing he slighted Wittman since he mentions recommending Lin to the NBA and says Foote could help NBA teams but never says anything regarding Wittman's future in the league. Others may feel free to disagree- try though WHRB does to be objective, it is after all, Harvard student radio and we may be biased toward protecting Lin. It's just that I find it hard to wrap my head around someone as experienced as Paul Cormier knocking Harvard by suggesting they did not actually deserve the claim of sending someone to the NBA and also knocking his former employer for signing a kid with only ticket sales in mind. That burns bridges in the NBA and also could give Harvard something for the bulletin board come next season with plenty of Lin's teammates returning to Cambridge.

For what it's worth, here's Warriors owner Joe Lacob talking with CSN Bay Area about Jeremy Lin.

Steinmetz: You said Jeremy Lin was your call. There are some people who think you signed a guy who couldn’t play in the league and that you wanted to show people you knew basketball …
Lacob: I wasn’t trying to show anybody anything. I just know the kid. I know he can play and I think it was a phenomenal signing and still think it is. We’re getting offers for Jeremy Lin. More than one. This week alone. I’m just going to tell you we think it was a very good signing. Not just me, the rest of the organization.
I don’t know if you noticed but he went down to the D-League … he’s not going to get the minutes here. He’s gone down there and done a good job. He was an all-star in the showcase. His numbers were pretty astonishing.
He’s getting better, gaining some confidence. We think Jeremy is going to be a good player. His strength is that he’s a very good defensive player because he anticipates very well.
He’s got size. He’s reasonably athletic. People don’t think so but he is. His driving is good. It needs to improve. He goes right all the time. We shouldn’t say he can’t go left, but he just hasn’t so far. And he clearly has to improve his shooting.
I’m very happy. He wasn’t drafted. He’s a minimum, inexpensive asset. You need to look at him as a developing asset. Is he going to be a superstar? No.
The Landry Fields’ things don’t happen very often, by the way – when you draft a guy in the second round and he’s starting and he’s probably the second-best rookie in the whole league.
Although I did call that one.
Steinmetz: But Lin doesn’t have a guarantee for next season …
Lacob: I would think he’ll be on the team. We like Jeremy. We think he’s going to develop into a pretty good player.
Steinmetz: Is Jeremy a point guard or shooting guard?  Lacob: He’s a combo guard. And so, that’s going to be the challenge. We have a few of those (combo guards). Steph Curry really wasn’t a point guard, either.   

We'll try and put a few feelers out and see if we can get a comment from anyone. Unfortunately, sometimes a student radio station gets lost in the email shuffle so we'll see if we do and update if we can. Also, we're sending the request for comments after posting the story because we're still new at this getting comments thing, which is probably not standard operating procedure but we hope you'll bear with us.

UPDATE: I did receive a response from Rick Bender, the SID at Dartmouth for men's basketball (and Director of Athletics Communication), who wrote the following in an email.  
Thank you for taking the time to follow up with me. I spoke with Coach Cormier,
and in no way was he saying or insinuating that Lin was selected "only to sell
tickets." He merely was stating that all three players (Lin, Wittman, Foote) were all pro prospects playing in that game and that he recommended Lin to Golden State (something he wouldn't do if he didn't think he could play in the NBA). Then he merely surmises that one possible reason Lin signed with Golden State while the other two went overseas was because he was a local kid for Golden State. He certainly did not say that was the reason why Lin signed with an NBA team, and certainly is not why he recommended Lin to Golden State.

I hope this clarifies the banter around the internet. If you have any further
questions, feel free to contact me.
UPDATE: Another source heard from. We had asked WVBR if Mr. Leonard had any additional information (we also asked for the audio but that has now been provided by the CBB.) Here's what their Information Media Director, Jay Sage, had to say:
I spoke with Barry Leonard this morning and Barry indicated that the particular quote in question has been a source of some minor controversy, and that he would prefer to wash his hands of what he considers to be a non-story.  We've decided it's in the best interest of our organization to respect Barry's wishes and not proliferate the quote without his permission.  

I have not heard back from Golden State's front office or from the GSW Beat Writer for the SF Gate. Will let you know if I do.

UPDATE: And now I've heard back from Golden State. Raymond Ridder, Public Relations for Golden State.
Thanks for the e-mail.   As you noted, Paul Cormier is not affiliated with the Warriors and should not be identified as such.    Our policy is that our scouts – former or present – do not address players, draft picks or the like in the media.  Our GM, Larry Riley, is the only “spokesman” when it comes to the draft.   If I had my druthers, you would not use Paul’s comments at all.   

Again, I appreciate you reaching out to us.  Most people would not.   Thanks, again.  


  1. What a joke. None of Cornell's big 3 even compares to Lin's level of talent. Cornell had the better team, but Jeremy is, by far, the best player.

  2. Preach it brother! Go Crimson! 4-0 in the Ivies

  3. Paul Cormier was working for the Warriors when he recommended Lin. If he recommends someone who can't play it can cost him his job. He told the Warriors to go forward with Lin because he thought he could play. End of story.

  4. I'd love to her Cormier's analysis now that Lin's tearing it up in NY. Sure he's selling tickets, paraphernalia, and attracting global attention, but he's also bringing wins and saved a coaches job. Cormier looks like an ass now.