Former men’s basketball head coach Mike Lonergan denied claims that he used a racial remark when referring to former Harvard guard Jeremy Lin while coaching at Vermont, according to a statement to WCAX Thursday night.
“I have great respect for Jeremy Lin and was very sad to read that he thought the Vermont coach referred to him as ‘the oriental’ to the referees,” Lonergan said. “I don’t know if he thought I said that but I can assure him that it wasn’t me. I have never used the word ‘oriental’ when describing a person.”
The claim was originally brought to the public when Lin, current Brooklyn Nets starting point guard, went on his teammate Randy Foye’s podcast Outside Shot and talked about racist remarks that he experienced through his basketball career – especially in college. The podcast was published Wednesday.
He alleged that during a game against Vermont in 2006, he was called an “oriental” by the opposing coach, which was later published in an ESPN story, along with other incidents from his college and professional career.
“In Vermont – I remember, because I had my hands up while the Vermont player was shooting free throws – their coach was like, ‘Hey ref! You can’t let that oriental do that!’ I was like, What is going on here?” Lin said.
Lonergan was the Catamounts head coach at the time, but he said he had not heard any such comments while he was at Vermont and that he would have referred to Lin as “the Asian player” instead because at the time he did not know his name.
“I apologize for any racism Jeremy experienced during his college career but I am not aware of anyone in Patrick Gymnasium, especially myself, referring to Jeremy as ‘the Oriental,’” Lonergan said. “There is no place for racism in college athletics. I have always been a huge fan of Jeremy’s because he has been a role model and broken down stereotypes which has helped pave the way for others.”
In September, Lonergan was removed from the helm of the men’s basketball program after claims of verbal and emotional abuse led to an internal investigation and a statement from Provost Forrest Maltzman who said that he had “engaged in conduct inconsistent with the university’s values.”