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Assistant coach Mike Lintulahti (right) is set to take Penn basketball to the next level with an emphasis on teaching in his new role for the Red and Blue.

Credit: Nate Chen

“I’m sure you can find a much more intriguing subject.”

Mike Lintulahti isn’t one for the spotlight. For him, basketball has always been about the players first and foremost.

And now, taking over as one of the assistant coaches for Penn men’s basketball, Lintulahti has the chance to shape the players in this program in ways that he never could before.

“He has the reign now to do what he’s always wanted to do. He speaks up when he sees something that might not be perfect,” senior forward Greg Louis said of Lintulahti’s new perspective. “He’s vigilant. He looks at the entire picture and is able to pinpoint what tendencies need work.”

It’s been a long journey for Lintulahti, and there have been countless stops along the way. A standout high school basketball player, Lintulahti had offers to play Division-III ball but decided that wasn’t the right path for him.

He spent a year at Florida State before returning to New England to work at an after school program in Amherst, Mass., so that he could be close to his family. He moved to Ann Arbor, Mich. as the co-owner and private contractor of Skybird Tech before arriving in Philadelphia so that his wife could continue her education.

While basketball continued to be a part of his life, Lintulahti didn’t have an avenue to travel into the coaching world, and found most of his work prior to Philadelphia in the realm of teaching.

In Philadelphia though, Lintulahti became involved in the pervasive basketball culture as a member of the staff for the John Chaney/Sonny Hill basketball camp.

“I had a coworker whose brother was the director of the John Chaney/Sonny Hill camp and that was really my first introduction to Philadelphia basketball and gave me a certain level of credibility. It got me started,” Lintulahti said.

“I was fortunate to spend quality time with coach Chaney and to be heavily influenced by that time and mentorship.”

From teaching to coordinating summer programs and working at Chaney’s camp, this variety of experience has given Lintulahti the perfect skill set for player development. After all, in his mind the basketball court is just another classroom.

“My entire philosophy is coaching really being teaching and trying to take that approach to preparing,” Lintulahti added.

“I’ve worked with kids of all ages, from all types of backgrounds, any kind of strand of diversity you can imagine. It’s prepared me to develop a certain amount of patience for different learning styles.”

The past year has seen Lintulahti with Penn as an assistant director of operations. In that time, he had the opportunity to involve himself deeply with the program and that experience has helped him transition into his new role this season.

“His role hasn’t changed in terms of the job description, the office outside of making contact with recruits,” head coach Jerome Allen said. “But he’s been a valuable asset since he’s been here and I’m not sure where we’d be without him.”

And after all these years and various careers, Lintulahti will find himself sitting on the bench for the Quakers as an assistant coach. When he came to Philadelphia, he never expected to have a key to the Palestra — the Cathedral of College Basketball — but that’s where his road has taken him.

“I’ve definitely taken a non-traditional route to being where I am,” Lintulahti said.

“I hope at some point in time it’s a good story for someone else to feel like there’s a way to get wherever it is they’re trying to go.”

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