The phenomenon known as "Linsanity" – the hype surrounding the rags-to-riches story of New York Knicks point guard Jeremy Lin – swept up a most unlikely bystander: Steve Novak.
So when the Knicks visited Milwaukee on March 9, Novak's teammates walked by with bemused expressions as he and his father Michael held center court for the Milwaukee media.
Michael, the former boys basketball coach and current athletic director at Brown Deer High School, stood off to the side of the scrum as his son fielded questions for about 20 minutes.
"It’s not ‘Linsanity’ - Jeremy’s really got the edge on that one," he said with a smile. "But just seeing that sort of thing is very gratifying because it’s Steve’s sixth year and he’s worked really hard. He’s always been the shooter you see out there now. He just has needed the time and the opportunity and given that situation he’s got right now, it’s fantastically wonderful for him and he’s taken advantage of it. It’s nice to see that kind of thing happening to him. He’s a good kid and he deserves it."
Novak is averaging career highs in minutes (16.9), points (8.4) and rebounds (1.8) per game while shooting 48.2-percent from behind the arc and 47.7-percent overall.
OnMilwaukee.com: Can you describe ‘Linsanity?’
Steve Novak: "He’s definitely a rock star. Everybody knows him. We have to put disguises on him when we go to the movies and stuff. He’s pretty big time. It’s comparable, really, to when I played with Yao Ming in Houston. It really is a sight. Yao was 7-6 so he got noticed if he was a basketball player or not but with Jeremy, literally, everybody somehow knows his face and knows who he is. He’s the most humble guy in the world so I’m happy for him. He’s taking it in stride."
OMC: Is he the smartest guy on the team?
SN: "He did go to Harvard, I do have to give him that. He doesn’t rip much on Marquette, but just a little bit."
OMC: How has he helped you?
SN: "The way he finds guys, gets them the ball in the right spots, he’s been incredible. He’s easy to play with. He puts so much pressure on defenses and as a shooter it’s kind of a dream come true."
OMC: Why is New York working for you?
SN: "Coach (Mike D’Antoni’s) offense is a big part of it, playing with a guy like Jeremy, playing with a guy like Baron who really find you. There’s a lot of pressure on the defense, with Amar’e rolling down the middle and Tyson (Chandler) rolling down the middle, it’s like defenses do have to decide who they’re going to guard that night. Because we do have the inside presence and perimeter presence, and Jeremy and Baron (Davis) operating it, it makes it tough."
OMC: Have you ever received interest from the Bucks?
"You know, I know it’s a business and sometimes there’s spots and sometimes there’s not, sometimes there’s needs for certain positions. With the Bucks I know we’ve always had good conversations with them but nothing’s ever happened. I enjoy going down to the Cousins Center seeing those guys and being around it. I grew up a huge Bucks fan and my hometown team is the Bucks. Now it’s a little different because I’m on a different team, but that’ll never change."
OMC: Your father coached you at Brown Deer – ever any blow ups at one another?
SN: "Honestly, we didn’t. People always ask that. We had a good relationship and I loved playing for him. He wasn’t a coach who was playing mind games with me or anything like that. He was always dad first and coach after that."
Michael Novak: "How is it possible? I told him not to have any. No, seriously, we didn’t have any blowups. One of the stranger things we had to arrange right away was what are you going to call me on the court, because at home you call me dad and on the court, are you going to call me coach? We had talked about that early on and he said ‘Well, you’re my dad at home and you’re my dad on the court, so it’s always dad.’ I was never called ‘coach.’ If he wanted to maybe get my attention he would say ‘coach’ and I’d look a lot faster."
Steve Novak’s trip home came to end Friday night with a 119-114 Knicks loss in which he scored 11 points in just over 20 minutes of action, hitting three of his six 3-point attempts.
"It’s really a dream come true," Michael Novak said. "So often reality outweighs the fiction you can come up with and you might dream of these things but the detail is so much more important. Right now, when you have this kind of thing happening, you just kind of enjoy it, thank the dear Lord that it is happening and enjoy it while you’ve got it."
Jim Owczarski is an award-winning sports journalist and comes to Milwaukee by way of the Chicago Sun-Times Media Network.
A three-year Wisconsin resident who has considered Milwaukee a second home for the better part of seven years, he brings to the market experience covering nearly all major and college sports.
To this point in his career, he has been awarded six national Associated Press Sports Editors awards for investigative reporting, feature writing, breaking news and projects. He is also a four-time nominee for the prestigious Peter J. Lisagor Awards for Exemplary Journalism, presented by the Chicago Headline Club, and is a two-time winner for Best Sports Story. He has also won numerous other Illinois Press Association, Illinois Associated Press and Northern Illinois Newspaper Association awards.
Jim's career started in earnest as a North Central College (Naperville, Ill.) senior in 2002 when he received a Richter Fellowship to cover the Chicago White Sox in spring training. He was hired by the Naperville Sun in 2003 and moved on to the Aurora Beacon News in 2007 before joining OnMilwaukee.com.
In that time, he has covered the events, news and personalities that make up the PGA Tour, LPGA Tour, Major League Baseball, the National Football League, the National Hockey League, NCAA football, baseball and men's and women's basketball as well as boxing, mixed martial arts and various U.S. Olympic teams.
Golf aficionados who venture into Illinois have also read Jim in GOLF Chicago Magazine as well as the Chicago District Golfer and Illinois Golfer magazines.