Though his name probably wasn’t familiar to White Plains fans, Mike Lindberg’s roots in local football run deep.
He was first an all-county lineman in Rockland and then an All-American at Marist. As a coach, he gained over a decade of experience coaching in Dutchess County. Along the way, he earned respect from former coaches and peers and built lasting relationships that led to his recent hiring as the Tigers’ new football coach.
Lindberg will lean on his varied experience to leave his imprint on one of the most coveted coaching posts in local sports. The 36-year old was officially appointed as Skip Stevens’ replacement on April 10 and will now try to establish himself in an entirely new community.
So is he the right fit?
“Absolutely. That’s why he’s our guy,” White Plains Athletic Director Matt Cameron said. “I think with White Plains, you don’t have a lot of issues. The facilities are great — they are the best. We have 2,200 kids in the building, a modified team, a freshman team, a JV team and three feeder programs. I think he has all of that stuff built in for him. It’s just a matter of changing the culture. Three years ago, we were section champs. We haven’t been as successful the last couple years but, with Mike as the head coach, we hope we can get back to that.”
Lindberg may be unfamiliar in White Plains, but he is seasoned with ties to some of the section’s best. Cameron has known Lindberg since he was the men’s lacrosse coach at Marist and Lindberg was a football star; and he is one of several ancillary ties connecting Lindberg to White Plains.
Lindberg has worked summers for the city recreation department as a special-needs coordinator at its summer camps. The job has connected the Hopewell Junction resident with White Plains student-athletes who have worked as camp counselors.
Back in high school, he also played for Stevens when Stevens coached under Tom Lynch, who was then the head coach at Clarkstown South and now serves in the same role at North Rockland. (And Stevens and Lynch are still best friends.)
Lindberg started for three years and was a captain and an all-county and all-section player. He was integral when South won its first league title under Lynch, who believes he has the energy to succeed at White Plains.
“He’s been working for a couple years to get back as a head coach and he landed a great job,” Lynch said. “He’s a good individual. He’s going to work hard and he’s going to do a good job. He’s already called me about scrimmages and camps, so he’s a go-getter. He’s going to build his program.”
Lindberg’s connections to Section 1 coaches continued into college. As a player at Marist, Cameron’s old Poughkeepsie coach, Ken Barger, was a graduate assistant. Lindberg then coached as an assistant at Lourdes under Barger and followed him as head coach there for four seasons. He later landed as an assistant at Arlington, coaching alongside Dominick DeMatteo, the president of the Section 1 coaches association and son of Somers coach Tony DeMatteo.
“Mike did a fantastic job for us,” the younger DeMatteo said. “He really brought a wealth of knowledge, especially on the offensive side of the ball, and particularly on offensive line play. I really think he’s one of the best offensive line coaches in Section 1 right now.”
“I’m super excited about he opportunity,” Lindberg said. “With the history they have, the facilities they have, it’s special. I know, from having teams play against White Plains, that they usually have some really good, quality athletes. They still have the Thanksgiving game, which is rare that somebody has the opportunity to have that. That’s really exciting. The community seems to be really behind the program. I look at it as a challenge. I know the last couple years have been tough, but I feel like, if you can get the program going in the right direction, it can be a really good thing.”
Those who know Lindberg best believe he can point the Tigers in that direction. At Arlington, he held a leadership role with the offense and with the offensive and defensive linemen, and Cameron praised Lindberg’s ability to integrate technology into his coaching, his communication with players and his ability to help them find a home in college, all attributes Barger used to turn Poughkeepsie into a consistent winner.
On the field, Lindberg’s background has given him an aptitude to teach linemen proper technique.
“I believe in being physical,” he said. “I’m not a system guy. I don’t believe you can force kids into your system. I feel like you have to adapt to them. When we learn our kids, I feel like we’ll learn what we can run.”
Lindberg may need time to implement the right system, but he’s certain about continuing the Turkey Bowl tradition with Stepinac. The teams haven’t met in three seasons — once because White Plains reached the state playoffs, the last two because Stepinac’s season continued through Thanksgiving — but the community is hungry for the rivalry to resume.
“I would love for that tradition to continue,” Lindberg said. “It’s rare and that makes it special. That’s something the kids can really look back at when they get older.”
As first impressions go, Lindberg has that one down pat.