The mastermind behind the sweeping college admissions scandal was also once an “aggressive” youth basketball coach who ran grueling, four-hour practices and teased kids as “meatpackers,” according to his former players.
William “Rick” Singer mysteriously showed up to coach the Jewish Community Center’s middle-school squad in 2001 — bringing a level of intensity never seen before, the players told Deadspin.
“He was a very aggressive dude,” said Justin, who played on the team in Omaha, Nebraska. “I remember immediately thinking, ‘Why is this guy coaching a fifth-grade JCC team?’”
Alex Epstein, who played forward, recalled Singer running four-hour practices and endless drills — and the special nickname he used on the court.
“Instead of being like, ‘guards, forwards…’ He’d be like, ‘meatpackers, over here,’” Epstein said. “I don’t think anybody wanted to be in the meatpackers. [It] maybe made you a little self-conscious of your body fat.”
Singer was fiercely competitive and tried to recruit young players from other teams to play in the JCC Maccabi games, a massive national hoops tournament for Jewish players.
He also sized up players from other teams on game day — and egged on his own squad to run up the score even when they were ahead.
“I mean, he just wanted to kill everyone,” said Epstein. “You’re in sixth grade and you press a team when you’re up 20 points? I mean, that’s pretty crazy.”
Under Singer’s tutelage, the mediocre squad went on to become one of the best in the state that season, the players recalled.
But his reign at the JCC came to an abrupt end when he tried to start a fight at a game. It’s not clear whether he was fired or left on his own accord.
“You admire that he took the time to do all that and was passionate and cared,” said Epstein. “You wonder why he cared so much … or why the hell he left in the middle of a basketball game.”
In March, Singer pleaded guilty to accepting hundreds of thousands of dollars in bribes from wealthy parents desperate to get their kids into some of the nation’s top schools.
Singer, who ran college prep business Edge College & Career Network LLC in California, worked with others to get the students admitted as fake athletic recruits or by inflating their SAT and ACT scores.
The scheme, which the feds called the largest college admissions scam ever prosecuted, ensnared dozens of parents, including actresses Lori Loughlin and Felicity Huffman.
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