Chargers coach Anthony Lynn trying to make best of bi-coastal marriage
Anthony Lynn is so engrossed in his job as first-year coach of the Chargers, he doesn’t have much time to watch TV, surf the web or peruse the newspaper. He spends more time at the team’s facility than away from it.
But Lynn does have a vested interest in local news happening 3,000 miles away.
That’s because his wife, Stacey Bell, is co-anchor of NBC 4 New York’s weekday newscasts. Since Lynn took the coaching job in Los Angeles, he and his wife have lived on opposite coasts, finding ways to see each other about once every two weeks.
So the Chargers playing at the New York Jets on Christmas Eve is a convenient twist for the couple. If home is where the heart is, Lynn might as well be in his living room when he’s walking the visitors’ sideline at MetLife Stadium.
“The schedule has been good to us this year,” said Bell, who has made multiple trips to the West Coast this season. “[Being apart] was a lot easier than I thought it would be, primarily because he’s had two games here — the Jets and the Giants — and then New England, and I went to that.”
Although it’s inconvenient to have his wife a five-hour flight away, Lynn said the solitude has allowed him to pour himself into his job, which has been essential during this roller-coaster season in which the Chargers started 0-4, clawed their way back to relevance, lost a pivotal game at Kansas City eight days ago but still have remote playoff hopes.
“If she was here, I’d feel guilty half the time because I couldn’t see her,” Lynn said this week, sitting at team headquarters in Costa Mesa. “Even in the offseason, I live at the office just trying to get things done, getting prepared for the move [last spring], all that stuff.”
Lynn, who has two adult children with his previous wife, met Bell when he was the Cleveland Browns’ running backs coach in 2007-08. She was a TV anchor in Cleveland, and they started a long-distance relationship when Lynn moved on to the Jets in 2009.
“She took that break, and after about three months, I could tell she was starting to get antsy,” Lynn said. “She was like, ‘I don’t know how many more fundraisers or fashion shows I can do.’ So I said, ‘You’ve got to get back to work.’ ”
That’s when NBC New York called and asked if Bell would be interested in coming back part time, making the 39-minute flight from Buffalo to New York City each week. She happily restarted her news career, eventually transitioning back to full time.
At the same time, her husband’s career was on an upward trajectory, especially after he took over as offensive coordinator of the Bills during last season, then as interim head coach. That led to his being hired by the Chargers, who were making the move north from San Diego.
Lynn nearly took a job as an assistant coach with the Chargers a decade earlier. He had worked for Bill Parcells in Dallas, and that Hall of Fame coach was retiring. When the Cowboys staff went in all different directions, then-Chargers coach Norv Turner offered Lynn a job as running backs coach.
Little did Lynn know, but Parcells had arranged for him to go to Cleveland under Romeo Crennel. For the young coach, that was a less enticing option, but he felt honor-bound to Parcells.
“I had just gotten a divorce,” Lynn said. “I’m thinking, San Diego or Cleveland” — tilting his hands like an overloaded scale, heavily in the direction of going to the Chargers — “but I went to Cleveland out of respect for Coach Parcells. I remember coming home, I’m flying back to Dallas, and I pick up a Cleveland magazine. It says the worst place in the United States for single men is Cleveland, Ohio. I’m like, ‘This can’t get any worse!’ It’s a great family town, great food — I love that about Cleveland — but for singles? Not so.”
In his second year in the city, friends set him up on a blind date with Bell, who knew very little about football.
“I was like, ‘Where have you been? I’ve been here almost two years, and I haven’t seen you,’ ” he said. “I didn’t watch the news, and she was the anchor at Fox 8. We met and hit it off, and the rest is history after that.”
Lynn, a former NFL running back, is a study in contrasts, easygoing about most things but intense about others, particularly football. Part of his appeal is his unvarnished honesty, which is rare in a business that’s predicated on deception and disguise. He’s not afraid to speak his mind.
“He’s a nice guy, but he’s brutally honest,” Bell said. “He likes the blunt-force trauma. It could be something like, ‘Babe, you’re not going to wear that dress on TV, are you?’ I tell him all the time, ‘I’m not [Chargers quarterback] Philip Rivers.’ Please don’t talk to me and your daughter the same way you would your players. Let’s find a different approach.”
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Then, there’s the softer side of Lynn — the one who comes into town and babies the couple’s Westie terrier, Scooter; or makes sure Bell’s car is always washed and topped off with gas; or sends flowers for birthdays and anniversaries.
By every account, Lynn is an attentive parent, as well. He and his previous wife, Cynda, raised son D’Anton, 28, now a Chargers assistant coach, and daughter Danielle, 23, who’s working toward a master’s degree in health administration at the University of North Texas.
For instance, when Danielle was in her early teens, her father relished their evenings out.
“He took me on my first ‘dates,’ ” she said. “I’d get dressed up, and we’d go to a movie, then to Red Robin. We’d get burgers, and then share a strawberry milkshake afterward. He would open the door for me, and show me how I should be treated. That was kind of a special thing we always did.”
Even though he had obligations with the Jets, Lynn made a quick trip back to Texas so he could see his daughter off to the prom.
“That was a huge shock,” she said. “The NFL kind of takes you away from family. It was my senior year, and everyone else’s dad was involved. My mom was there, but it was hard because everybody had their dad there too.
“I wake up to a text, and he just goes, ‘See you in a little.’ So he came to town and kind of took over. He took me to get my makeup done and hair done, took me to my prom pictures. We never really get to do anything normal, so for me, that was a huge deal, and then he flew back that day.”
D’Anton, who played cornerback at Penn State, said his dad was all business when it came to football.
“I started playing football when I was 8 years old, and you know how it is at that age, it’s all about having fun,” he said. “After every single game, my dad would have a scouting report about what I did, what I needed to improve on, what I did wrong. He was not holding back at all. My mom was like, ‘Anthony, he’s 8 years old. Just let him go out there and play.’ But he would chart my loafs [when a player fails to go full speed], if my pads were too high, if I hit the wrong holes, getting off blocks.
“Keep in mind,” he said with a laugh, “I’m 8 years old.”
But D’Anton, now a defensive quality control coach for the Chargers, has come to appreciate his father’s exacting standards and attention to detail.
“Just to see him now, how he handles the team, how he handles practice, it’s pretty cool,” the younger Lynn said. “Because I saw him start from a quality control coach, to an assistant special teams coach, to a position coach … all the way up.
“It’s pretty cool to see him live out his dream. A lot of his philosophies are mine because, of course, he’s my biggest influence.”
As for Bell, the bi-coastal experiment has worked this season, but she ultimately envisions joining her husband in California. For now, though — like that text message to Danielle — their life is summed up in five words:
See you in a little.
Follow Sam Farmer on Twitter @LATimesfarmer
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