Thursday, July 16, 2009

Jordan Rules

Another coaching legend has just left the building.

Glenn Nelson took a combined 1110 volleyball victories to the golf course. Bill Tierney took 238 lacrosse victories to Denver. And now Curtis Jordan will take 131 heavyweight wins and 186 overall Princeton crew victories into a well-earned retirement.

TigerBlog worked with Jordan for the last eight years and knows that what made him a special figure goes far beyond the numbers.

A few of TB’s favorite anecdotes about Jordan hopefully tell a little bit more about the man and what made him such a legendary success at the boathouse.

In 2006, Princeton heavyweight crew was loaded. The squad returned the majority of a boat that finished second at both Easterns and IRAs the previous year, and it included several members of the 2003 IRA freshman and Henley Temple Cup Challenge champion.

While some would look to curtail expectations for a team like that, Jordan wasn’t interested. He must have known it would be phony to his rowers to say anything else. "I worry about that around sophomores," Jordan said before the season. "Pressure is part of the game. They know what they are here to do."

He also made a point to not over-coach them. He knew what they needed, and then he got out of the way. Over the span of 12 months, that crew became the first collegiate boat to win the Head of the Charles; it went 9-0 in the regular season and won its first Eastern/Ivy League title since 2001 and it ended the year by winning the Ladies Plate Challenge at Henley, the program’s first victory for a varsity heavyweight eight.

The only blemish, if you want to call it that, was a silver medal at the IRA championships. California, the power program out west that year, went head-to-head with Princeton on a rainy Saturday morning on Cooper River for the national championship. The Golden Bears rallied in the final 500 meters to win a thriller over the Tigers.

Afterwards, Jordan didn’t bother with excuses. He didn’t talk about weather or scholarships or pressure or anything else. Instead, he talked about the team and how disappointed it was, because it came here to win. There was no edge of anger in his voice, as if the team had somehow cost him a chance at the title. He simply, honestly reflected the disappointment he knew his rowers felt, but he added mention about his pride in the amazing season.

This past season was a much different, much tougher one. A team that had talent simply never found the cohesion to form a winning boat. Perhaps a loss in the Childs Cup to Columbia put bad thoughts in their heads to early in the season, but the 2009 rowers simply never turned it around.

How did Jordan, accustomed to a career of wins and medal stands, handle it?

During a midseason interview, he acknowledged the toughness of the season, but never once called out his rowers. Instead, he talked about the pride he felt in the work ethic and resilience of this particular group. While some coaches might be hurt by a particular group like this, he hurt for them.

To TB, these two teams showed Jordan’s unique ability to honestly assess each individual team and coach or manage it effectively. He demanded excellence, and in a career that spanned more than three times as many wins as defeats, his teams were excellent far more often than not.

Congratulations to Curtis Jordan on his retirement. After overseeing the greatest years of Princeton heavyweight rowing, you leave the biggest of shoes to fill.


Anonymous said...

Curtis is a wonderful man and a true mentor to many in the rowing community. While I never had the ability to row for or coach with Curtis i always watched in awe at not only the way the tigers rowed but more importantly the way these men conducted themselves. Through the 90's and into this decade curtis produced not just amazing rowing talent but amazing men.

You mentioned the 2006 IRA. There are many who did make excuses that year but Curtis was not one of them. More than if they had won gold that day, Curtis showed his true worth as a leader, coach and man. When the victorious California crew returned to the dock, Curtis was the first one there to congratulate them on a great race and a great finish. Curtis represents class and excellence not just as a coach but most importantly as a man.

Curtis Jordan is a true icon and mentor to the entire rowing community. His presence at the chase, the sprints and the IRA will be terribly missed.

Anonymous said...

I had the pleasure of working in Dillon Gym with Curtis. He is a class act--always made time for everyone--always gave great advice. We lose another icon...

Robert Davé said...

Curtis Jordan is one of the great sportsmen in America and he will be missed by the entire rowing community. The video of him congratulating the Cal crew in 2006 is at The pictures say it all, including the final handshake, pursued by 2008 Olympian Elliot Hovey. Godspeed, Curtis.

XENO said...

Congratulations to Curtis Jordan. It is the ultimate reward for coaches when rowers speak highly of them.
Does anyone know if the Princeton Athletic Department is accepting application yet?
I hope everyone is having a great summer.

D'Hoss said...

Lay off Xeno. The job's mine.