TigerBlog's newspaper days on the college beat were spent covering five schools, with the following basic proportion: Princeton (60% of the time), Rider and Trenton State (15% of the time each), Rutgers (9%) and Mercer County Community College (1%).
Except for a very, very rare trip to an MCCC basketball game, most of TigerBlog's time on the West Windsor campus of the local junior college was spent covering men's soccer, where Charlie Inverso built the Vikings into a national juco power.
Inverso is one of the probably hundreds of coaches that TB wrote about on both the high school and college level. Still, he's always stood out to TB for any number of reasons.
First, he was always so thankful that his team was getting newspaper coverage. Second, his teams were ridiculously successful.
More than that, though, is his personality. Going to see Inverso, even once or twice a year, was like going to see a relative or long-lost friend. He would always greet TB with a huge smile and a laugh about something.
And then there is his ability to imitate people, which could be the greatest of anyone who's ever lived. Rich Little? Andrew Dice Clay? Eddie Murphy? They have nothing on Charlie Inverso.
TB remembers being at a Rider men's basketball event that included the top sports-talk duo of all time, Mike and Mad Dog, back at their absolute peak in the early '90s. The night at Rider (it wasn't a game; it might have been a Midnight Madness type of thing) included a Mad Dog sound-alike contest, and Inverso stunned the whole crowd and the two radio big shots with his imitation of a conversation that the two would have had about how Judas betrayed Jesus (TB's people don't have a great working knowledge of this situation, but there is a basic understanding of what happened). Inverso, as the Mad Dog, went on and on about how appalled he was by Judas, and finally interrupted himself as Mike and said: "hey, Judas was a bad guy; what do you want?"
Anyway, TB remembered all of those times when he read the news last week that Inverso had stepped down after 24 seasons at Mercer. His record with the Vikings was an incredible 434-46-14, with five national championships, nine championship game appearances and 13 final four appearances.
The AP story TB read about Inverso included this information:
"Sixteen of his former players went on to play professionally or in the World Cup. More than 150 went to four-year colleges, and more than 40 went on to coach high school, college or club programs."
The same AP story said he might end up on the staff of new Rutgers coach Dan Donigan, whose sister-in-law Nancy Donigan has been a longtime member of the Department of Athletics at Princeton. Also, the AP story referenced the time Inverso won an ESPN contest at the men's basketball Final Four for his impersonation of Dick Vitale.
Inverso's time at Mercer got TigerBlog to thinking about coaching tenures at Princeton and whose was the longest. Beyond that, how many coaches has Princeton had who lasted as long as Inverso? Keep in mind, being a coach in a competitive situation for a quarter-century or more is a staggering accomplishment.
Right off the bat, TB thought of Pete Carril, who was the head coach of the men's basketball team for 29 seasons. How many coaches could beat that?
Turns out, not many. And who had the longest time here? Well, with no disrespect meant, it was someone TB had never even heard of before.
Princeton has had five or six coaches who have coached a varsity team here for at least 30 years (depending on how you want to count), including two who are active (women's track/cross country coach Peter Farrell and men's swimming coach Rob Orr, both in their 31st seasons).
The questionable member of the 30-year club was Glenn Nelson, who retired last year from coaching men's and women's volleyball. Nelson spent 28 seasons as the head coach of the women's team and 30 as head coach of the men's team, but the men's team was a club team for the first half of that time. No matter what, though, he was here a long time.
The all-time leader in years coached was the men's fencing coach from 1947-82, during which time he put together a record of 258-133-1 with six Ivy League, two IFA and one NCAA title. And, until yesterday, TB had never heard of him. His name? Stan Sieja. TigerBlog, who considers himself a pretty good Princeton athletic historian, apologizes.
The other members of the 30-year club were Jimmy Reed and John Johnston, who coached the wrestling team on back-to-back stints, meaning that Princeton had two wrestling coaches in a 60-year stretch from 1934-1994. Combined, the two went 491-305-23.
Reed, apparently, is also the same Jimmy Reed who has the longest soccer tenure in Princeton history, with 29 seasons and a 136-95-29 record from 1938-66. Richard Vaughan had an similar resume to Reed; Vaughan coached the men's hockey team for 24 seasons and the lightweight football team for 22 (his record in lightweight football was actually better).
In all, Princeton has had 21 coaches equal Inverso's 24 years, including current coaches Bob Callahan (28 years with men's squash), Susan Teeter (26 years with women's swimming, a tenure longer than any other woman who has coached at Princeton) and Chris Sailer (24 years with women's lacrosse).
John Conroy (1946-71) and David Benjamin (1975-2000) weren't quite the Reed-Johnston dynasty in wrestling, but they came fairly close in men's tennis. Conroy, in addition to his tennis role, was also the men's squash coach for 29 years.
Before Teeter, the longest tenure by a woman as a Princeton head coach was 25 years, by former women's tennis coach Louise Gengler.
Princeton currently has 33 head coaches, a number that differs from the number of 38 varsity teams because of several factors, including having Luis Nicolao coach men's and women's water polo and Zoltan Dudas coach men's and women's fencing while Farrell and Samara coach indoor and outdoor track.
Of those 33 head coaches, three (Chris Bates in men's lacrosse, Marty Crotty in lightweight rowing, Bob Surace in football) have yet to coach a single game (or race) for the Tigers. Other coaches are in the infancy of their careers, while others are established veterans.
In all, 10 of the 33 Princeton head coaches have coached three years or fewer here, while 15 of the 33 have coached here for at least 10 years. Of that second group, eight have been here for at least 15 years.
There are eight current head coaches who have coached their program longer than any coach in school history: Farrell, Orr, Samara, Teeter, Sailer, Nicolao, Julie Shackford (15 years for women's soccer) and Lori Dauphiny (14 years for women's open crew).