Tuesday, November 29, 2011

Remembering Cappy

TigerBlog can program six FM stations (actually 12, since there's FM1 and FM2, as well as six AM stations) on his car radio.

Of those six, three are currently playing all Christmas music, all the time, between now and, presumably, Christmas.

Actually, one of the stations starting playing the Christmas music shortly before Thanksgiving, to the point were TB was a bit startled by it. Now, instead of having five classic rock options and Little Miss TigerBlog's whatever-it's-called Katy Perry/Lady Gaga/etc. station, TB is down to two classic rocks and the LMTB stuff.

As an aside, TigerBlog probably goes about 50% AM talk, 40% music off his iTunes and 10% FM, so it's not that big a deal.

This morning, during a break in the "Imus In The Morning Show," TB flipped over to FM, forgetting that it's all Christmas music, all the time now. The first song to come on was, by coincidence, TB's favorite Christmas song, entitled, appropriately enough "A Christmas Song," by Nat King Cole, the one that starts "Chestnuts roasting on an open fire ..." So he listened.

Until now, TB has basically been boycotting the Christmas music, not because he doesn't like it - in fact, he has 42 Christmas songs (and two Adam Sandler Hanukkah songs) on his iTunes - but because it's just too early.

Too early, as in not even December. Or even the last day of November.

It's Nov. 29, 2011, for those who don't know the obvious.

That date might not ring a bell as being an important anniversary in Princeton Athletic history, but it is.

It was on this day 50 years ago - Nov. 29, 1961 - that Franklin C. (Cappy) Capon passed away.

TigerBlog has read a ton of information about Cappon and his life and his influence on Princeton University and its athletic program, especially the men's basketball program.

Pete Carril obviously ranks first in coaching wins for men's basketball at Princeton with 514. Cappon ranks second, with 250 - more than Bill Carmody, John Thompson and Sydney Johnson combined.

Here's what TigerBlog knows about Cappon off the top of his head:

* he grew up in Michigan and was a big-time football and basketball player
* he was the head football coach at Kansas for two years in the late 1920s before he left to become an assistant football and basketball coach at Michigan
* he became the Michigan head basketball coach shortly after that
* he came to Princeton as the head coach in 1938 and stayed there until his death, with the exception of three years in the Navy in World War II
* he died of a heart attack in the shower in Dillon Gym after practice, collapsing near long-time Princeton coach Eddie Donovan

Also, Cappon was famous for playing five players the whole game, on the assumption that if you had your best five out there, why take them out, since they should be in good enough shape to play the whole game. And he was also famous for running the weave.

Beyond that, Cappon also coached, among others, Butch van Breda Kolff, who would be hired as the Princeton head coach in 1962, after Jake McCandless was the interim coach for a year.

In that respect, the Princeton basketball family tree can trace its roots to Cappon, who coached van Breda Kolff, who coached Pete Carril at Lafayette and Gary Walters at Princeton. The coaching line in recent years all goes back to Carril - Camody as a longtime assistant, Thompson and Joe Scott as former players and assistants and Sydney Johnson and now Mitch Henderson as former players.

There can't be too many programs in any sport that can draw up its lineage quite like that, all the way back to 1938.

As for the things about Cappon that TB didn't know, he went to Cappon's Wikipedia page, which presumably must all be true, right?

From there, TB learned details about Cappon's youth and his family, and it's all interesting stuff.

He also learned that Cappon offered up this quote about the value of athletics, given at his old high school's banquet in April of 1952:
"There are some basic principles that we're gradually losing sight of in America, but we still have them in athletics. When you come out for an athletic team, your race, creed or color makes no difference. Nobody asks you who you know or how much money you've got. The athletic field is one place where the merit system still takes precedence over the seniority system."

It's more of the Princeton Athletic lineage, possibly the earliest documented mention of what is now called "Education Through Athletics."

Cappy Cappon. Gone 50 years today.

But not forgotten. Not in the least.

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