Monday, March 12, 2012

Retiring Inge

Now that the jayvee field has been announced, attention can turn to the varsity tournament as the women's NCAA basketball pairings are announced tonight.

What? People care more about the men's tournament than the women's tournament?

Not TigerBlog, who is more interested in how the Princeton women do next week than anything that will happen in the men's tournament (short of a big Georgetown run).

TigerBlog has been through a bunch of NCAA men's tournaments here with the Tigers. In fact, he has attended nine with the program - though not the famous 1989 loss to Georgetown.

The NCAA basketball tournament is like no other event TB has experienced. The excitement that builds from the moment the bid is clinched is amazing, and it's nothing compared to what happens immediately after the field is announced.

From the moment that your bracket comes up on the screen, all speculation on what your seed or opponent might be vanishes into the reality of who, where and when.

And then the adrenaline really starts to kick in.

It's a complex dance on so many fronts.

For the coaches and players, there's the need to be as prepared as possible to play a strange opponent on short notice on the sport's biggest stage.

For the administration, there's the need to handle every detail so that the coaches and players can focus on playing.

And there are a lot of details in putting together the heavily mandated official NCAA travel party. Not to mention ticket needs, local alumni events, media requests and on and on and on.

As TB thinks back now to all of the times he's been here during those frantic days that lead up to the tournament, he's struck by how remarkably calm Inge Radice always managed to stay.

In fact, as Inge just walked out of the office here after saying hello, TB is trying to remember a time when he saw Inge lose her composure or get angry or raise her voice, and he can't really think of one.

Inge is Princeton's Senior Associate Director of Athletics, at least until June 30, when she officially retires after 29 years in the department.

Mostly, Inge's role has been as essentially the CFO of the athletic department. She has had to deal with coaches, Friends' groups, University administrators, external auditors and pretty much anyone else who has either wanted to buy something or know why something was bought.

She has also worked with general administrative responsibilities, many of which involved being a, well, referee.

For all of that, TB can never remember her ever losing her temper.

One thing that TB does know is that Inge has an unbelievable ability to say "no" without making it personal or without getting emotional about it. This is not an easy skill.

It's not easy to tell people no, that what they want and are positive is for the best is not in the big picture going to happen - and to do so in a way that is at the same time stern yet sympathetic.

Her position here is not one for someone with an ego, as everything she has done here she has done far from the spotlight. She has always been a calming influence, a voice of reason, to use her word, an "adult."

Gary Walters called TB down to his office Friday, and it was typical for the situation Gary will say something along the lines of "I need to see you" without tipping off what the subject is, leaving TB to speculate.

This time, when he got to Gary's office and saw Inge sitting there, he had a sense that something was up.

In reality, it's not surprising that Inge is retiring.

She's certainly put in her time. Her son John (Class of 1997) is a recent father. Her husband Pete is one of the true characters who ever walked into Jadwin Gym.

Surely the time was right to step away and enjoy some time for herself, after her three decades of being here six, sometimes seven, days a week.

Still, the news was a bit stunning. Inge blurted it out, as if she needed to say it quickly before she changed her mind.

It's hard to imagine Princeton Athletics without Inge Radice.

TB has often been one of the people that Inge has had to say "no" to, one of the people told that this expense won't be acceptable or this departmental decision that TB disagreed with was going to stand.

Still, there were so many more times that TB found himself in agreement with Inge.

Or, even more so, uncertain of a certain situation and then swayed by her thoughts.

Beyond any of that, she's just a nice person, one whose door is always open, one whose door TB has gone through thousands of times just to say hi and laugh about something.

One day, TB will look back on his time here and remember the days leading up to the NCAA basketball tournaments as among the most special.

More than that, though, he'll think back of the people he worked with for all his own time here.

Inge Radice? She's a little more special than most.

TB will miss her, as will everyone else.

1 comment:

Brian McD said...

Let me belatedly add a comment about Inge. I have been privileged to know her for ten years and she represents all that is great about Princeton - a commitment to excellence, devotion to the values of the institution and dedication to the entire University community. Not enough people know how hard it is to make the Princeton student-athlete experience as special as it is. Too few will read this blog entry and many will never meet Inge or know how important she has been to the athletics program that sets the standard college athletics. TB is right to offer praise and the rest of the University should join in with a chorus of thanks and gratitude.