Thursday, October 17, 2013

Search Engine

The meeting yesterday was headed by Mitch Henderson and Kristen Holmes-Winn and featured a pretty good turnout of Princeton coaches and administrators.

The subject was a big one around these parts these days. The search for the next Ford Family Director of Athletics.

Gary Walters announced he was stepping down as AD at the conclusion of the current academic year back at the department staff meeting in early September. Walters is in his 20th year as the Princeton athletic director, which means that almost everyone who works for Princeton Athletics has known only one boss.

There are a few still here from when Bob Mylsik was AD.  From the head coaching ranks, there are both track and field coaches (Peter Farrell, Fred Samara), both swimming coaches (Rob Orr, Susan Teeter) and women's lacrosse coach Chris Sailer, as well as football associate head coach Steve Verbit.  From the staff, there is Associate AD Karen Malec, ticket manager Stephanie Sutton, compliance assistant Nancy Donigan and football administrative assistant Stacie Traube.

There are probably others. TigerBlog did that off the top of his head. He's sure he's forgetting a few people. He apologizes.

The overwhelming majority of people who work here started since Gary became AD. Two started the same day as Gary - TigerBlog and women's squash coach Gail Ramsay.

It's going to be a total culture shock for the department when the new athletic director starts - and for the new AD as well.

The search committee that has been formed to choose Gary's successor includes Henderson, the men's basketball coach, and Holmes-Winn, the field hockey coach.

When Gary Walters became AD at Princeton, Henderson was graduating from Culver Military Academy. Since then, Henderson became a star player on some of Princeton's greatest basketball teams ever, graduated from Princeton, spent more than a decade as an assistant coach at Northwestern and now is entering Year 3 at Princeton as its head coach.

From high school grad to established head coach at his alma mater. All while Gary Walters has been the AD.

As for Holmes-Winn, she was a freshman at the University of Iowa when Walters became the AD.

And now they are part of the group that will have to come up with his replacement.

As part of this process, the search committee has had a series of meetings like yesterday's with the athletic department. There have already been ones with students and general faculty/staff, and there is another one for alumni scheduled for Nov. 16, prior to the Yale football game.

The discussions are live versions of the questions asked on the athletic director search website, where those interested are asked about the qualities that the new AD should have, the major challenges that he or she will face, if there is anyone specific in mind for the position and if there are additional comments. It's similar to the website that was set up for the search for the University president that was held recently.

The meeting yesterday was really interesting for TigerBlog in that it showed a real insight into what the coaches (who did most of the talking) are thinking about as it relates to a new boss and what their perceptions are about what that new boss will have to focus one once he or she is here.

These are interesting times in college athletics and Ivy League athletics, and there will be no shortage of issues to deal with during the next AD's tenure.

TigerBlog said little at the meeting, as he was content to listen to what others had to say. What he did offer was that when he looks at candidates for positions at Princeton, he asks two questions: Can you do the job, and can you do the job here?

In other words, do you have the background and skills necessary to do the job itself. That's question No. 1.

Question No. 2 is can you do that job at Princeton, with its unique set of challenges, advantages, expectations. This isn't a Princetonian snobby elitist thing - any place in any field has whatever makes it different.

TB, for instance, doesn't think he'd be a good fit for his position at a place like, say, the University of Florida anymore than whoever is at Florida would necessarily be a good fit for Princeton.

In addition to that, there is the issue of taking over for someone like Gary Walters, who has been there for so long, has overseen a department that has had so much success on his watch and has a very strong personality that permeates through the entire department. That alone will be a challenge for the new AD.

That was TB's other comment.

Anyway, it was a pretty quick hour discussion yesterday, and TB came away intrigued by really all of the comments that were made.

Once these meetings are over, the committee can go into the hard work of identifying candidates, interviewing and doing all of the other tasks that go along with such an important decision. That work, by the way, will be far from the public eye, as it should be.

TigerBlog won't even begin to speculate now on who the next AD at Princeton will be.

For now, he will wait and see what the committee decides. He'll know the results soon enough, and then he'll have a new boss.

To say it will be fascinating is an understatement.

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