Friday, August 5, 2011

Pete And Bill Stop By

The two greatest coaches in Princeton history, at least for TigerBlog's money, were in the building in the last 24 hours.

The two are Pete Carril and Bill Tierney, who coached men's basketball and men's lacrosse here for a combined 51 seasons. They overlapped for nine seasons, from Tierney's first in 1988 to Carril's last in 1996.

Both are Hall-of-Famers, Carril in the Naismith Memorial Basketball Hall of Fame and Tierney in the U.S. Lacrosse Hall of Fame.

As an aside, anyone can feel free to disagree with TB's choices for the best coaches in Princeton history, and a case can be made for others. TB cannot stand when people write or say that a coach or athlete or game is "arguably among the best" in the history of a league or program or such.

Have an opinion, and stand by it.

And this is TB's opinion.

Carril and Tierney combined to go 752-347 at Princeton, winning 27 Ivy League championships between them. Their combined winning percentage is nearly 70 percent, which is especially high considering how tough it is to win consistently for three decades in the Ivy League in men's basketball and what the 25 years of Princeton lacrosse before Tierney arrived were like.

Carril went to 11 NCAA tournaments and won the 1975 NIT.

Tierney won six NCAA championships, played in eight NCAA finals and advanced to 10 NCAA Final Fours.

TigerBlog figures he saw 275 or so of the games Tierney coached here and 150 or so of
the games Carril coached here. There were more than a few times when he saw them coach on the same day.

He's seen both as they talked to their teams at practice and after games. He's seen both interact with national media, local media, student media, alums, friends, parents and any other constituency there is.

He's stood next to each after big wins and heartbreaking losses. He's heard them speak from the heart in front of huge audiences or simply to TigerBlog.

Their talks in the basketball office on the third floor of Jadwin are the stuff of legend, as Tierney went to Carril to discuss applying the basketball coach's offensive philosophies to lacrosse, especially when one player was shut off behind the net and the rest were playing 5 on 5 in front. Tierney has often credited these talks with helping him to the first of his NCAA championships, of which next season will be the 20th anniversary.

And now, here they were, both in Jadwin Gym on the same day once again.

TB couldn't help but wonder when the last time that happened was.

Carril has been with the Sacramento Kings since he left Princeton, mostly as an assistant coach. His 81-year-old mind remains a basketball gold mine.

TigerBlog remembers asking Tierney once a long time ago what motivates him, after all the success he had.

It's like the movie "Wall Street," when Bud asks Gordon how much is enough, many yachts he can waterski behind.

Tierney said something about how each year is its own motivation, own challenge, how what happened last year no longer matters once a new year begins.

His fire still burns, that's for sure.

Now the head coach at Denver, Tierney went to his 11th Final Four last year (TB has been at all 11). As the summer recruiting winds to a stop, Tierney was relaxed as he stopped by chat for awhile, but it's obvious that he can't wait to get started again, that his pursuit of another NCAA title is never far away from his thoughts.

Carril, TB often says, has become a sweet old man. Tierney, 20 years younger, isn't quite to that point yet.

Now, when Carril stops by, he is laughing, smiling, at ease. So is Tierney.

They are instantly the center of attention when they walk in Jadwin, and it's clear to TigerBlog that they are both aware of that. They say hi to old friends and meet the people who have arrived here after they left, while all eyes are clearly on them.

They are the Fonzies of Princeton athletics.

It's not often that they are around anymore, but when they are, it's always special.

Why wouldn't it be? They're the two greatest coaches Princeton has ever had.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

What about?

Bill Carmody (1996-2000)
92W 25L .786Pct

Butch van Breda Kolff (1962-1967)
103W 31L .769Pct

They didn't last 29 years as Carril did but still very good winning %.