Thursday, September 15, 2011

Critical Thinkers

TigerBlog first met Dana O'Neil when she was Dana Pennett, age 15 or so, and the stat keeper for her high school football team, which was playing a game that TB was covering in his early newspaper days.

Subsequently, Dana would work at The Trentonian when TB was at the Trenton Times, and the two often covered the same event. Eventually, TB fixed her up with her husband, Princeton athletic trainer George O'Neil.

With that background, TB usually will go out of his way to read Dana's work for her current position, as a national college basketball writer for

When her story is about Princeton and Mitch Henderson, well, then he'll definitely read it.

Such was the case yesterday, when O'Neil wrote about the transition for Henderson from player at Princeton to head coach at Princeton.

In her story about Henderson, O'Neil says that Princeton has more alums as Division I head coaches than any other school and then lists them:

Bill Carmody (Northwestern)
John Thompson (Georgetown)
Joe Scott (Denver)
Sydney Johnson (Fairfield)
Craig Robinson (Oregon State)
Chris Mooney (Richmond)

Carmody, of course, is not a Princeton alum. He went to Union, where his coach was Gary Walters, now the Princeton athletic director. And he did coach with Pete Carril here for 15 years before he became the head coach for four.

In fairness to TB's friend O'Neil, it's an easy error to make, because Carmody is so closely associated with Princeton, Carril, Walters and the others who followed him as head coach - and because his own playing days aren't what he's known for (even though TB would pick him first in basically any pickup game, simply because he's the most competitive person TB has ever met).

O'Neil made another mistake in her story, when she referred to Princeton's win over "preseason favorite" Harvard in the playoff game. In reality, Princeton was the preseason favorite.

Still, Dana's story was a very good one, and she has a strong interest in Princeton and its program. Given her audience, this is hardly a bad thing.

And getting back to her point that Princeton has the most alums as DI head coaches (a number that could swell in the near future with people like Brian Earl, Mike Brennan and Scott Greenman), even without Carmody on the list, Princeton would at worst still be tied.

When TB read that, he thought back to earlier yesterday at freshman athlete orientation.

And as an aside, TB was annoyed to see a freshman male athlete in a Duke t-shirt and a freshman female athlete in a Marquette t-shirt. It's all-Princeton, all-the-time now people.

Anyway, Clayton Marsh, the Associate Dean of the College, was telling the freshman athletes that Princeton is not a professional school, that it has no medical school or law school or graduate business school.

He told them to pursue areas of study that interest them. He told them that if they are majoring in economics because they think it'll help them get a job on Wall Street, they're making a mistake.

Princeton's goal, Marsh said, is to be the best liberal arts education in the world. It's not trying to churn out an assembly line of pre-programmed executives but rather creative, critical thinkers.

It's a hard message to get across to college kids, especially ones who will be looking for jobs in a few years.

The basketball coaching stat bears out that Princeton is successful in getting the point across, though.

First, it's not just basketball where Princeton has produced a high number of coaches. It's across almost the entire coaching spectrum.

Second, pursuing coaching is about following a passion for what one loves to do, which is something that the University is trying to inspire.

And third, coaching is about critical and creative thinking, as much as any other career path anywhere.

So what if Bill Carmody isn't a Princeton alum. The point is still the same.

Dana O'Neil made it. Clayton Marsh made it.

Hopefully the freshmen were listening.


Anonymous said...

Fixing up two people who eventually become happily married -- that's a mitzvah. You've added to the overall amount of joy in the world.

My observation (purely anecdotal, unscientific and limited to personal experience) is that the percentage of Princeton students who wear logo attire from other schools is actually pretty low. Walking around most other campuses, you'll see a lot of kids wearing stuff from colleges not their own. Make of this what you will.

TigerBlog said...

For the record, TigerBlog has fixed up two couples who today are happily married. Well, married at least, though they appear happy.

Anonymous said...

Its not just a mitzvah. It guarantees you a place in Heaven. Since you seem to have a spare slot, and I have not fixed up anyone for marriage, may I please have it??