Thursday, June 20, 2019

Welcoming Carla

Carla Berube stood on Carril Court, which is essentially her new office, and glanced up at the videoboard.

This was about 30 minutes after the conclusion of her introductory press conference, where the new head coach of women's basketball at Princeton talked about her philosophies, her experiences, her mentor, her values and her obvious excitement about her new job. Then it was up to Jadwin's main floor for some picture-taking, and when that was over, some light conversation.

That last part included calling her attention to her face, on all four sides of the big board, with the welcome to Princeton message that accompanied it.

She didn't really say anything. She just looked up, waved her hand and laughed.

There are certain things about Carla Berube that are obvious, even if you don't know her very well.

First, she's extremely nice, friendly, engaging. Second, she has a very easy-going manner, and yeah, that's a great way to describe her. She moves with ease, speaks with ease, carries herself with ease. It gives her a real presence, whether she's at the front of a room filled with media or on the Jadwin court.

The third thing that you can't miss is that she loves basketball. She lights up when she talks about it, and you can see her competitive nature come though. You can see how much it means to her, how proud she is what she built in her 17 years at Tufts and how she's looking forward to coaching the Tigers.

Berube's background is a combination of her overwhelming success at Tufts and her overwhelming success as a player. Well, "success as a player" doesn't quite cover it.

First, as a coach, Berube went 384-96 with the Jumbos, while reaching the NCAA Division III final twice, the Final Four four times and the Sweet 16 nine times, including each of the last eight. She's also won World Championships with USA basketball as part of the youth programs.

That's a lot of winning.

As for her playing days, well, she comes from the greatest program in the history of the sport of women's basketball, coached by one of the two greatest coaches in the history of the sport of women's basketball.

This is not something to be taken lightly.

Berube is a UConn alum. Her four years in Storrs featured a perfect season and an NCAA title, not to mention learning the game from Geno Auriemma.

Obviously, during her press conference, she both brought up, and was asked about, her experiences with Geno. She even joked about how she picked up some of his mannerisms and the possibility of scheduling a game between the two.

More than that, though, she talked about having learned the need to practice hard, to communicate as a team, to get even the best players to see that they can be better and then work to get them there.

She also mentioned how she'd reached out to him immediately about the job at Princeton when it opened, and how her coach had said it was the perfect place for her. When TB caught up with Auriemma after Berube was hired, he said the same exact thing, talking about how the Princeton job was right in line with Berube's values.

Mollie Marcoux Samaan, the Ford Family Director of Athletics, talked about the values of Princeton Athletics during her remarks and also how they overlapped with Berube's background and beliefs. She mentioned the educational commitment of Princeton's teams and the student-athlete experience, how Princeton athletes are pushed to achieve, serve and lead.

She talked about winning and being competitive, and she talked about how successful the women's basketball program has been at Princeton.

When Berube spoke, she pointed to the words "Education Through Athletics" that are painted on the wall of the Chandler Lounge and talked about how she believed they are essential to what she is trying to accomplish. Then she mentioned winning, and how that's something that is the goal of all of her teams.

The ability to combine the two, she said, makes Princeton "such a special place."

The team she inherits is certainly ready to win. The Tigers have Bella Alarie back for her senior year, after two Ivy Player of the Year Awards, three first-team All-Ivy selections and an entire summer of playing internationally. There's also 2019 first-team All-Ivy selection Carlie Littlefield, a deep cast of returning players, a strong incoming freshman class and even the return of Abby Meyers after a year away.

That's all a few months away, of course.

On this day, in mid-June, it was about introducing her to the media and to the Princeton community.

As for the time on the court before she left, maybe she was looking beyond the board, to the banners that hang from the rafters behind it, the banners that let you know that Princeton women's basketball has been extremely successful in recent years.

And now Carla Berube is here, to, in her words "build on that success."

She's certainly made a great first impression. 

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