Monday, July 13, 2020

Happy 90th Coach

Hey, here's some pretty good writing:

Carril has long been the conscience of Princeton basketball (and to a larger extreme, Princeton athletics), and by that he means that Carril was never one to let anyone get away with anything less than full effort, full commitment. He couldn't be conned as head coach, and he cared little about what a person's background was. Nobody had a free pass on his teams.

Not bad, right?

Who was the writer? TigerBlog of course.

TB wrote that almost exactly 10 years ago, on the occasion of Pete Carril's 80th birthday. Now it's 10 years later, and the man known simply as "Coach" to so many people is 10 years older.

Carril's 90th birthday was this past Friday. One of his former players sent TB a picture of Carril, in the player's yard, with a beer can.

What more appropriate way is there for him to have turned 90?

Here is more of what TB wrote 10 years ago:

When Pete Carril turned 40, he was three years into his tenure as Princeton men's basketball coach. His record stood at 55-22, and he had won two Ivy League championships and played in one NCAA tournament.

Among his 22 losses was a one-point defeat, 76-75, at UCLA against one of John Wooden's best teams, a game the Tigers lost when Sidney Wicks hit a jump shot in the final seconds. It would be one of the three most excruciating losses (all by one point) of Carril's Princeton career, along with a game when he was in his 40s (against Rutgers in the 1976 NCAA tournament) and one in his 50s (against Georgetown in the 1989 NCAA tournament).

When Carril turned 10, he was living in Bethlehem, Pa., where his father worked in the steel mills. When he turned 20, he was playing basketball at Lafayette.

By 30, he was a high school teacher and basketball coach at Reading High in Pennsylvania. Gary Walters was between his freshman and sophomore years at Reading at the time, just beginning a relationship with Carril that would see him play for him at Reading, coach with him at Princeton and ultimately become his boss as Director of Athletics at Princeton.

Carril would lead Princeton to the NCAA tournament 11 times, once in his 30s, twice in his 40s and then four times each in his 50s and 60s. When he left Princeton after the 1996 season, he was 65 years old.

At 70 he was still in basketball, working with the Sacramento Kings, an affiliation that continued into his 80s.

Carril is a Princeton University icon, someone who long ago elevated himself beyond just the normal status of even the most successful coach. He was as much a sociologist as a basketball coach, someone with an innate sense of human behavior and an ability to see right through to a person's core in moments.

TB has seen nothing as Coach has turned 90 to make him think that such a statement no longer holds true.

When TB thinks back to all the years he spent around Carril and his teams, he doesn't really think of the basketball pieces as much as the human pieces. It was always fascinating to see him at practice, or on the bus, or in an airport, or after a press event, or walking around some random town before a game - any time he was around a group of people, large or small.

It's those situations that TB will always remember about Carril. The games themselves were big, and he was obviously the head coach for some of the greatest moments in the history of Princeton Athletics.

But during games, he was wincing and squirming as much as anything, since his work was mostly done by gametime. He won his games in those practices, preparing his teams so they were ready for anything and able to handle whatever situation came along, to be able to, in one of his favorite terms, "see it."

He always said that he never wanted to be one of those guys who hung around all the time after he retired, and his years in the NBA kept him away from Jadwin long enough that it's never felt like he was always there. Now when he comes around it's a special moment for everyone, even now, 24 years after that retirement, when there are fewer and fewer people who still work at Princeton who were there for his amazing final week as head coach, with the win over Penn in the 1996 Ivy playoff game to snap an eight-game losing streak to the Quakers and then the 43-41 win over UCLA in the opening round of the NCAA tournament five days later in Indianapolis, for his 514th and final win as Tiger head coach.

When TB wrote about Carril's 80th, he ended it his way:
He's a more mellow person. He's still the conscience of Princeton basketball, but he does so from the perspective of your wise old uncle that you see a few times a year.

And yet, he hasn't slowed a step. He still has the quick wit, the dominating persona, the ability to sniff out the BS immediately.

There has never been anyone to walk into Jadwin Gym quite like Pete Carril. Now that he's 80, there still isn't, and TB suspects it will forever be this way.

He sees no need to change a word of that now, 10 years later.

Happy 90th Coach.

No comments: