Wednesday, March 31, 2021

Butch van Breda Kolff, Head Coach, New Orleans Pride

So did you think that was a foul at the end of the UConn-Baylor game the other night? 

It's very hard to tell. One thing TigerBlog is reasonably sure of is that had that play happened some random time in the first half, it 100 percent would have been called a foul.

Another thing TB is reasonably sure of is that he would not have wanted to have been the official in a spot like that, with a Final Four spot on the line. Ultimately, the call was no foul, and UConn was off to the Final Four for the 13th straight time.

TB hasn't seen any television ratings for that game against the Baylor men's Elite 8 game against Oregon State, which was on at the same time Monday night. He's very interested in seeing which game did better. Even the idea that it might be close shows the meteoric rise in women's college basketball in the last 10-20 years.

TigerBlog is closing in on being done with the first draft of his book on the first 50 years of women's athletics at Princeton. One of the pieces he just finished writing was on the history of Princeton women's basketball players in American professional basketball leagues.

This past year Princeton had two alums in the WNBA, Blake Dietrick of the Atlanta Dream and Bella Alarie of the Dallas Wings. Dietrick was the first Princeton women's player to play in the league.

By the way, TB cannot believe that Niveen Rasheed never got a chance, and he has zero doubt she could have been successful in the league.

Another Princeton great, Sandi Bittler, never had a chance either, mostly because the league didn't exist when she graduated in 1990 as the Tigers' all-time leading scorer, a record she'd hold for 30 years until Alarie bested it.

Bittler did, however, play a large role in the birth of the WNBA. You'll have to read all about it in the women's history book, right? 

Going back to the 1970s, Princeton had two women drafted by the first American women's professional basketball league, which was called, aptly enough, the Women's Professional Basketball League. It lasted for three seasons, from 1978-79 to 1980-81.

The two Princetonians who were drafted were Heidi Nolte and C.B. Tomasiewicz, neither of whom elected to play, since both had better career options after graduation.

When TB went back to research that league, he found out that there were a few Princeton connections.

First, one of the best players in that league was the great Carol Blazejowski, who played at Montclair State. Blazejowski gave Princeton women's basketball all kinds of fits when she played against the Tigers in the 1970s.

Second, there was also a player named Kaye Young. Is that name familiar? Maybe you know here better by her married name, Cowher. Kaye Young married Bill Cowher, and they had three daughters, two of whom would play basketball at Princeton (Meagan and Lauren). Meagan, with 1,671 career points, is third all-time at Princeton, behind Alarie (1,703) and Bittler (1,683). 

Kaye Cowher, by the way, passed away in 2010 tragically young, at the age of 54, after a battle with skin cancer.

The other Princeton connection was one that TB had forgotten. It involved Butch van Breda Kolff, Princeton Class of 1945.

It was van Breda Kolff who coached Princeton to the 1965 NCAA Final Four, after he had played for (and been the captain of) the New York Knicks. After leaving Princeton, he coached the Los Angeles Lakers to the NBA Finals twice, before also coaching the Pistons, Suns and Jazz (when they were still in New Orleans). 

As it turns out, van Breda Kolff also coached the New Orleans Pride of the NWBL. He led the Pride to a 39-28 record over three seasons, in fact. 

His coaching career is fairly unique in that he coached in college, women's pro basketball and high school after coaching in the NCAA Final Four and then the NBA Finals twice. When TB was looking all this up, he found a great quote from van Breda Kolff:

"Coaching is coaching," he once told a reporter. "Give me 10 players who want to work and learn the game and I'm happy. I don't count the house."

That's pretty good stuff. 

Tuesday, March 30, 2021

Working Overtime

For all of the NCAA basketball that was on this past weekend, the most intriguing college postseason game was the men's hockey NCAA quarterfinal between Minnesota-Duluth and North Dakota Saturday night.

Or should that be Saturday night/Sunday morning.

Minnesota-Duluth led 2-0 before UND tied it with two late goals, forcing overtime. TigerBlog figured that overtime playoff hockey is pretty exciting, and so he decided to switch over from basketball to check it out.

It wasn't too long before Minnesota-Duluth scored, even if it was, to borrow a soccer expression, very much against the run of play. Or should that be the skate of play? Either way, North Dakota was in control and almost scored two or thee times before Minnesota-Duluth countered.

With no real rooting interest in the game, TB was happy he'd gotten to see the overtime. That was that, he figured.

When he woke up Sunday morning, though, he saw a tweet from his friend and colleague at Penn Mike Mahoney in which he offered apologies to the two teams but that he just couldn't watch any longer. What the heck?

That's when TB looked a little closer and saw that the goal he saw had been disallowed by an offsides call. Instead of game over, it was instead play on - and on and on and on and on. In fact, it went all the way into the fifth overtime before Minnesota-Duluth once again scored.

It was the longest game in NCAA tournament history, going 142:13. Should there have been a shootout instead at some point? Nooooooooo. If anything, maybe take players off the ice, like the NHL does.

The game featured three goalies who combined to make 114 saves. North Dakota's Adam Scheel made 51 saves, while Duluth starter Zach Stejskal made 57 before having to come out of the game due to an injury in the fourth overtime. 

In his place came Ryan Fanti, who made six saves of his own. How would you like to have been Fanti? You sit there for more than the equivalent of two full games and then have to jump in cold with all of that pressure on? 

When overtime begins, the adrenaline flows for everyone, as both teams are determined to end it quickly. That's what Princeton has done recently on some of its biggest postseason hockey goals.

The women won the 2020 ECAC championship game on an overtime goal by Mariah Keoppeless than a minute in against Cornell. The men won the 2018 ECAC championship game on Max Becker's goal 2:37 in against Clarkson.

That's the other thing about overtime. The game-winning goal stays with you forever. Just ask Keoppel and Becker.

There's an excitement about overtime in sports played where the next goal wins (such as soccer, lacrosse and hockey) and the knowledge that any one misstep can be the difference between a win and a loss in a game in which two teams have proven themselves to be even to that point. In the regular season in a sport like lacrosse, NCAA tournament bids often are decided by such moments, and there is no category in selections for a near-miss.

It's even more excruciating in the postseason. The difference between the teams in the game and the difference between the outcomes for winning (advancing on in the tournament or even winning the championship) and losing (it's just over) are extreme. 

TB has seen Princeton teams on both sides of that equation.

Princeton has won, for instance, nine NCAA lacrosse championships between the men and the women, and of those nine, more than half - five - have been won in overtime. 

On the flip side, TB has been there when Princeton has lost NCAA lacrosse games in overtime. Those are just gut-wrenching. One second there is nothing but hope. The next second it's gone.

The reactions of the teams that lose such games are often the same. They either slump to the ground in disbelief and sadness, or they look around as if there is some other card left to play, some way to change the outcome.

In the case of the hockey game Saturday (and Sunday), that actually happened on the first overtime goal. The offsides call did change the outcome, though not in the way North Dakota would have wanted. No, instead it just prolonged it, and ultimately changed it from an exciting NCAA tournament game to one that made history.

Monday, March 29, 2021

Congratulations Julia

If an inch is 2.54 centimeters, then 15 centimeters is just short of six inches, or less than half a foot.

Why is that important?

TigerBlog will get to that in a moment. 

Meanwhile, of all of the great stats that TigerBlog has stumbled across in all of his years at Princeton, there is one that eclipses them all.

It's the stat of stats, as it were.

It's not even Bill Bradley related, if you can believe that. Of all the amazing Bill Bradley stats, by the way, the most amazing is that his career LOW was 15. Talk about never having an off night.

Even beyond that, Bradley played 83 games in his Princeton career. In how many of those games did he score fewer than 20? 

How about four times? He had that 15 point game (against Harvard in 1963), an 18-point game against Penn in 1964 and then a pair of 19-point games (against Dartmouth and Penn) in 1965. 

In the other game against those teams those seasons, Bradley averaged 33.3.

Anyway, to outdo Bradley in Princeton history is not easy. And yet, for TB's money, Julia Ratcliffe did just that.

In her Princeton career, Julia Ratcliffe threw the hammer 134 times. She holds the 134 best throws in Ivy League history.

Think about that. Every single one of her throws, even her worst, was still better than any other throw in Ivy history.

That's incredible.

Ratcliffe won the NCAA championship - Princeton's only women's NCAA individual track and field champion - in the hammer throw in 2014 as a sophomore and was the runner-up the following year. She took 2016 off to train for the Olympics, and she came back in 2017 to be a first-team All-American again.

She came really, really close to qualifying for the 2016 Olympics. A native of New Zealand, she won her country's Olympic Trials - but she was a few centimeters short of the Olympic standard of 72.50 meters (her Princeton record is 70.28 meters). The aforementioned 15 centimeters, to be exact.

That was rough.

To qualify for the upcoming Tokyo Olympics, Ratcliffe needed to better that same 72.50 meters, something she'd never yet done in her career. She finally broke through Friday at the New Zealand championships. 

In fact she threw 73.40 in her first throw of the event, which put her on the plane for Japan. That throw was more than a meter better than her previous personal best.

It also wasn't her best throw of the competition. With the Olympic standard done, Ratcliffe then set the Oceania record with a throw of 73.55.

It was quite a performance for Ratcliffe, who won the New Zealand championship for the sixth time. 

Ratcliffe started out as a field hockey player in New Zealand. Her first event in track and field was actually the hurdles, an event she says she was good at until "the sprinters learned how to hurdle and it came crashing down."

When she was 12, her father Dave (a high school PE teacher and track and field coach) bought her a hammer. He's been her coach since. 

She arrived at Princeton for her freshman year having never seen the campus in person before. She thought Dillon Gym was a castle. 

She had a great career at Princeton, winning every academic honor there was in addition to her dominance in her event, which included four outdoor Heps titles.  

And now she'll be representing Princeton in the Olympic Games. She'll be the fourth Princeton woman to compete in the Olympics in track and field, following Lynn Jennings (three-time Olympian and 1992 bronze medalist in the 10,000), Deborah Saint-Phard (shot putter) and Katie McCandless (5,000 meters).

When TB spoke to Ratcliffe before the New Zealand championships, she was looking forward to her chance at the New Zealand meet to reach 72.50. She had to have 72.35 floating around in her head somewhere, probably for the last nearly five years now.

Fortunately, she no longer has to worry about that. 

Even if she gave up on the event years ago, she managed to get over her toughest hurdle - and did so in style.

Friday, March 26, 2021

Kelsey And Sabrina

It's too bad you weren't on the Office of Athletic Communications Zoom meeting yesterday morning.

TigerBlog's colleague Elliott Carr was in the middle of speaking when a dog appeared and then settled in on the couch next to Elliott. The entire time, Elliott never gave any indication that he was aware that a dog was next to him.

It was only after he (Elliott, not the dog) finished making his point that he put his arm around the dog. 

Then, a few minutes later, Elliott began to speak again. This time, the dog picked his head up and turned around, putting his face a few inches away from Elliott's. He seemed to be hanging on every word. When Elliott finished, the dog put his head back down.

It was a very cute scene.

Would you rather have a dog or a cat? Dogs are tougher to take care of, whereas cats are very low maintenance. On the other hand, you're not going to find too many cats who had the same reaction as Elliott's dog did.

Speaking of dogs, Kelsey Koelzer's dog almost made an appearance on the latest edition of "The First 50" podcast, the series in which TigerBlog and Mollie Marcoux Samaan have been interviewing women from all different eras at Princeton to talk about their experiences and the ways that being an athlete at Princeton impacted them first as college students and then as they went down the paths of their lives and careers.

Koelzer, of course, is one of the greatest women's hockey players Princeton has ever known. She was the first Princeton woman to be named a first-team All-American, and he list of individual achievements is enormously long, including being the 2016 ECAC Defenseman of the Year, the Ivy League Player of the Year and a three-time All-ECAC and three-time All-Ivy League selection.

Her accomplishments in the hockey world have not ended with her graduation from Princeton in 2017. 

She has been a professional player, and it was just announced that she will become the National Women's Hockey League's advisor to the commissioner on Diversity and Inclusion.

Koelzer is also in the process of starting the women's program at Arcadia University, located outside of Philadelphia. Extra credit given if you knew that Arcadia is the Knights.

The program wasn't set to begin until next year even before the COVID pandemic, so Koelzer has had a chance to ease into putting a team on the ice. When she does coach her first game, she will become the first black head coach in NCAA hockey history.

Koelzer was joined on the podcast by Sabrina King, the head women's volleyball coach. King is the only Princeton female athlete who has ever been the Ivy League Player of the Year and Coach of the Year as a Tiger.

For the record, King has been a part of nine Ivy League championship teams - three as a player, two as an assistant coach and four more as the head coach.

One of the best parts of the podcast series has to see the way it pairs two women who may or may not have ever met and then to see what the common themes are when it comes to their experiences. Koelzer and King have amazingly different perspectives, as Koelzer is from a non-hockey hotbed (Horsham, Pa.) and King is from the hotbed of all volleyball hotbeds, Southern Califorinia.

They both learned a great deal from their Princeton coaches, Glenn Nelson in the case of King (who also coached under Nelson) and Jeff Kampersal and Cara Morey for Koelzer. Now that both of them are head coaches themselves, it was interesting to hear them talk about those topics. 

Another crazy thing about all of these podcasts is that it's TB's job to keep Marcoux Samaan updated on the time, which he does through the chat. He doesn't really pay that much attention to the clock in the beginning, and then when he does check, he's shocked to see that it's been 15 or 20 minutes or even more. 

When he and Marcoux Samaan were taping the podcast with King and Koelzer, TB even wrote in the chat that time was just flying by. That's been another common theme of the podcast series. 

Anyway, Koelzer and King were excellent on the podcast. It's well worth the time to listen.

You can listen to the podcast HERE.

Thursday, March 25, 2021

Tomasiewicz And Tomasiewicz

TigerBlog mentioned yesterday that Bella Alarie is Princeton's career leader in points in women's basketball, with 1,703. 

This was in conjunction with Alarie's appearance in the Euroleague women's basketball semifinals next month with her Spanish team Perfumerias Avenida.

And while the subject is the greatest of the greatest in Princeton women's basketball history, here's a question for you:

Do you know who holds the career record for points per game in women's basketball?

Hint - that record has stood for 42 years now.

The answer is C.B. Tomasiewicz (who has been C.B. Nogay for 40 of those years; the "C.B." stands for "Claire Beth"). During her four years at Princeton, Tomasiewicz averaged 17.1 points per game, or 0.1 points per game more than Sandi Bittler Leland's 17.0. Actually, to be exact, it 0.07 points per game more than Bittler.

When Tomasiewicz graduated in 1979, she held the career record with 1,622 points. Bittler broke that record in 1990, and her 1,683 points were the record until Alarie's final weekend as a Princeton player. 

Tomasiewicz played 95 games at Princeton. Alarie played 106. With 11 more games at 17.1 per game, Tomasiewicz would have scored 1,812.

Of course, it's not quite apples to apples. The game has changed a lot through the years in women's basketball. Plus, Alarie had many nights where she didn't see the final eight to 10 minutes or so since her team was so far ahead.

Tomasiewicz averaged 17.1, followed by Bittler at 17.0. Next up is Niveen Rasheed at 16.3 and Alarie at 16.1. That would four-fifths of an amazing starting five.

As for Tomasiewicz, she played before the three-point shot, which makes her numbers even more impressive.

She is also one of the more interesting women who have competed at Princeton in the first 50 years. She was a professional athlete before she ever played for Princeton - in softball, of all sports. 

TB is pretty sure that whatever compliance issues there were related to that have either long since been resolved. C.B. did mention that she had to give up playing professional softball in order to be able to play basketball at Princeton. 

She could have been a two-sport professional athlete had she decided to play in the early women's professional basketball league, into which she and her Princeton teammate Heidi Nolte were drafted. They both turned that chance down to start their careers (Tomasiewicz was an engineering major at Princeton). 

Today, all these years later, Tomasiewicz is a grandmother who has a dog named Eli Manning Jr., which tips you off as to who her favorite team and athlete might be. She also has been a longtime competitor in equestrian jumping. 

Tomasiewicz's sister Ellen was also a great Princeton player. In fact, the Tomasiewicz sisters are the only two sisters who have both scored 1,000 points at Princeton (Ellen finished with 1,275).

They were also both first-team All-Ivy League selections twice. Ellen was a four-time All-Ivy honoree (first-team twice, second-team twice). C.B. would have been, but the first time there was an All-Ivy team for women was in 1978, C.B.'s junior year (Ellen graduated in 1982, meaning they were teammates for one season, 1978-79). 

C.B. was one of three Princeton women who were first-team All-Ivy League in 1977-78. The other two were Jackie Jackson and Margaret Meier, who were also 1,000-point scorers in their careers.

There have only been two other times when Princeton would have three first-team All-Ivy League selections in women's basketball in the same season. After that first time in 1978, it would take 33 more years until it happened again, when Devona Allgood, Lauren Edwards and Addie Micir were honored.  

The 2014-15 team, which went 31-1 and defeated Wisconsin Green Bay in the opening round of the NCAA tournament, had Blake Dietrick, Annie Tarakchian and Alex Wheatley all earn first-team All-Ivy.

Wednesday, March 24, 2021

It's #BellaBuckets

Okay, all you Syracuse fans out there, slow down with the "Buddy Buckets" stuff.

Or at least pay the royalty fee due to TigerBlog's colleague Warren Croxton on this one.

After all, there's only one original who has the word "buckets" as part of an alliterative hashtag. As any Princeton fan knows, that would be #BellaBuckets, as in Bella Alarie, the all-time leading scorer in Princeton women's basketball history. 

As for #buddybuckets, that would be a reference to Buddy Boeheim, the son of the longtime Syracuse men's basketball coach Jim Boeheim. Buddy has been on fire of late, averaging better than 26 points per game in his last six, all of which the Cuse needed to keep extending its season.

As a result, Syracuse - the 11th seed in the Midwest - finds itself in the Sweet 16, where it will take on second-seeded Houston Saturday in the late game (9:55 tip). The winner of that game will take on the winner of the game at 2:40 Saturday between eighth-seeded Loyola (Illinois) and 12th-seeded Oregon State.

While the subject is the NCAA tournament, do you like the Friday-Monday first two rounds, or do you prefer Thursday to Sunday? The Sweet 16, by the way, starts on Saturday this year, as opposed to its usual Thursday.

Boehim (the coach) has been in charge of the Orange since 1976-77. If you're wondering, he's 5-0 all-time against Princeton, which makes TB wonder how many coaches ever have played Princeton at least five times and never lost.  

And for all of those games, none was the most excruciating loss involving Princeton and Syracuse. That would be the game in the 1991 NCAA tournament against Villanova, which was played in the Carrier Dome. It's in the very, very small group of the toughest losses for a Princeton team that TB has witnessed.

Boeheim (the player) has been on an epic run of course. His most clutch performance was against West Virginia in the second round Sunday, when he turned a 1-for-6 first half in which he scored three points into a 22-point second-half explosion, finishing with 25 on 8 for 17 shooting, 6 for 13 from three.

That's a big-time performance. And it's great that he did it while playing for his dad.

By the way, it's weird to have a tournament where a school like Syracuse can be a Cinderella. For that matter, when TB watched Gonzaga-Oklahoma, it was weird to get the sense that Oklahoma was the "little" school that was trying to take down the "giant."

Meanwhile, TigerBlog read a story by his old friend Donna Ditota - a longtime lacrosse writer and former St. Bonaventure women's basketball player - on that included this sentence:

Buddy Buckets, as the national TV people like to call him, keeps trending, keeps pulling along his teammates on a wild late-season ride.

That's when he said "slow down here."

As Bella Alarie began to dominate Ivy League women's basketball, TB's colleague Warren Croxton, the women's basketball contact, began to use the hashtag #BellaBuckets. It was a perfect nickname for her. 

Alarie, of course, set the record for career points at Princeton in women's basketball with 1,703 and was a three-time Ivy League Player of the Year. She became the fifth overall pick in the WNBA draft a year ago and played for the Dallas Wings in the league's bubble season. 

Before her second WNBA season begins, Alarie has been playing overseas. She had a big moment last week:

Bella is No. 31 in the celebration.

Alarie is the lone American on the team, which is based in Spain. She had previously played in Turkey this season. The semifinals and finals for the Euroleague aren't until next month.

This summer it'll be back to the WNBA for Bella Alarie. And she can take her hashtag with her as well.

After all, and with all due respect to Buddy Boeheim's big March, she's the original.

Tuesday, March 23, 2021

A Plus

TigerBlog long ago lost track of the number of times he drove up I-95 on a Friday afternoon on his way to one Ivy League school or another.

He flashed back to one specific time this past Saturday morning, when he turned on the TV and saw the FA Cup game between Bournemouth and Southampton was on.

It took him back to either the mid-1990s or the early 2000s, because his longtime friend and long-ago colleague David Rosenfeld was with him. This means that either David was the men's basketball contact and TB was going to do the radio, which would have made it 2003-08 or so, or that it was in the mid-’90s, when David was an intern, and in that case they would have been going up on a fall Friday for football, soccer and field hockey.

Either way, the part he definitely remembers is that they were listening to the "Mike and the Mad Dog Show" on WFAN radio. If you weren't from the New York area and never heard them, or if you heard Mike Francesa when he was on by himself, then you missed out on what is one of the two best sports talk duos TB has ever heard, along with the "PTI" combination of Michael Wilbon and Tony Kornheiser.

Anyway, somehow the subject of the FA Cup came up, only the Mad Dog didn't quite call it by its correct name. No, he added an extra "A" to the end of it, creating instead the "FAA" Cup. TB hasn't been able to see the tournament named since where he hasn't thought of the Federal Aviation Administration, as opposed to the Football Association.

The FA Cup, by the way, is a pretty cool event. It takes every team from all of the pro leagues in England, from the Premier League down, and has a fairly random single-elimination tournament. 

The FAA Cup, presumably, is related to landing planes on time.

If you missed it, Southampton won 3-0. As with all English soccer games, the announcers were great, including this line at one point after a weak shot went wide: "He was going for precision over power and got neither."

That's genius. With an English accent, of course. 

It's certainly better than "Today's keys to the game, for Bournemouth, score more goals than Southampton and for Southampton, score more goals than Bournemouth."

TB texted David to ask him if he remembered the "FAA Cup" moment. His response was: "Christopher Russo FAA Cup?" 


The night before, David had reached out to TB to tell him that "Sadak is great on the radio."

That would be John Sadak, the former Princeton men's and women's basketball announcer who will soon be starting his first season as the TV play-by-play man for the Cincinnati Reds. Sadak was also doing the opening rounds of the NCAA men's tournament for Westwood One radio, and he has done the women's Final Four for Westwood One for years.

There has been a great Princeton play-by-play connection to the basketball postseason.

In addition to Sadak, who as David said is great on the radio, there was Tom McCarthy on CBS, first doing the game that went to overtime between North Texas and Purdue. TB was rooting for Purdue, who lost, but hey it was great to see Tom do the NCAA tournament on CBS.

And to do it from Indianapolis as well. The last time McCarthy did the NCAA tournament in Indianapolis was with Princeton in 1996, but hey, you probably read out that here the last two weeks.

Also, if you wanted to watch NIT games on ESPN, you could hear the current Princeton men's basketball announcer, Derek Jones. 

If you need a laugh, you can see this picture of Jones and Sadak back when they were doing radio at Rowan (the same university that gave you Cody Chrusciel).

It's great to see these three doing so well, and it couldn't happen to three better guys. As always, TB finds himself rooting for the announcers.

Much like the extra "A" that the Mad Dog gave to the soccer tournament, TB gives these three an A-plus as well.

Monday, March 22, 2021

C'mon Now

As TigerBlog saw the end of games like Abilene Christian-Texas or Oral Roberts-Ohio State or Ohio-Virginia in the NCAA men's basketball tournament, he had one thought:

He's looking forward to seeing the videos the winning schools put together for their own 25th anniversary celebrations will look like.

Okay, maybe it wasn't his only thought. Still, he did think about it, after the way his colleague Cody Chrusciel recently put together the three-part series "10 Days In March" about Princeton's own NCAA tournament win over UCLA 25 years ago.

Sometimes spending three decades in college athletic communications impacts your world view, right?

Even more than just making a video in 25 years, how will it be shared with the public? Back when Princeton beat UCLA, there was no social media and very little internet. Most people didn't like the internet because of how long it took to load pages or even connect through dial-up, and nobody but nobody thought it was even remotely safe or smart to buy something online (what, put your credit card number out there?).

Cody cut his video in three parts, none more than 10 minutes long, to fit on Twitter. What will all this be like in 2046, when the 2021 versions of "10 Days In March" get produced?

There is nobody who has any idea at all. It would be cool to know, just like it would be cool to go back 25 years and explain the future to the people then and have them give you quizzical looks.

There might not be flying cars yet, like TB was promised there would be in the 21st century back when he was a kid, but hey, the world certainly does not look like remotely like it did back then.

Even on the most simplistic level, TigerBlog's job as the men's basketball contact back in 1996 during that UCLA game would have been completely different had there been anything resembling the technologies that exist these days. If nothing else, TB would not have been sitting there just watching the game and feeding notes to the CBS announcers.

As TB has been saying, it's a completely different world in 2021.

Or is it?

If you watched the NCAA men's tournament this weekend, you probably enjoyed the games, especially the double digit seeds and small schools that scored major upsets. Hey, that's what the tournament is all about.

And as you know, as TB always says, the tournament is unique in that it gets less exciting with each successive round, largely because of the absence of games like that and because there are just fewer and fewer games at all. 

So TB hopes you enjoyed the first round, which is the best part and as good a two-days as there are in the American sporting calendar.

Having said that, it was hard not to do a little (actually a lot) of head-shaking at this year's men's basketball tournament. Why? Because of the stories that came out about the differences in treatment that the men's tournament was supposed to get versus the women's tournament.

What the heck?

The men's players received much nicer tournament gifts. Okay. Were that it, then it might not be as big a deal.

There were also major discrepancies in the strength and conditioning equipment that were provided for the men and the women, something that was exposed by Oregon women's player Sedona Prince, in a social media video that had more than five million views.

Prince's video sparked an outrage and a backlash, and the NCAA tried to make amends over the weekend. By then, the statement had been made, whether intentionally or not: The women's tournament was not as big a deal as the men's tournament.

Of course, Prince's video and the subsequent social media postings of others were followed by hundreds of comments that said something along the lines of "hey, when the girls bring in the same money, they can get the same stuff." That's such insulting thinking, but worse, it also misses the main point.

Should Alabama men's basketball get less than Alabama football because Alabama football brings in more money? Is money generated the only critieria? 

How about the law? How about Title IX, which says it's not legal to discriminate based on sex for educational institutions that receive federal aid (which is all of them). 

Or how about just common sense? Was there nobody at the NCAA who saw this and thought "what are we doing here?" 

TigerBlog won't pretend to know all of the meetings that went into planning these two bubble tournaments (not easy in the first place to do). He won't pretend to know how it works at the NCAA.

He will hope that nobody at the NCAA saw both weightrooms and said "yeah, that's fine." He would really hope that isn't the case, and he knows for a 100 percent certainty that would never happen at Princeton.

The NCAA was rightly called out for what happened, by prominent women's coaches and the media, not to mention on social media. TB didn't see any Power 5 men's coaches who called out the NCAA, so he apologizes if they did and he just didn't see it.

It's 2021 people. It shouldn't have come to this in the first place. 

It doesn't matter how much money either tournament generates. 

What matters is providing equitable opportunities.

Friday, March 19, 2021

The Great Vietta

This is the final day of winter.

This winter featured a lot of snow but then again not a lot of freezing weather. Which would you prefer? 

It never really dipped into the frigid temperature range. There were four or five major snowfalls though. 

Hmmm. TigerBlog thinks he'd take the snow without the crazy cold. 

Spring officially arrives tomorrow at 5:37 am, at least according to the Farmers Almanac. Pretty soon it will be April, and hopefully March will go out like a lamb - which hopefully means no more snow shoveling.

The spring is a great time. The weather improves. People spend more time outside. Summer isn't that far away. 

And, of course, the days are getting longer.

This past weekend saw the clocks turned ahead (spring ahead, fall back), which means it isn't getting dark out until around 7:30 these days. 

In addition to more daylight, this is a big thing for TigerBlog Jr., who never "fell back" with the clock in his car. After all these months, he finally has the right time when he gets behind the wheel.

TigerBlog has said that his book on women's athletic history will be done in the spring, and the writing part will be, actually will be prior to the end of the month. The editing part has already begun and though there is a long way to go, there is a light at the end of the tunnel with actual books in the near future.

The editing process can be overwhelming. For instance, if you want to write about what someone is doing in 2021, how do you word that? Is it "today?" Is it "in 2021," which is sort of bulky? Is it "when women's athletics turned 50?" This is actually a bigger deal than you'd think, since there will be many readers who read this book (hopefully) in years to come, so time frames aren't always as clear.

And what about maiden names versus married names. Take the great C.B. Tomasiewicz of the women's basketball team. She's been C.B. Nogay for more than 40 years now.

TigerBlog is working on the introduction for the book. How's this for starters: 

This story begins with an apology to all of the great women who have competed at Princeton who are not featured in the book. There were just too many great stories to be able to tell them all.

How's that?

It's the one thing that TB is really not happy about as it relates to the book project. There are just too many great stories out there, and he has to leave many of them out.

He's tried his best to include as many as possible. As he gets closer and closer to being finished, the more he's aware of the ones he hasn't been able to interview and write about.

He could almost delete everything he's written to date and start over and come up with an entirely new book. If anything it speaks to just how great the history of women's athletics at Princeton has been. 

The third Thursday of each month means another excerpt from the book. The one yesterday was on Vietta Johnson, a member of the Class of 1982 and a sprinter and hurdler on the women's track and field team.

You can read it HERE.

Vietta Johnson grew up in Brooklyn, just down the street from the Fort Greene housing projects. She tested into Stuyvesant High School in Manhattan, and then she went from there to Princeton and then to Harvard Medical School. 

Today she's an orthopedic surgeon (see, TB can say "today" there, because you're reading this today. But if you come back in 20 or 30 years or so and she's retired, then what?). She works in Chicago, and she has spent much of her career working in underserved communities.

As stunning as it is to consider this, she was just the 10th black woman to be an orthopedic surgeon in this country. And that wasn't way, way back when. That was in the late 1980s.

Her story is a great one. The force of her personality is obvious. 

She is a very special alum of the University and one of Princeton's most impressive former athletes.

Thursday, March 18, 2021

The 1981 Team Photo

So here's the 1981 Princeton women's lacrosse team.

Anything from that photo stand out? 

Don't worry. TigerBlog missed it too the first time around.

What he did see was that the picture was taken at what he thought was Yale Bowl. It clearly wasn't taken at Princeton, not with the blue background and all.

One of the players in the picture says that it was taken at the soccer/lacrosse field at Yale, which is now known as Reece Stadium. TB will take her world for that.

So what else do you see? TB sees a lot of smiles in that picture. 

If he's learned anything in his year of writing the history of women's athletics at Princeton, it's that there was a sheer joy to competing for the Tigers in the 1970s and 1980s. This isn't to say that the athletes since didn't have that same joy, of course. They certainly have.

It's just that when it was still something new for women to be at Princeton, let alone play sports at Princeton, there was that joy mixed with that pioneering spirit. That's something that was as common theme in the 1970s and extended into the 1980s, when it wasn't quite as new but was still something that was just starting to make its own history.

Certainly that's what each of the women TB has spoken to from those years has said about her own experience. They didn't have a blueprint to follow, so they made it up as they went along.

There were a ton of multisport athletes in those days, way more than there are now. That was truest of field hockey and lacrosse, but there were so many other combinations as well.

More than anything else, what TB has learned is that you could pick any random Princeton women's team photo from any sport and find any number of great stories.

The 1981 women's lacrosse team is no different. 

Consider in that photo alone, you have:

* Head coach Betty Logan was born in London during World War II, and her family sent her to Scotland to escape. When the war ended, no family member ever came to get her, and she never would learn what happened to them.

* Martha Russo (17) was on the verge of becoming an Olympic field hockey player when a knee injury ended her competitive athletic career; today she is an accomplished sculptor.

* Natalie Bocock (6) and Sue Kohler (goalie) were both von Kienbusch Award winners.

* Wiz Lippincott (3) is the mother of NFL quarterback Josh Rosen.

* Debbie Emery (10) is the mother of lightweight rower Alex Morss (Class of 2013).

And then there's No. 15.

That would be Tina Schmucki. She came to Princeton from Kent Place School in North Jersey, and today she is a Senior VP with Bank of America in Los Angeles.

She is part of a big Princeton family, beginning with her father George, a member of the Class of 1941 who went on to earn a Bronze Star in World War II as a Major who worked in Army Intelligence under General Omar Bradley. 

Her sister Lisa (Class of 1974) and brother Ross (Class of 1977) are Princeton grads, as is her husband Francois Mitelberg (Class of 1975, a rugby player) and one niece, Eleanor Oakes, Class of 2007.

What stands out about Tina in the 1981 team photo? It's what TB missed the first time.

She's wearing a gardening glove.

You may wonder why that is. TB certainly was. 

Here's what it turns out the glove is all about:

"Yale's top offensive player was Tracy Ball, and she was always in my sights in the defensive point position. I needed some protection for the hand checking throughout the game and found some gardening gloves in a hardware store on Harrison Street that had rubber grips on the palms. I was looking for a pair in orange and black, but the only option was green with white polka dots. They served me well throughout the 1981 season, but I was most proud of my teammates' success as All-Ivy League players."

That's pretty good stuff. 

For the record, the 1981 team produced seven All-Ivy League players: Lippincott, Kohler and Barb Russell were first-team, Bocock was second-team and Russo, Lisa Brown and Kathy Mahoney were honorable mention (Harvard had a first-team selection that year named Chris Sailer).

And the 1981 team also produced a lifetime of friendships. 

Maybe the garden gloves aren't so clear when first glancing at the team photo, but that part certainly is.

Wednesday, March 17, 2021


Hey, did TigerBlog mention that last week was the 25th anniversary of the men's basketball team's 1996 postseason run?

He did, right? 

Just kidding. He knows. 

He has very much enjoyed the journey back 25 years. Maybe the best part was hearing from so many different people with their memories of those days, even with little things that TB had forgotten and which still made him laugh when reminded of them.

Everyone he spoke with had a different story to tell, a different anecdote, a different small detail that still resonated. 

TB ran through a few of the top events in Princeton Athletics history yesterday. Where that week in 1996 falls on that list notwithstanding, he can say that in his entire time here, he's never had a week quite like that one. 

Also, when TB was interviewed by Cody Chrusciel for his video series, TB mentioned that Pete Carril's sheer happiness after the playoff win over Penn was only rivaled one time that TB has seen here, and that was in 2001, when Bill Tierney collapsed in joy to the Rutgers Stadium grass after winning an NCAA title (his sixth at Princeton before the one he's won at Denver) with his sons Trevor and Brendan on the team. 

Anyway, that's enough of that.  

And so today, he leaves 1996 behind and ventures back to the present. Or at least to last week.

As he does so, he'll stay with men's basketball for another day.

Specifically, there was the performance last week of Devin Cannady, who was named the MVP of the G-League finals as his Lakeland Magic team won the championship. Cannady became the first undrafted player ever to win the award.

The entire G-League season was played in the Orlando bubble where the NBA played in its resumption last summer. The championship game saw Lakeland beat the Delaware Blue Coats 97-78. Cannady finished with a game-high 22 points on 9-for-17 shooting from the field and 4-for-9 shooting from three along with six rebounds and four assists.

It was a great moment for Cannady, who spent the preseason with the Orlando Magic and who now has had back-to-back strong seasons in the G-League.

Does Cannady have an NBA future?

TigerBlog would like to think so. In the world of today's NBA, Cannady can do the single most important thing that is needed - he can shoot the three (from well beyond the line, by the way). 

Cannady's long-range shooting ability is coupled with a tirelessness that gets him out in transition and makes him a perfect part of a modern-day NBA fast break. He is also very good at chasing down long rebounds and starting the other way. He's also one of the best free throw shooters in any league anywhere, which means that you love having the ball in his hands at the end of a close game in which your team is ahead.

Will he get a chance? TB hopes so.

Regardless, Cannady has done so much to turn the negative of his well-known incident during his senior season at Princeton in 2019 into the positives that have followed. He has been open about the issues that he faced, directly addressed those issues, came back to graduate from Princeton and now stands as close as he's ever been to reaching the top of his sport.

Even without the end of his senior year, Cannady still ranks fifth in Princeton history with 1,515 career points, and his 268 career three-pointers are third at Princeton.

He was a Jadwin Gym favorite because of his skill and his persona, which resonated joy at all times.

It made Princeton fans happy to see how he's turned his life around and how well he's doing now. He certainly looked the part of an NBA player in the game last week. 

And he did so with that same obvious joy that was so much a part of his game at Princeton.

The most recent Princeton player to play in the NBA was Steve Goodrich, a member of the great Class of 1998 that included current head coach Mitch Henderson.

TB is hoping Cannady is the next. It would be a great ending to his story. 

For now he has the G-League finals MVP and championship trophies. It wasn't a bad week at all.

Tuesday, March 16, 2021

Ten Days In March

So what's the TigerBlog record for most consecutive days on the same subject?

This might be it, another day on the 25th anniversary of the men's basketball team's run through the 1996 postseason, beginning with the win over Penn in the Ivy League playoff game and then through the win over UCLA five days later.

TigerBlog might have been done with it yesterday were it not for the three-part video series his colleague Cody Chrusciel put together in conjunction with the anniversary.

It's a great series. 

Cody tracked down interviews with some of the key people involved - including current head coach Mitch Henderson, Sydney Johnson, Gabe Lewullis, Joe Scott, Gary Walters. Even TB was interviewed (it actually dawned on TB that of all the people who were part of the team that year, he's the only one who has been at Princeton ever since).

That notwithstanding, hopefully you got a chance to see it. 

If not, take a little time and watch. It's definitely worth it:

That's Part 1. 

Here's Part 2:


And here's Part 3 (you can binge watch it):

See? TB told you it was great. It was certainly fun for TB to watch and to hear what the others had to say.

One thing TB mentions in the video was that pretty much everyone thought Princeton would beat Mississippi State in the second round. Instead, the final was 63-41 Bulldogs in what was Carril's final game.

When TB says "everyone," he means the media people he was talking to the day in between UCLA and Mississippi State. It was that same day when TB saw Mississippi State's Erick Dampier walking into the interview room. It was sort of like when Roy Scheider first saw the shark and said "we're going to need a bigger boat."

TB has heard from quite a few people about the anniversary. One question he was asked actually stands out more than any other: Was this the greatest moment in Princeton Athletics history? 

The answer is: It's up to you to decide.

It's certainly way up there. 

Does it beat the 1965 trip to the Final Four? Does it beat NCAA championships in lacrosse and field hockey, things that are rarities in the Ivy League?

Does it beat the 1922 football team? Hobey Baker? The Heisman Trophy for Dick Kazmaier? The 1973 women's swimming and diving team that finished third nationally with just six competitors? 

That's part of the beauty of Princeton. There's no shortage of great moments to choose from, and you'll get no consensus on what the greatest of those moments is.

Anyway, the 1996 men's basketball postseason was an amazing time, and TB loves the video that Cody did. 

There was a sad moment to it, though. It came at the end, when there was notation that said "in memory of Kevin Gillett, 1976-2021."

Gillett was a member of the men's basketball team and part of the team that beat Penn and UCLA in 1996. He was the tallest member of the team, at just around seven-feet tall. 

He was a very nice kid, one who loved being a part of the program. He never had anything but a smile on his face, and he always seemed happy.

TB found Gillett's obituary. You can read more about him HERE.

He left behind a wife and two children. TB was so sorry to hear about his passing, and he sends his deepest condolences to his family, friends and former teammates.

Monday, March 15, 2021

The Imperfect Game

The anniversary of Princeton's historic win over UCLA in the 1996 NCAA tournament was yesterday. 

In a perfect world, as TigerBlog said last week, the anniversary would have fallen on a weekday, so he could have written about it on the actual day it happened.

Oh well. 

Today will see the debut of a three-part video series on the 1996 men's basketball run that TB began to chronicle last week. If you think TB has spent too much time on this, you have to understand just how historically significant that week was.

It did all sorts of things.

It wedged Princeton, and Gabe Lewullis, indelibly into the history of March Madness. It gave Princeton an NCAA tournament win after the four near-misses of the late ’80s and early ’90s.

And, perhaps most importantly, it was that win over UCLA, which only happened after the win over Penn in the playoff game, that secured Pete Carril's place in the Hall of Fame. It's easy to think of Carril as a Hall-of-Famer, which he certainly is and earned. 

What's easy to forget is that it might not have happened had Princeton not won that UCLA game in his final season. That win started a "Carril to the Hall of Fame" groundswell that didn't previously exist prior to that.

Two years later, Carril was in. 

Also, in the long history of Princeton Athletics, that stretch by the men's basketball team has a very unique place as one of the great moments any Princeton team has achieved. 

TB hasn't seen the final version yet of the video series that is being produced by his colleague Cody Chrusciel. He does know that Cody has gotten some pretty good interviews (including, you know, TB), and he's very excited to see it when it comes out.

As far as the UCLA game itself, there's not a lot that happened there that you don't already know. 

The myth is that Princeton played a perfect game. That was hardly the case. 

Princeton, in fact, shot just 37 percent from the field for the game and 29.6 percent from three-point range. The Tigers were outrebounded 31-21.

So how did the Tigers win? 

They did so in three ways. 

First, they got UCLA to play a completely imperfect game. The Bruins jumped out to a 7-0 lead, and it looked like it was going to be a rout. Only everything changed after that. UCLA, the defending champ, became tentative. 

TB saw a quote from Sydney Johnson after the game in which he said that UCLA seemed to stop attacking after that. 

Second, Princeton took care of the ball. The Tigers had a huge advantage in the most important stat of the night - the Tigers had 15 assists (on 17 baskets) and just eight turnovers, while UCLA turned it over 16 times and had only six assists. 

Lastly, Princeton executed best when it was necessary. As a result, the Tigers finished the game on a 9-0 run, turning a 41-34 deficit into the 43-41 win. Each Princeton player on the court (Johnson, Mitch Henderson, Chris Doyal, Steve Goodrich and Gabe Lewullis) had a huge contribution during that run, even before Lewullis scored the game-winner from Goodrich on the classic play.

Princeton was in UCLA's head for the final 35 minutes of the game, and even after. In fact, there were UCLA players quoted afterwards as saying they had no idea how they lost the game.

TigerBlog has a binder from those days 25 years ago, one that includes a series of newspaper clips from the local writers who were there and from others around the country. 

Even now, a quarter-century later, it bothers him a bit to read the "Brains Over Bruins" headline and the plethora of stories that can be summed up this way: "The brainiac non-athletic Princeton team out-thought the much more athletic UCLA team." It shortchanges everyone who was in the game, on both sides. 

Unfortunately, there were also about a million such stories written after the game. 

There's only a slight hint of that in THIS piece, written by the Philadelphia Inquirer's Bob Ford, one of the very best sportswriters TB has ever read. This story is really, really good at bringing back what that night was like. 

TB enjoyed reading it, though he didn't need any reminders of what it was like that night in Indianapolis. 

He remembers it vividly, and he's sure he always will. 

It was an imperfect game, one with a perfect ending.

Friday, March 12, 2021

100 South Capitol Street, Indianapolis

TigerBlog started the week with John McPhee's birthday and then spent the next three days talking about the 25th anniversary of when the 1996 men's basketball team defeated Penn in the Ivy League playoff game and then UCLA in the NCAA tournament.

Today, for a moment, he'd like to go back to Mr. McPhee after something that gets more extraordinary every time TB thinks about it.

It was Wednesday afternoon when TB and McPhee went to ride bikes together. They went 11 miles. Think about that. McPhee is 90 years old, and he rode 11 miles - like it was nothing.

There were times when TB looked over to make sure McPhee was okay. Mostly, though, he just looked and marveled at the idea that a 90-year-old man was still out there, on his bike, pedaling away.

That is incredibly impressive.

Meanwhile, back at the 25th anniversary, this would all have been better if both March 9th (the Penn game) and March 14th (the UCLA  game) had fallen on weekdays this year, since TB could have written about both events on their actual anniversaries. 

Don't worry. He's already looked. March 9th, 2046, is on a Friday, and March 14, 2046, is on a Wednesday, so he's all set for the 50th anniversary 25 years from now.

Hey, he'll still be younger than John McPhee is now. 

If he can ride 11 miles at 90, TB can write about Princeton Athletics in his 80s.

So yesterday, TB mentioned the wayward postseason media guides. If you didn't read it, TB will save you the trouble on this. 

The guides were done and sent to the printer Monday of that week. They were to be printed and shipped overnight to Indiana, so they would be in the RCA Dome media room Tuesday, ahead of Wednesday's press conferences. 

Only they weren't there. When TB investigated, he found out they had been shipped three-day ground, rather than next-day air. 


Anyway, after a scramble, he was able to get them reprinted and into the media room by the press conferences. It's funny now to look back on it, though it wasn't so hysterical in 1996.

It's also a pretty good indicator of technology then and now, as TB also mentioned yesterday.

Anyway, with reprinted postseason guides, all was right in the world. 

There would be press conferences Wednesday, as well as an introductory Bill Carmody press gathering at a table in the media room. The UCLA game was Thursday night, late. There was more work to be done Friday, such as updated game notes and more press availability. 

Then there was the Mississippi State game Saturday, followed by the trip home Sunday. 

And then it was back to work.

And then, once all of that emotion and adrenaline and non-stop pace ended, it was back to business as usual. 

Except for one thing  - whatever happened to the original postseason guides? 

TB can't remember if he thought of it or if it was his OAC colleagues David Rosenfeld and Vinnie DiCarlo. Either way, someone brought it up.

TB went back to UPS to track the package, and it had in fact been delivered three days later, not to the RCA Dome (100 South Capitol Street in Indianapolis) but instead to an administrative office at 1 South Capitol Street, Room 100). This was about 100 yards or so from the media room.

From the tracking information, TB was able to get (from the UPS customer service rep, not from the UPS webpage, which didn't yet exist) the name and number of the person who signed for it, a Mrs. O'Malley, as he recalls. 

And so he called. Very nice woman, Mrs. O'Malley. She said yes, she had signed for them, had no idea what they were and put them in a storage closet in case anyone asked. Did TB need them? Should she send them back? 

Uh, no, TB said. She could simply throw them away.

He really, really, really wanted to ask her if she never connected the package from Princeton Athletics with the NCAA tournament that was going on a few feet away from her office, but she was so nice that TB just let it go.

Yeah, that was a great week 25 years ago. It's been a lot of fun reliving it all this week. 

And there's more to come next week.

Thursday, March 11, 2021

The Ill-Fated Postseason Guide

TigerBlog finished yesterday's entry by mentioning that he'd be talking today about how Nate Ewell, then a student worker, earned TB's lifetime appreciation as part of the 25th anniversary of the men's basketball team's extraordinary postseason run in 1996.

Actually, Nate had already earned TB's lifetime appreciation long before that Monday, which happened to be exactly 25 years ago today.

It was the day after the NCAA selection show for men's basketball, and now Princeton knew it was heading to Indianapolis to take on UCLA. For TigerBlog, this meant finishing up the postseason guide, which had to be to the printer that Monday. 

And it meant coordinating media credentials. And it meant making travel arrangements.

It was a very, very, very long day.

In the back of TB's mind the whole time was that he needed to also take care of the usual Monday reporting for the men's lacrosse team, including Ivy League Player of the Week nominations and releases about new rankings and such.

He kept meaning to find time to take care of it, but there just wasn't any. 

Finally, at about 3 or so in the afternoon, Nate walked into his office to say that he, Nate, had taken it upon himself to do all of the lacrosse stuff. 

In fact, TB can still see Nate as he walked to TB's desk. Actually, to that point TB isn't even sure he knew Nate was there.

Then Nate casually said "took care of lacrosse. Ivy and NCAA reporting. Did the game notes for next week. Put the on Fax-on-Demand."

He said it so, so casually. 

By the way, Fax-on-Demand was a cutting age thing in 1996. You'd have a document, and you'd fax it to a number. Then anyone who wanted to get that document from you could access it through his or her own fax machine.

It was THE way to stay current with things like stats, box scores and game notes. Then the internet came along and, well, that was that for Fax-on-Demand. But there was a time there when making sure FOD was updated was one of the highest sports information priorities.

Anyway, that was 25 years ago today. 

TigerBlog was already a huge fan of Nate Ewell before then, of course. Still, that day planted Nate in the Hall of Fame.

The postseason guide was a pretty thorough publication. It had all of the information you'd expect, and in the 1990s, having a long section at the end of newspaper and magazine clips was essential. The hard part was that you couldn't do any of the pieces that involved the opponent because you didn't know who the opponent was until the selection show.

Anyway, TB got his guide done and sent it off to the printers. When he did, he felt like he was finally able to focus on traveling out to Indiana.

Because of the size of the travel party, TB went separately from the team, traveling instead with some others from Princeton's OAC and a handful of media members. Upon arriving at the RCA Dome, the first thing TB did was to check on his postseason guides, which should have been in the media room by then. The regular media guides were there. The postseason ones were nowhere to be found.

Everyone else's were. Just not Princeton's.

What the heck? 

There was no sign of them at all, anywhere. They were to have been printed and then sent out overnight. Only there was one slight problem.

When TB went to track them on UPS, he found out that they had been sent three-day ground, rather than next-day air. This was problematic, since three days later they would have been completely irrelevant.  

Now, if this happened today, it would be inconvenient and conceivably expensive, but there would have been easy solutions. The electronic riles would have been on TB's laptop. The PDF would have been on the webpage.

Back in 1996, the only significance of "PDF" was that the guides needed to be in the media room "Pretty Darn Fast." 

The only way to do this was to have the files, which existed on bulky cartridges, overnighted from the printer to Indianapolis (paying extra for early delivery, of course), and the postseason guides were then reprinted in a local Kinkos. 

By Wednesday's press conferences, they were in the media room.

Wednesday, March 10, 2021

The Selections

Ah, there's something special about some good old nostalgia.

As a Princeton fan, this is a great week for it. 

As you saw here yesterday, it's been 25 years since an extraordinary few days in Princeton Athletics history. It began when the men's basketball team defeated Penn 63-56 in the Ivy League playoff game to reach the 1996 NCAA tournament.

TB is not the only one who is feeling the nostalgia of a quarter-century gone by. He's heard from all sorts of people the last two days, including media members and former Princeton colleagues, all of whom were happy to stroll down memory lane.

In fact, it was his former Office of Athletic Communications colleague Vinnie DiCarlo who sent TB the picture of the ticket stub from that playoff game that TB included in yesterday's entry.

That night at Lehigh was amazing, as TB wrote yesterday. It was a long one, especially after Coach Carril announced his retirement afterwards. 

There wasn't time to dwell on the events of that Saturday night, though. There was the small matter of preparing for the NCAA tournament, which meant getting ready to play for the coaches and players and getting ready for a media avalanche for the athletic communications contact. 

But first, there was also the question of where Princeton was going and who the opponent would be.  

If you're part of a college team that knows it's heading to the NCAA tournament, there is nothing at all like the selection show.

It ends weeks of speculating about seeds and draws, and locations and opponents. Unless you're on the committee itself, you have no idea what the specifics will be until it is revealed and you find out about what's coming next along with everyone else.

TigerBlog has seen more than his share of selection shows for teams across a variety of sports at Princeton. Hey, that's one of the best parts of working all these years for an ultra-successful program.

All selection shows are special. There's something a little bit different about the basketball tournament though.

It's probably because of what a national spectacle it is. There are those who will tell you that the NCAA basketball tournaments are the best annual events each year in the sporting world.

TB has written many times before that the NCAA men's basketball tournament, to him at least, is unique in that it gets less exciting with each passing round. The first round is the best, with endless wall-to-wall games for two straight days and the resulting upsets that come along with them.

As the tournament rolls along, it usually becomes the same uniforms, the same coaches that are there year after year. The first round, and the second as well, are the best part.

In that vein, then what precedes those first rounds are in some ways even better, or at least as exciting.

Today is 25 years to the day of the selection show that year, the one that said that Princeton would be headed to Indianapolis to take on UCLA.

TigerBlog remembers so much about that week, but he remembers very little about the selection show itself. He knows he watched it in Jadwin Gym, though he's not sure exactly where, since there wasn't a TV there that he remembers.

TB does remember going to get something to eat shortly before the show started. Take out, it was. He's also not sure from where or what he got, but he remembers walking back down to Jadwin Gym past the old armory building carrying food. 

He thought Princeton might be staying in the East and not flying anywhere, which would have meant going to Providence, where the Princeton-Georgetown game had been played seven years earlier. He figured that would be a bit more convenient and give him more of a chance to finish everything up before a four-hour drive to Providence, rather than having to get on a plane and make all of those arrangements. That wasn't to be, though.

He doesn't remember when Princeton's name popped up opposite UCLA. He does remember what happened after the selection show. 

It was the start of a non-stop sprint to get a postseason guide done, and to accommodate the media requests that began to pour in even before the selection show ended. 

It started with a fax of UCLA's stats and a request for the same from him. It continued with filling out media credential request forms for the NCAA.

There was a lot to do and not a lot of time to do it. 

That pace didn't let up until after the tournament was over for the Tigers. 

Coming tomorrow - how then-student-worker Nate Ewell earned TB's lifetime appreciation.

Tuesday, March 9, 2021

Happy 25th

TigerBlog started out the week with a birthday (John McPhee's - by the way, TB and McPhee will be riding together tomorrow; will you be riding your bike when you're 90? Will TB?).

He will go the rest of the week with an anniversary.

It was 25 years ago today that Princeton defeated Penn 63-56 at Lehigh to win the 1996 Ivy League men's basketball playoff game and the automatic bid to the NCAA tournament that went along with it. The next day Princeton drew the 13th seed in the NCAA's Southeast Regional, where the opponent would be defending champion UCLA.

Four days after that, Princeton defeated the Bruins 43-41 in one of the greatest games in NCAA tournament history.

Mixed into all of that was the retirement of Pete Carril, announced shockingly in the lockerroom after the win over Penn. It was "Carril's Last Dance," as more than one headline suggested at the time.

In all of the time that TigerBlog has been at Princeton, for all of the great moments and championships and records set and amazing performances, that week remains the craziest. And somehow, that was 25 years ago. 

TigerBlog's memories of that week are still vivid. He remembers pretty much all of it, beginning with the game the Tuesday before it all at the Palestra, where Princeton would have clinched the outright championship with a win over Penn, who instead forced the playoff game with a 63-49 victory.

It was the eighth straight win for the Quakers over the Tigers, which meant that no player on Princeton's team went into the playoff game four days later having ever experienced a win in the rivalry.

Carril's message to his team in the days leading up to the game was "push back." If they push, don't back down. He said it over and over and over again. His point was that the last eight games didn't matter. It was this game, and it was going to be a night of toughness.

And that's exactly what it turned out to be. That, and a night of some seemingly small changes that paid off in a major way.

Specifically, that meant reinserting current Princeton head coach Mitch Henderson into the starting lineup and also starting then-freshman Gabe Lewullis. In the first two games that year against Penn, Lewullis played a total of 17 minutes and scored two points. He was scoreless in 12 minutes in the game at the Palestra the Tuesday before the playoff.

When it mattered most, though, Lewullis was a star. Playing close to where he grew up in Allentown, Lewullis went all 45 minutes in the playoff game, leading Princeton with 15 points. More than that, he also hounded Penn's leading scorer, Donald Moxley, into an 0 for 14 night from the field. 

Chris Doyal had a double-double with 13 points and 11 rebounds, while Sydney Johnson had 12.

Princeton locked Penn down well all night, but the Quakers made a living at the foul line to 1) stay close and 2) get Henderson and Steve Goodrich out of the game. The Tigers led by 13 with eight minutes to go, but Ira Bowman tied it with a three-pointer with 15 seconds to go.

Penn then took a lead in the overtime, and it seemed like it was getting away from Princeton. It was a 54-54 game with just over a minute left when Sydney Johnson hit a deep three that TB can still see. Then Johnson and Brian Earl sealed it at the foul line.

The rest of the night is familiar to every Princeton fan. After the celebration on the court, the players returned to the locker room to see that Carril had scribbled on an old blackboard that he was retiring and very happy (and that Bill Carmody would be the new coach).

That stunning news then spread into the media room, where it was already very late and where the "hometown hero Gabe Lewullis wins the game for Princeton" storyline quickly shifted into the "Carril wins and announces retirement" storyline.

Because of what happened later in the week (namely the UCLA win), that game at Lehigh has been a bit overshadowed. TB remembers so many details, from arriving really early and not yet being able to get inside Stabler Arena on a frigid night to the feeling that this night was going to be different than the one four days earlier to the then sinking feeling when Bowman forced overtime to the moment when TB was the first one in the locker room and saw what Carril had written and realized that his night was just beginning.

TB has also spoken with enough of the players from that team through the years who state flat-out that beating Penn that night meant more to them than beating UCLA. TB believes them.

It was an incredible, amazing night. 

It was 25 years ago today. 

How in the world did that happen? 

Monday, March 8, 2021

Happy 90th

If TigerBlog wanted to, he could probably give a "happy birthday" greeting pretty much every day here. 

With all of the Princetonians out there, it's always someone's birthday. Singling out people would only lead to offending others, who would think "hey, how come so-and-so got a birthday shout out and I didn't? That TB is a jerk."

And, well, you know, TB doesn't want anyone to think he's a jerk or anything.

Today, though, is a special birthday for one of the most special Princeton alums there's ever been and one of the most special people TB has ever met. And so, because of that, TB will break his usual birthday stance and wish someone a happy birthday today:

Happy 90th birthday, John McPhee.

For those who don't know, John McPhee is one of the greatest American writers of all time. In addition to his long career with the New Yorker magazine, McPhee has written more than 30 books, all of them non-fiction. He's a Pulitzer Prize-winning author, having been honored for his work "Annals of the Former World."

You can go into any bookstore you want and randomly buy anything he's written and be immediately enthralled. It doesn't matter what the subject is.

The history of growing oranges in Florida? The New Jersey Pine Barrens? Shad fishing? The life of the Merchant Marine? The longtime headmaster at Deerfield?

There's all of those and more.

McPhee's books are all written in the first person. He embeds himself into the story and the subject, but never in a way that makes it about him. Instead, his role is to make it seem like you, the reader, are the one in the middle of the story, and in that way you get such a clear picture of the subject.

McPhee is a member of the Princeton Class of 1953. Before that, he graduated in 1948 from Princeton High School and then did a PG year at Deerfield.

His father was Harry McPhee, the first Princeton Athletics team physician who worked at Princeton from 1933-64 (and who also was part of the U.S. delegation at the 1964 Olympic Games).

John, whose college roommates included Heisman Trophy winner Dick Kazmaier, worked for Time Magazine after graduation. He continued to unsuccessfully submit pieces to the New Yorker until 1964, when the magazine bit on a story he wrote about Bill Bradley, then a Tiger senior men's basketball player.

When the 1964-65 season ended with a trip to the Final Four for Princeton, McPhee expanded his story into his first book, named for Bradley's uncanny ability - honed through hours and hours of practice - to know exactly how to shoot each shot from every spot on the court. Its title: "A Sense Of Where You Are." 

Since then, he's continued to write, and even does so today, as he turns 90. Also, since 1974, McPhee has taught a writing seminar at Princeton each spring. For the last 35 years or so, it's been offered exclusively to sophomores. 

Along the way, McPhee developed a very close relationship with Hall-of-Fame men's basketball coach Pete Carril. They would play tennis together, and McPhee has always joked that he could tell he was playing well when Carril had to put his cigar down. 

McPhee also was very close with another Hall-of-Fame Princeton coach, men's lacrosse coach Bill Tierney. In fact, he would become an Academic Athletic Fellow for the men's lacrosse team, and you won't find a men's lacrosse player in all the years he's done it that will have one bad thing to say about him. In fact, they're simply awed by him, as have been Tierney's successors, Chris Bates and Matt Madalon, and every assistant coach who has been with the team since. About the only person in the program who would ever say anything bad about McPhee is Bryce Chase, and he doesn't really mean any of it. Bryce loves McPhee as much as anyone.

It was through that Academic Athletic Fellow role that TB met McPhee nearly 20 years ago.

Since then, the two have become very good friends. They've spent hours and hours and hours riding their bikes miles and miles and miles. They've traveled internationally together with the men's lacrosse team three times. 

They've even gone fishing together. TB had never caught a fish until McPhee took him out one day on the Delaware. Now he's caught a bunch. 

TB has heard hundreds of John McPhee stories, many of which he's promised not to write about - and he's always kept that promise.

What he can tell you is that there aren't many people in this world quite like John McPhee. He knows so much about so many different subjects, and every bike ride was an educational opportunity as well as a form of exercise. He's funny. He's thoughtful. He's caring. 

He's kind and exceedingly humble, with a great sense of humor. 

He's as good a person as you can ever hope to meet. 

And today he turns 90.

So happy birthday to the great, legendary John McPhee. 

TigerBlog is so proud to call him his friend.

Friday, March 5, 2021

Turning 100,000

If you've been reading here loyally, and many of you have been, then you know that TigerBlog has been working on a book on the history of women's athletics at Princeton.

By the way, here's a "thank you" to all of you who have loyally read every day. The numbers have been tremendous, which TB takes as a sure sign that the connection between Princeton and its fans remains very strong. 

Meanwhile, back at the women's history book, here's your update: He recently went over the 100,000-word mark.

That's a lot of words.

Sometimes when businesses are reaching major milestone, they have promotions around the number of customers. For instance, the millionth customer get free lifetime pizza or something like that.

In the case of TB's book, the winner would be Olivia Hompe, the former women's lacrosse All-American. TB was writing about Hompe when the odometer crossed 100,000. Words, that is. Not miles.

TB has written some long feature stories in his lifetime. He's even written a novel. This is the first time he's reached 100,000 words on a project.

It actually got him wondering how many words he's written in his life that have been for public consumption. It's in the millions, that's for sure.

Meanwhile, back at the book, the story on Olivia Hompe is part of a chapter on women who lettered in a sport at Princeton and then had a daughter who did so as well.

There have been a 34 such mother/daughter families. In the case of the Hompes, Olivia's mother Amanda Hodgson Hompe was a hockey player in the early 1980s, when the team first became varsity. 

Olivia Hompe, by the way, is the all-time leading scorer in women's lacrosse at Princeton. Her list of accolades is enormous, including being a Tewaaraton Award finalist and first-team All-American ,as well as a two-time Academic All-Ivy League selection and a winner of Princeton's prestigious Scholar In The Nation's Service Initiative honor.

There is only one where there was a mother who had two daughters who lettered at Princeton. That would be the Maine family, where mother Debbie Emery Maine was an All-Ivy League lacrosse player (and one-time jayvee squash player) who was in the same Class of 1983 as Amanda Hodgson. 

Debbie Emery married a Princeton football player named Jordie Maine. They had three children, including a son who went to Penn to play squash (who goes to Penn? Oh wait, TB did as well).

The two Maine daughters were Emery and Libbie, both of whom were squash players at Princeton. Emery also lettered one year in lacrosse. 

All three Maine women, beyond just being letterwinners, were team captains at Princeton. Emery Maine won the deciding match for Princeton in the final of the 2008 Howe Cup to win the national championship.

TB isn't sure how many Princeton women's letterwinners had fathers who were letterwinners for the Tigers, or, even beyond that, how many women letterwinners had both parents win letters at Princeton. He'll get back to you on that one.

As far as the women's history book, he's going to write a short introduction in which he will unfortunately have to start with an apology. There's just no way he could tell all the stories he wanted to or that deserved to be told in one book.

It is, of course, a testament to the great history of women's athletics at Princeton.

There isn't too much more to write, though that will hardly mean the end of the process. The finished piece will be great, once it's edited and laid out and all.

TB can't wait to actually see that finished product. For one, it'll mean obviously that's he's finished. For another, it'll mean that he's contributed something pretty meaningful as a record of those first 50 years.

As he's said before, he's often referred to a book called "Athletics at Princeton," which covers every athletic event Princeton competed in during the 1800s. It's an old, yellowing book that has held up nicely through the decades.

That's what he's hoping for from the women's history book. 

It's been a great honor to write it.

Thursday, March 4, 2021

Under-Rated, Under-Rated

So TigerBlog wrote about Ahmed El-Nokali earlier week, as you recall.

It had to do with the fact that he saw someone who looked like Ahmed while he was out riding his bike the other day. That got him thinking about when El-Nokali was a Princeton basketball player and then the times TB would see him after he graduated.

TB then received an email from a longtime Princeton basketball observer who said that El-Nokali might be the most underrated member of the program he's seen. It's an interesting point.

What makes an athlete underrated? 

In many ways, it's a function of who else was on the team at the time. Or the time you came along.

If you're playing with another superstar player, then you'll often be viewed in that players shadow. This can result in having you be underrated in your own right.

Or, conversely, if your team played in another team's shadow, then the same thing can happen. 

There's a certain respect that comes from being an underrated athlete. It's the opposite of the derogatory "over-rated, over-rated" chants that rain down from crowds at teams or players they are trying to mock.

By the way, TB has never really understood that chant. If your team is beating a supposedly great team and you start chanting "over-rated," are you suggesting that if your team could beat that team then that team probably wasn't as good as everyone said it was? Aren't you selling your own team short?

So is El-Nokali the most underrated Princeton men's basketball player in the last few decades? El-Nokali can fall under another heading for underrated athletes - he was so consistently solid that he was often taken for granted.

When you are that consistent, you are often thought of as unspectacular, which can lead to underrated status. El-Nokali certainly qualifies there.

TB will give you another name.

TB has always thought that the player he's seen who could best be described as "underrated" has been Will Venable. Also, the more Venable goes down the path of being a successful Major League Baseball coach after his long playing career, the more he's forgotten as a basketball player.

Venable was as good as it gets in so many ways as a Princeton basketball player. He was a great defender. He was explosive. He was a 1,000-point scorer. 

More than that, he was always at his best when the stakes were highest. He would regularly be the best player on the court against the better teams.

Venable played nine seasons in the Major Leagues and hit 81 home runs with a .249 career batting average and a .779 OPS. He also stole 138 bases, something that not many players try to do anymore.

Could Venable have played in the NBA? In the right circumstance, yes, though he might not have been a good enough three-point shooter in the modern edition of the league. 

When the greatest Princeton men's basketball players of the last 30 or so years are discussed, it seems like Venable's name is often left out of the conversation. That's a mistake. It also makes him very, very underrated. 

Venable these days is a coach for the Boston Red Sox. He is on his way to becoming a Major League manager, and his name was in the mix for some jobs this past off-season.

In addition to playing basketball at Princeton, Venable was also a baseball player. There's a picture of him at bat against Cornell where you can see that he is following through on his swing and the ball is just in front of the bat.

This either means that he was badly in front of an off-speed pitch (unlikely) or that he's already made contact and the ball has been crushed. TB has always suspected the latter.

Maybe that's why he's so underrated as a basketball player. Maybe that's another category - you achieved so much more in a different sport.

Most baseball fans probably don't even realize that Venable was a basketball player too at one point.

He wasn't only a basketball player. He was a great basketball player.  

Underrate him at your own risk.

Wednesday, March 3, 2021

Well That's Random

Of all the great social media content that has ever been put out by Princeton Athletics, it's possible that the best single entry was the most recent edition of "Princeton Pets."

Okay, that's a bit of an exaggeration. Perhaps.

If you've missed it, the "Princeton Pets" series is pretty much what you'd think it would be. It's a series of posts that feature Princeton athletes and their pets.

There have been some very cute ones. Actually they've pretty much all been cute.

They have, of course, mostly been dogs and cats, including one entry on a cat named Jingles, who happens to be Miss TigerBlog's cat. If you're a mouse, you have nothing to fear from Jingles.

Anyway, TigerBlog's colleague Warren Croxton has been coordinating the series. He mentioned a week before he even put up the most recent one that it was going to be different and great, and he was right on both counts.

See for yourself:

That's Boris, the pet of heavyweight rower Harry Saunders. 

He's a Russian Red Foot tortoise. When TB looked up how long they can live, the answer is that it can be more than 30 years.

It's interesting that Boris likes to get his shell scratched. TB would have guessed that the shell wasn't very sensitive. On the other hand, most of what TB knows about turtles he learned from Cecil Turtle, famed tormentor of Bugs Bunny.

Anyway, Warren was right. Ol' Boris was a major addition to "Princeton Pets."

Speaking of Twitter, TB stumbled on a feed a few weeks ago that seemed sort of randomly interesting. Actually, even the feed itself knew it was random.

It was actually in its name.

The feed is @randomathletess (the double S is correct). The name is "Random College Athletes."

And that's what it is. It's a series of random pictures of completely random college athletes, from all divisions and all sports. There are Power Five athletes, and there are NAIA athletes from unfamiliar schools. And everything else.

When TB first saw the feed, it was because someone he follows retweeted one of the posts. This was in December or so, he thinks.

He was intrigued, so he followed. He thinks he was somewhere in the 300s when it came to the number of followers of the account.

If you go now, you'll see that it's past 49,000 followers. That's been a meteoric rise in followers.

This is an account that only dates back to November. Also, it's an account that isn't following anyone else. By the way, it also might be the most fun account out there.

So far TB has seen two Princeton athletes included. One was a men's soccer player whom he can't remember off the top of his head.

The other was current men's lacrosse sophomore Alex Slusher. How these two were chosen TB has no idea.

Actually, that's not true. He's sensing that they came from DMs. 

There was also another completely random athlete who resonated with TB. That would be a former Penn sprint football player named Zack DiGregorio. 

Zack is the son of former Princeton assistant football coach Steve DiGregorio, but Zack's personality much closer mirrors that of TB's than it does either his father or his mother Nadia. 

When Zack's picture appeared on the feed, it was a head shot, not an action shot. Zack then followed up by saying that he's pretty sure he had to borrow the jacket from Chas Dorman, then at Penn and now another colleague of TB's at Princeton.

Chas then further updated the story to say that it was his tie too.

Fun stuff.

Now multiply that out by dozens of posts a day, and you can see why it has gotten so popular so quickly.

In a world where Twitter can often be, well, less than collegial, you can do a lot worse that Princeton Pets and random college athletes.