Wednesday, August 31, 2022

Cutdown Day

If the Princeton men's lacrosse team couldn't win the NCAA championship last spring, then TigerBlog is glad that it was Maryland that did. 

Maryland defeated Princeton 13-8 in the semifinals and then Cornell 9-7 in the final. In doing so, the Terps became the first team since Loyola in 2012 — meaning the first team in the shot clock era — to hold both of its Final Four opponents to under 10 goals. Maryland also prevented the 2022 Tigers from becoming the first team in program history to be in double figures in every game of a season.

The accomplishment of the Maryland defense speaks volumes about the team's defensive coordinator, right? And who would that be?

It would be Jesse Bernhardt, himself one of the top defensemen in the world the last decade. Why was TB rooting for Maryland if Princeton couldn't win? It's because Jesse Bernhardt was Princeton's defensive coordinator before he went on to Maryland. 

Bernhardt spent one season at Princeton before being replaced by the current D coordinator, Jeremy Hirsch, who himself built a defense that made it back to Championship Weekend. 

As for Bernhardt, TB learned a lot about him in the one year he was at Princeton, including that his favorite movie is "The Great Escape." He also learned about the Bernhardt family, with his father Jim, older brother Jake and younger brother Jared.

Jake is the offensive coordinator at Maryland, joining his brother on the staff this year after five years at Vermont. Jim's sport was football, and he was a longtime professional and college coach.

And Jared? Well, he's just an athletic freak. Like his two older brothers, he played lacrosse at Maryland, winning the Tewaaraton Award in 2021. He would certainly have been a dominant force in the Premier Lacrosse League, except he wanted to use his remaining year of eligibility to play college football.

He did so last year at Ferris State as a quarterback. He was so good at it that Ferris State won the Division II national championship. Then he signed as an undrafted free agent with the Atlanta Falcons, who brought him in as a wide receiver.

 To recap, Bernhardt played one year of college football as a quarterback and then went to an NFL training camp as a wide receiver, a position he has never before played. What happened next? He stood out all through the summer, and yesterday he made the team as the roster was trimmed to 53.

Of course, a lot happens after "final" cuts and before the first kickoff of the regular season. Still, it's quite a testament to what kind of athlete Bernhardt is. 

The day of the final cuts is always a brutal one in the NFL. There are players who are so close to fulfilling a lifelong dream who have that door slammed shut in their faces. For most of the ones who are cut and not picked up by a practice squad, their football days are likely over.

Also, the difference between a player who makes it and a player who doesn't has to be minimal. The stress has to be significant in the hours leading up to the deadline.

Princeton grad Jesper Horsted found himself on the right side of the cutdown day as he made the Las Vegas Raiders' 53-man roster. Again, as is the case with Bernhardt, who knows what could happen between now and the opener.

Still, Horsted has continued to be what he has always been since the first he put on an NFL uniform with the Chicago Bears after being a key cog in Princeton's unbeaten 2018 team (John Lovett, the 2018 Bushnell Cup winner as Princeton's quarterback, was put on injured reserve by the Miami Dolphins last week).

Horsted moved from wide receiver at Princeton to NFL tight end. He was with the Bears for three years, splitting his time between the active roster and the practice squad. His career regular season stats to date are 10 receptions for 108 yards, and three of those catches have gone for touchdowns. 

TigerBlog has written this before several times, and he stands by it: given a chance to play regularly, Horsted will be a consistent contributor who will put up solid NFL tight end numbers. 

Hopefully he gets that chance in Las Vegas this year. 

He cleared a big hurdle yesterday.

Tuesday, August 30, 2022

Perfect Start

TigerBlog got this text message from Zack DiGregorio yesterday after TB wrote about driving Pete Carril's old car:

Your blog today reminded me that, when Coach sold my dad the silver 1997 Mercedes, there were two things he left in the car: the scent of cigars that, even years and years later, never totally left, and a cassette tape of the “Sounds of Greece”

That sounds right. 

TB wanted to share that with you to get started today. He also is reminded now of a different quote that he used to hear a lot at this time of year, back when he was a sportswriter. 

He's told you this before, but you probably don't remember. When it was still Trenton State College (as opposed to The College of New Jersey), the athletic program had a kickoff luncheon before the first athletic events of the year. 

Each year that TB attended, the college president said the same thing: "I predict that every Trenton State team will go undefeated this year."

That, of course, drew laughs and smiles. Not shockingly, it never came true, but hey, dream big, right? 

To that end, every Princeton team is currently undefeated for the 2022-23 academic year. Will it stay that way? Um, probably not. 

On the other hand, for right now, there is a "0" in the cumulative loss column. There's a "2" in the cumulative win column, courtesy of the women's soccer team, who opened its season with a 4-2 win over Colgate and a 2-0 win over Fairfield this past weekend.

The two wins gave Princeton a sweep of the first Ivy League Player of the Week and Rookie of the Week awards. Heather McNabb was the former, after she had three goals and an assist against Colgate, and Kelsey Wozniak was the latter, who had her first collegiate goal and first two collegiate assists on the weekend. 

Princeton puts its perfect cumulative record on the line this week with 13 events in five days, beginning Thursday with the women's soccer game at Rhode Island. A day later, there will be three more teams in the mix. 

The first 12 of those 13 events will be on the road. The home game will be Monday at 4, when the men's soccer team hosts Vermont, an NCAA team a year ago who defeated Princeton during the regular season in Burlington.

Before that the men's soccer team will be at Rutgers Friday at 7 in a great matchup for this time of year. Princeton went 7-0-0 in the Ivy League a year ago, but the Tigers fell 1-0 to the Scarlet Knights before the league season began. Rutgers is 1-1 after a win over Nebraska-Omaha and a loss to Creighton to start its season last week.

The field hockey team also plays Friday, at second-ranked North Carolina. The Tar Heels are 2-0, with wins over Michigan and Iowa, ranked third and fifth. Princeton, ranked 13th in the preseason, will also play No. 9 Louisville in Chapel Hill Sunday. Princeton went 10-7 last year against the same kind of brutal schedule that this year's team will face, and that team did not graduate a single player.

The women's volleyball team will be playing in Towson's tournament, starting Friday with matches against Morgan State and Towson. The next day marks the varsity debut for the women's rugby team, which plays at Sacred Heart. 

The men's water polo team will playing over the weekend at Navy, which means visiting former Princeton coach Luis Nicalao (an all-time TB favorite). The home debut is the following Saturday, when the Tigers host Army. You'll have four chances to see the Tigers play at home, and if you've never seen rugby, it's well worth the time.

If you look at the composite schedule, you'll see it still shows that this is August. As such, there are mostly empty boxes on the calendar, which means there are no Princeton events on those days.

If you flip to September, you'll see far fewer blank boxes. That means that Princeton teams will be off and running.

They're perfect now through one weekend. It won't stay that way, of course, but it doesn't mean that they won't be trying. 

Monday, August 29, 2022

A Few More Coach Stories

It's been two weeks since Pete Carril passed away, and TigerBlog continues to hear from people who want to share their own stories of the man so many of them knew as simply "Coach."

Pretty much all of them have been great.

It's a real testament to just how many people were touched by Carril through the years. He was definitely the kind of person who made an impact on you when you met him, even if it was only once. He's not someone whose words were easily forgotten, and he took over any room he was in with a simple "Yo."

TigerBlog has shared a few Carril stories with you already, but here's another one:

There was a time when an overseas coach came to Carril and asked him to travel with him to teach his team Carril's offense. Instead of that, Carril told the other coach to come see him and he would teach him and then he could teach his team. 

"After about 10 minutes," Carril said, "I said to him 'no offense, but it would take less time for me to fly there and teach them than it will to stay here and teach you.'"

For some reason, as TB was driving this weekend, he was reminded of how Carril drove a large, dark blue Oldsmobile that the University gave him as part of his contract. When Carril retired, he either gave the car back or the University took it back (and discontinued the practice), but however it happened, the car became part of the department's motor pool. 

That was when there was a motor pool, so department members could sign out cars to go on the road. TB signed out Carril's car for every away men's basketball trip, and the car became known as the "Hall of Fame car."

The first time TB used it, he found Carril's umbrella in the trunk. It became a symbol, something that stayed in the car and went unused forever, or at least as long as TB had the car.

TB hasn't thought about that car in a long time, and he's not sure why he thought of it over the weekend. It did make him smile.

The Princeton men's basketball team has been in Spain for almost all of the time since Carril's death, which seems somehow appropriate and, well, respectful, given that Spain was the home of Carril's father Jose and Carril was very proud of his Spanish roots.

Here's part of how the team spent its Sunday:

That stadium is the home of one of the highest profile teams in all of sports, FC Barcelona. The stadium seats 99,384 (no idea why they didn't push it past 100,000, but okay). 

The home team played Real Valladolid yesterday, winning 4-0. If TB had to guess, he figures that it was an incredible experience for the Tigers in a series of incredible experiences. It also appears that the team had good seats.

Okay, one more Coach story. 

There haven't been too many bigger characters in Princeton Athletics history than former longtime volleyball coach Glenn Nelson. He might be the only one who didn't call Carril "Coach," since he called everyone "Cuz." 

Nelson was a great volleyball coach and a great storyteller. He could have had a long career in comedy had he gone in that direction.

He and Carril were close. They played a lot of tennis together through the years. After Carril began coaching in Sacramento, he'd come back to Jadwin in the summer. On one such occasion, he came into TB's office when Nelson happened to be there. 

They had this actual conversation: 

Nelson: Coach, remember how I asked you to get me some Sacramento gear and you gave me those shorts?
Carril: Yes.
Nelson: Here's your wallet. It was in the pocket.

Then he flipped it back to him. 

Ah, TB has a million more just like that one.

Friday, August 26, 2022

Opening Night

Welcome to Opening Day.

Tonight at 7 on Sherrerd Field, it'll be Princeton and Colgate in women's soccer. It's the first Princeton athletic event for the 2022-23 academic year. Admission is free.

The second will be the women's soccer game against Fairfield Sunday at 7. Fairfield, by the way, is the school that Tiger head coach Sean Driscoll coached before he came to Princeton.

The women's soccer team is coming off a season that ended in the second round of the NCAA tournament, though it also ended one game short of an Ivy League championship. Princeton spent most of last season in the national rankings, and this year's team will have every chance to get back.

Princeton returns 13 different players who scored at least one goal a year ago. The games this weekend are the first two of five home games before the Sept. 24 Ivy opener at Yale, and there is also a game at Rutgers Sept. 4.

The goals are to win an Ivy title (something Driscoll's Princeton teams have done three times in six seasons) and reach the NCAA tournament again (Driscoll is 4 for 6 there).

So that's a little backdrop for when the curtain rises this weekend. About 700 more events from now, it'll be June, and the NCAA track and field championships, which will be the final event of the year. Between now and then, who knows what might happen.

Will it be like last year, when Princeton won 16 total league championships, including 13 Ivy titles? That would be nice.

There are all kinds of obvious storylines for some of Princeton's teams. Others? It could be anything.

Some of the obvious ones? 

It's the first year of varsity women's rugby, bringing the number of varsity teams to 38. The new kids on the varsity block open their season next weekend against Sacred Heart.

It's also the first year for two new head coaches. 

Jamea Jackson takes over for Laura Granville as the head coach of the women's tennis team. Jackson inherits a program that has won three straight Ivy championships, as well as six of the last seven.

Speaking of coaches with big shoes to fill, Jenn Cook is now the head coach of the women's lacrosse team, taking over for retired Hall of Fame coach Chris Sailer. The last time Princeton had a new women's lacrosse coach was when Sailer took over in 1987.

For women's basketball, the question will be is it no-Abby-no-problem, as the Tigers return everyone else from last year's team that went unbeaten in the league and reached the second round of the NCAA tournament, not to mention the addition of a highly regarded recruiting class. 

The men? They're in Spain now. They go back to Europe to play in England in November. If you're making flight arrangements, the Tigers will be in London for games on Nov. 24 and 26.

The biggest basketball games, though, will be at home for both teams, as the Ivy League tournament comes to Jadwin Gym this coming March.

Will six Ivy teams make the NCAA men's lacrosse tournament again? Speaking of sports in which every league win is tough, what will November look like for the football team? Will there be another "triple crown" for men's cross country and track and field? 

Is there another national title on the horizon for the women's lightweight rowers, who have won the last two? Can the women's open crew return to the NCAA championship regatta, keeping alive its streak of never having missed one?

These are some obvious ones. There are others. There are also the ones that will come out of nowhere.

Anything is possible now, and that's the exciting part about a new year. Almost nothing is predictable.

Tonight is your first chance to see a Princeton team play this academic year. There will be many more to come. Still, it's like New Year's Eve, only the ball will get kicked off, as opposed to dropping in Times Square. 

Kickoff at 7. 

Thursday, August 25, 2022

Soccer Stuff

Did you see the goal that Brendan Aaronson scored for Leeds United against Chelsea last week?

It was one of those plays where if you do it 99 times, nothing happens. Ah, but the 100th? That's the payoff.

You can see it for yourself:

The goal was more than just a great individual effort play. It was also history-making, as it was the first time in English Premier League history that an American player scored a goal for a team whose manager was also an American.

The manager is question is Jesse Marsch, who as you probably know is a Princeton grad, Class of 1996. Marsch is one of eight Princeton men's soccer players who has been named a first-team All-American (it might surprise you to know that former men's basketball coach Butch van Breda Kolff was one of the others).

Marsch is also one of three Americans who have ever been the manager — head coach — of an EPL team, and one of the others, Bob Bradley, is also a Princeton grad. Bradley, by the way, also coached Marsch at Princeton.

If you're wondering, the other American was David Wagner, who coached Huddersfield Town when it reached the EPL in 2015.

Marsch, whose track record in Europe leaves no doubt that he is a great coach, has done a remarkable job with Leeds. He took over the team late last season and made history by becoming the first team to avoid relegation after starting the final day of the season in the relegation zone. 

This year, Leeds is off to a 2-0-1 start, which is actually a 2-1-0 start the way the EPL does its standings, er, table, which reads wins, draws, losses. After only three games, there is only one team that is 3-0-0 (Aresenal). Aaronson's goal against Chelsea came in a stunning 3-0 win over Chelsea that has stamped Leeds as a team to keep an eye on.

The same is true of its manager. Among his other press, Marsch, who is very close with Princeton head men's basketball coach Mitch Henderson, was featured in THIS story from Sports Illustrated. 

By the way, if you listen to Marsch here, you can't help but think of how Bob Bradley answers questions.

Meanwhile, back at Marsch's alma mater, the Princeton men's soccer team has been chosen as the preseason favorite in the Ivy League poll. As TigerBlog said yesterday, preseason rankings are meaningless — unless, of course, they favor your team, in which case they are clearly prescient.

In all seriousness, the defending champion is often next year's preseason favorite, and that's the case for Princeton. The Tigers went 7-0-0 last year in the league, and such a run is deserving of preseason No. 1 status.

On the other hand, as is usually the case in Ivy soccer, more than half of Princeton's games were one-goal games. Also, Princeton has won 10 Ivy League men's soccer championships, but it has never won two in a row.

On the other other hand, it's a great opportunity to make history. It's all in how you look at it. 

These Tigers will have to replace a strong 10-man graduating class, led by two-time Ivy League Player of the Year and Princeton Roper Trophy winner Kevin O'Toole and All-Ivy League goalkeeper Jack Roberts. 

Princeton started four seniors in its NCAA tournament game against St. John's, though it also started three freshmen. There are also two returning All-Region selections, defender Lucas Gen and midfielder Daniel Diaz-Bonilla, as well as fellow All-Ivy picks Malik Pinto, Issa Mudashiru and Walker Gillespie.

The season begins a week from today at Rutgers, one of the five non-conference opponents who reached last year's NCAA tournament. The home opener is Sept. 5, against Vermont.

Also, in case you missed yesterday's announcement, a few of this season's home games will be played on Sherrerd Field at Class of 1952 Stadium. The men's games against Vermont, Loyola (Sept. 20) and Rider (Sept. 23) will also be played there, as will the first five women's home games, with a Sept. 4 game against Rutgers moved to Piscataway.

Speaking of the women's games, the first two of those are tomorrow (Colgate, 7) and Sunday (Fairfield, 7).

Wednesday, August 24, 2022

13, To Start

There are few things in the world that draw more attention yet mean less than preseason rankings.

One of those things, by the way, is "bracketology." Actually, bracketology has become a cottage industry that has made a lot of money for some people, pioneered by Joe Lunardi (who, by the way, is one of the nicest guys you'll ever meet).

Think of all the time you spend reading this week's proposed brackets, for whatever sport it is you follow. And then, when the selections come, none of it really mattered. 

As for the "preseason" rankings, they often start as "the way ahead preseason rankings," shortly after the previous season ends. The closer you get to the start of the season, the more you see them.

This time of year is prime time for preseason rankings. No sport generates more interest in whatever rankings come out than college football. There are magazines, websites, podcasts, social media, TV shows and any other kind of mass communication devoted to predicting what is either the most obvious thing in the world (Alabama, Ohio State, Georgia, Clemson, Notre Dame, etc.) or the most unpredictable (Cincinnati last year, etc.).

Hey, TigerBlog loves to check these out too. And, like most people, he figures they have merit, though he has to remind himself constantly that they vanish once the games start or the actual brackets are announced.

Still, they're quite entertaining. And believable. Remember, most people believe what they read.

TB has at least gotten to the point where preseason rankings that he doesn't like don't bother him anymore. In fact, in the last two men's lacrosse preseasons, he was humored by the fact that Princeton wasn't ranked anywhere. He figured the Tigers would have plenty of chances to show that they belonged, and that's what happened.

In 2020, Princeton went from unranked to No. 2 or No. 3 in the polls in five games. This year, Princeton went from unranked again to the Final Four.

The preseason is a time for generating interest. The bracketology helps grow that interest. But ultimately, it's about what you do on the field.

TB thought the same thing when he saw the preseason field hockey rankings yesterday.

Princeton starts the year at No. 13 in the NFCHA Division I poll. Princeton could be No. 1 or unranked. It wouldn't really matter. 

Just like the men's lacrosse team the last two years, the 2022 field hockey team will have plenty of chances to show itself. In fact, there might not be any team anywhere in any sport that schedules the way Princeton field hockey does.

Princeton is ranked No. 13. The Tigers' schedule includes teams ranked: No. 1, No. 2, No. 4, No. 7, No. 8, No. 9 and No. 10, not to mention No. 14 and No. 17. That's seven of the top 10 teams in the country (at least according to the preseason rankings, and yes, TB recognizes that he just spent a few paragraphs downplaying them, but still). 

Princeton is coming off an oh-so-close season that saw the Tigers go 10-7 but have four OT losses to teams that were highly ranked, including two who made it to the Final Four. Princeton had no seniors a year ago, so that team returns, with the addition of six freshmen.

The season starts a week from Friday in Chapel Hill, with games against No. 2 North Carolina and No. 9 Louisville. Then it's the home opener on Sept. 9 against No. 10 Syracuse, followed two days later by a trip to No. 8 Rutgers, who was the top seed in last year's NCAA tournament. 

Princeton is then home against No. 17 Delaware, the first team ranked behind the Tigers on the schedule. After that, it's a wild stretch, with No. 1 and defending champion Northwestern at home (Sept. 18), No. 4 Maryland at home (Sept. 20) and then the Ivy League opener against Penn, also at home, on Sept. 23.

By then, you'll have some idea of what kind of season it's going to be. Also by then, the preseason rankings will be irrelevant.

Actually, they're irrelevant now. They're a lot of fun, but they're still irrelevant. 

Let the games begin.

Tuesday, August 23, 2022

Congrats On Becoming Head Coach

Welcome to TigerBlog Tuesday Trivia, an alliterative start to your day.

Bella Alarie had 20 points and 15 rebounds in the Princeton women's basketball team's 82-77 loss to Kentucky in the first round of the 2019 NCAA tournament. Question: Who is the only other Princeton women's basketball player ever to have at least 20 points and 10 rebounds in an NCAA game.

You have four paragraphs to think about it.  

So, what do you want to talk about for your three paragraphs? There's a field hockey scrimmage today at 5 on Bedford Field against St. Joe's, if you want to watch a Princeton team play. If you want to watch a Princeton athlete play in Denmark, you can watch Sarah Fillier in the IIHF Women's World Championship starting Thursday and leading up to the championship game Sept. 4. 

That championship game is almost surely going to be between the U.S. and Canada, just as 19 of the previous 20 in this event have been (the only exception was the game between the U.S. and Finland in 2019, won by the U.S.). In the first 20 tournaments, Canada has won 11 championships and the U.S. has won nine. The two have also won every gold medal in Olympic women's hockey history, and Fillier (and fellow Princeton women's player Claire Thompson) won gold this past winter.

Also, in other news from another tournament where it was essentially preordained that the U.S. and Canada would meet in the final, the U.S. won the U21 men's lacrosse World Championship 12-10 Saturday in Limerick, Ireland. That's nine such tournaments, nine wins for the U.S. The final matched Princeton teammates Alex Slusher (U.S.) and Sam English (Canada).

Meanwhile, the men's basketball team is spending the week in Spain. It's great to see that teams are starting to make the international trips again, though TB does feel badly for the athletes who missed out on them during the pandemic. It seems a bit fitting that Princeton is doing this trip in Spain, the homeland of Pete Carril's father. Carril, who passed away last week, embraced his Spanish heritage and spoke of it often. One of his favorite sayings was this: "What good is being Spanish if you can't chase after windmills."

Okay, there's your four paragraphs. Did you get the answer?

Hint - she just became a college head coach.

The answer is Annie Tarakchian, has been named the head coach at Cal Tech. 

Tarakchian had 20 and 10 against West Virginia in a 74-66 NCAA tournament loss in 2016. That wasn't even Tarakchian's best NCAA game, as she had 19 points and 17 rebounds in an 80-70 win over Wisconsin-Green Bay in the 2015 opening round. That win pushed Princeton's record to 31-0, as you might recall.

Until the Tigers knocked off Kentucky this year, that was the only NCAA win in program history.

The fans at Jadwin Gym loved Tarakchian during her time at Princeton, and not only because of her on-court production. She was also someone who played hard but also played with great joy, as her omnipresent smile would indicate. 

Tarakchian finished her Princeton career with 928 points and 729 rebounds and was a two-time All-Ivy League selection, including first-team in 2014-15. Since then, she played professionally in Europe, winning championships in Belgium and Switzerland, and then earned her Master's degree while serving as an assistant coach at Cal Lutheran.

Now she takes over as a head coach. The team she inherits has never in its history had a winning record, but she is coming into the program at a good time.

The Beavers went 11-14 last year, which was a program-record for wins. They also reached the Southern California Intercollegiate Athletic Conference tournament for the first time.

In addition, the team had no seniors. It's top two scorers were a junior who averaged 18.8 and a freshman who averaged 14.3.

Clearly, Cal Tech women's basketball is on the way up. Now it has Annie Tarakchian in charge.

The Beavers just gained a bunch of fans in New Jersey. 

Monday, August 22, 2022

Get The Picture

It's Game Week for Princeton Athletics.

The first of approximately 700 events for the 2022-23 academic year will be Friday night at 7, when the women's soccer team hosts Colgate at 7. Game 2 is Sunday, also for the women's soccer team and also at 7, when Fairfield is here.

Before the season begins this weekend, to be followed a week later by five more teams, there was the matter of this past week. While things are about to turn serious, and in fact they were serious when practices began a few days ago, there was also a lot of fun to be had Thursday and Friday.

It was photo day for Princeton's fall teams, which meant a parade of athletes through various stations down on the E level of Jadwin Gym. It led to some great shots, like this one:

That's Hannah Davey of the field hockey team. That's a pretty intense shot.

The field hockey team, by the way, has a home scrimmage against St. Joe's tomorrow at 5 on Bedford Field. 

Here's another great one from last week:


That's Francis Akomeah-Sirleaf and Ryan Winkler of the men's soccer team.

Then there's Kateri Espinosa of the women's rugby team. Does she look tougher in this picture ... ?:

... or this one?:

There are literally thousands of pictures that were taken last week, not to mention videos for GIFs and videoboards. Each one tells its own story, with different poses, looks, emotions and everything else, and then multiplied out among all the different athletes.

If you've never been part of a large day of photo shoots, they really are something to behold. First, they require a great deal of organization beforehand, so that photographers and videographers are able to churn out roster after roster.

TigerBlog has tried, and more often than not, failed that organizational test in photoshoots through the years. He's learned that if you want your photo day to run as efficiently as possible, then you need to get his colleague Chas Dorman to take the lead.

Once you have the schedule set, you have to make sure you're coordinated with the equipment staff, since you obviously need every athlete in uniform. Again, that takes great teamwork. 

The next thing to know about photo days is that the athletes love them. They are great team-building moments, especially for this time of year, when everyone is just getting back to campus.

And then there are the new teammates. For them, picture day is the first chance for some of them ever to wear a Princeton uniform. Don't underestimate how big of a thrill that is. You can see it in their eyes.

Each team has its own culture, and these cultures are built around all kinds of experiences. Many, obviously, involve the on-field moments, and there is nothing like winning a championship together or having a great win if you're an athlete.

But there's also nothing like building friendships, the kind that endure forever. TB has seen it first hand through his daughter, who spent the weekend in New York City with some of her former women's lacrosse teammates and some football alums. They all made these friendships through their Princeton Athletic experience, and that experience includes days like picture day. 

So for the people in athletic communications, those pictures are hugely important. They'll be used for social media, for webpage stories, for player bios, for videoboards. 

Right now, those pictures are sitting in a huge photo database. 

As they were unfolding last week, and as TB watched it, they were much more than just tools to be used this year. 

They were part of what makes Princeton Athletics so special. Maybe that's why everyone was smiling.

Friday, August 19, 2022

Guest TigerBlog: Quaker Meeting House On Pete Carril


TigerBlog mentioned the other day about the outpouring of respect from around the basketball world with the passing of Pete Carril. Other than Princeton, obviously, it's members of the Penn basketball community who have been the most vocal in their remembrances of the Hall of Fame Tiger.

This doesn't shock TB. The Princeton-Penn rival during Carril's time was a lot of things and was ultra-competitive. In the end, though, there was nothing but admiration for the other side.

Carril might have been the biggest target of vitriol from the Penn stands, but there isn't a knowledgeable Penn fan out there who didn't appreciate what Carril stood for and did and how his teams played hard.

TB's Penn colleague Quaker Meeting House wrote a long piece yesterday about his experiences with the coach and with Princeton basketball in general. Like most people, QMH was quite awed by Carril, whose presence alone was enough to get your full attention.

TB asked QMH (he's the one in the middle of the picture above) if he could put it here today so Princeton fans could see it as well, and he immediately agreed. Here is QMH's post, word-for-word (TB did take it upon himself to correct a few punctuation errors, but hey, it's Penn, right?):

Quaker Meeting House (QMH) has spent a lot of time the last few days reading and ruminating, since the news broke on Monday that longtime Princeton men's basketball coach Pete Carril had passed away at the age of 92.

He's probably not alone among folks in the Penn basketball community. Carril's death recalls a different time in Ivy League basketball, when Penn and Princeton were the "Killer P's" and everyone else was the "Little Six." Quite simply, Penn-Princeton men's basketball is the best rivalry—any sport—in the Ivy League, and for more than four decades it might have been the best rivalry in all of college basketball. Throughout that time the players came and went, writing their three and then four-year chapters before moving on into the history books. But for three of those decades there was one constant, and for Penn fans he sat on the enemy bench: Pete Carril.
Carril's first year at Princeton, 1967-68, the Tigers tied Columbia for the Ivy title and then lost to the Lions in a playoff to determine the league's NCAA bid. Over the next 28 years of his career, up until his infamous "I'm Retiring/I'm Very Happy" chalk talk in 1996, Penn and/or Princeton won the Ivy crown a staggering 26 times, the lone exceptions coming in 1986 (Brown) and 1988 (Cornell). The "ands" in that and/or came in 1980, 1981 and 1996, when Penn and Princeton finished the regular season tied and had to play a third game for the NCAA bid.
And remember, the Ivy League Tournament wasn't even a blip on anyone's radar through all those years. Nope. The regular-season champion got the Ivy League's bid to the NCAA Tournament. Every game in the "14-game tournament" was important. And those Penn-Princeton games? Wars. Absolute wars.
What's amazing is that Carril coached against the Quakers through the entirety of arguably the program's two most iconic eras. Think about it. His first season, Penn's celebrated Class of 1971 was playing freshman ball. His last season, he ended the Quakers' three-year run of NCAA Tournament appearances (thanks to a trio of 14-0 Ivy League seasons). Along the way, he squared off against no fewer than six different Penn head coaches: Dick Harter, Chuck Daly, Bob Weinhauer, Craig Littlepage, Tom Schneider, and Fran Dunphy.
Coach Carril had a staggering 310 wins in Ivy League play—all these years later, no other coach in League history has even 200—but Penn fans will revel in the fact that he finished with a losing record against the Quakers. He went 27-34.
QMH got a call from Coach Weinhauer late on Monday. Weinhauer was the outlier among the six Penn coaches mentioned above, going 9-3 against Carril including a split of those first two Ivy playoff games (Penn winning 50-49 in 1980; the Tigers winning 54-40 a year later). Coach wanted to talk about Carril and he wanted a statement put out. It was important to him that Coach Carril and, by extension, the entire Princeton basketball community, understand the respect that everyone in the Penn basketball family had for Carril. He must have said it at least three times: they need to know that we hated facing them, but man did we respect them. There isn't a Penn player or coach out there who didn't respect the hell out of Coach Carril's Princeton teams!
QMH arrived at Penn long after Coach Carril had retired. In fact, it stuns him to realize that Coach was retired nearly as many years (26) as he coached at Princeton (29). And yet, he is nearly as stunned to realize the role that the man played in his life.
Coach Carril first came into QMH's orbit when QMH was in college at Dartmouth. When Carril brought his Princeton team to Hanover and Leede Arena on March 3, 1989, QMH didn't know about Penn and Princeton's dominance throughout the 70s and 80s. What he did know was that Dartmouth needed to beat the Tigers that night, then beat Penn the next night and hope that Harvard could beat Princeton. If that happened, then…see you at the Ivy League playoff, Tigers!
With a packed house constantly yelling "Sit Down Pete!" and "Yoooo-da!" Dartmouth did what it had to do and dismantled the Tigers, 53-43. The next night, with a potential playoff so close you could almost touch it, the Big Green routed the Quakers by 21. With the game itself never in doubt, the drama came whenever the press row phone rang. (See, kids, there was a time before cell phones when the schools called each other to give score updates…). It wasn't until late in the game, after the starters had been pulled and the seniors had gotten their moments, that the bad news from Cambridge was read out loud: Princeton 73, Harvard 64.
There would be no Ivy League playoff. Dartmouth, in QMH's mind the far superior team, was out of the NCAAs and Princeton was in. (By the way, do not bring up the injury Dartmouth star Jim Barton suffered at Princeton earlier in the season. It was probably the difference.)
Nearly two weeks later, QMH was at the Providence Civic Center with his father and one of his best friends—coincidentally, a Princeton freshman. Together, they witnessed what's been called the most important game in NCAA Tournament history:
Georgetown 50, Princeton 49. QMH, proud to a fault, didn't cheer for the Tigers for even a second of it. In his mind, that spot should have been Dartmouth's. (Now he wonders what the NCAA Tournament would look like today if the basketball gods had in fact put the Big Green out there with the Hoyas.) The rest of QMH's college experience was totally dominated by the Tigers. The names are still so familiar: George Leftwich. Sean Jackson. Matt Eastwick. Kit Mueller.
After graduation, QMH took a job at the Ivy League office. In Princeton. And during that year, QMH became a part of Coach Carril's orbit.
QMH's boss at the Ivy office was Chuck Yrigoyen, who had only recently been the Princeton basketball SID for Coach Carril. Chuck quickly got QMH involved with the Tuesday/Thursday noon hoops games at Jadwin Gym, and while occasionally Coach Carril would join in usually he could be found at the track next door walking laps with his Walkman on. Two memories stand out:
*Sitting in the locker room after a particular day's game, QMH and Chuck were getting ready to go back to work when Coach came in, headphones still on. Chuck, jovial as ever, said "what do we got today, Coach? Italian guitar music? Opera?" Coach got that smirk on his face and wordlessly handed Chuck his headset. Chuck put it on and quickly burst out with his distinct laugh. At which point Coach put it back on, got that twinkle in his eye and, in full throat, sang out: "Welcome to the Hotel California! Such a lovely place…"
*The second came one of the times Coach Carril joined in the noon game. QMH was assigned to guard him, and what QMH remembers are three things: Coach barely left the top of the key, choosing instead to pass the ball around and instruct his teammates on where they should go; when left open, he absolutely nailed every damn underhanded set shot he took; and when it was over, he playfully needled a furious QMH about how thankful he was that QMH had taken it easy on the old guy.
Chuck's status in Coach Carril's "inner circle" also allowed QMH to be a part of many postgame dinners and drinks that year, whether it was Andy's Tavern or Conte's Pizza. For a 23-year-old, it was the closest thing to being with a celebrity.
That same year, in his capacity as an Ivy League employee, QMH got to witness his first ever game at The Palestra. You might remember it. January 30, 1993. Led by youngsters like Matt Maloney (18 points), Tim Krug (12) and Jerome Allen (11) and veteran Barry Pierce, Penn rolled the then four-time defending champion Tigers, 64-46.
An unforgettable indoctrination.
Following his Ivy internship, QMH returned to Dartmouth for six years as an assistant SID. It was during that time that he got to see the Penn-Princeton rivalry for what it was, two powerhouse programs duking it out year after year. In particular, from afar he witnessed that historic 10-day period in 1996 when Penn beat Princeton to force a one-game playoff; the Tigers returned the favor with an overtime in the playoff at Lehigh ("I'm retiring/I'm very happy"); and then, of course, that NCAA Tournament game between Princeton and UCLA.
QMH's next stop in his career was Northwestern University, and in his second year he was promoted to working with the men's basketball program. The Wildcats' new head coach? Bill Carmody, for so many years Coach Carril's second lieutenant at Princeton. Over the next five years, QMH got a crash course in Carmody's iteration of the famed "Princeton Offense." The son of a basketball coach himself, QMH couldn't have asked for a better experience.
(QMH's favorite play? "Chin," which broken down most simply involved getting the ball to the wing and setting a screen for a player at the off-ball elbow. Depending on how the defense reacted, the off-ball player either cut for a layup or popped out for an open jumper. Whenever Coach Carmody called "Chin," QMH would excitedly pop up in his seat because he knew it was a guaranteed bucket.)
Carmody had quite a staff at Northwestern. There was Paul Lee, who later worked at Marist and continues to coach these days at the high school level. There was Craig Robinson, a former Tiger under Coach Carril who later was head coach at Brown and Oregon State and is currently executive director of the National Association of Basketball Coaches (NABC). And the kid on staff? Why, none other than Mitch Henderson.
Man, those were five fun years. And yeah, every now and then during that time The Man himself might show up. QMH remembers at least two or three occasions walking into practice and getting to re-acquaint himself with Coach Carril.
QMH is so thankful to have those relationships. They shaped him personally and professionally and he wouldn't trade the experiences for anything. He loved seeing Coach Robinson for those years when Robinson's daughter was playing at Princeton, and following Michael Brown's death in 2020 QMH was moved to contact Craig knowing they had so many great battles in college. Of course, QMH sees Mitch all the time since he now coaches the Tigers—the fourth Carril player to do so since Coach retired—and it's always good to recount some of the good ol' days. (After the game, of course. All business before that.)
Of course, QMH eventually left Northwestern for Penn, moving from Coach Carmody to Coach Dunphy and "the Dark Side" as Coach Carmody jokingly said when QMH broke the news to him. As the years went by, QMH would occasionally see Coach at a Penn-Princeton game. Sometimes he might say hello, but more often than not he wouldn't. He figured Coach had probably forgotten who he was, but it was better not to know it. The memories are too precious.
Coach Carril's passing, sadly, is yet another reminder for an extended cross-section of Penn basketball fans that time waits for no one. Earlier this summer, the Penn community mourned the passing of Booney Salters, a key member of the Quakers' 1979 Final Four team and a guy who had lit up every room he’d entered since then. Booney was directly involved in some of the most iconic plays in program history, among them
hitting the game-winning shot in Penn's 1980 Ivy playoff win over Princeton.
The DP headline after that game? "Salters Sits Pete Down One Last Time."



Thursday, August 18, 2022

The Music Of Carril

The Princeton Athletics website and social media yesterday unveiled a video tribute to the late Pete Carril, who passed away Monday at the age of 92.

The piece was put together by Cody Chrusciel and narrated by Tom McCarthy, the longtime Princeton play-by-play voice and even longer time Major League Baseball announcer, now with the Philadelphia Phillies. Tom, who also does the NFL and college basketball, was Princeton's voice during Carril's final seasons, including his famous calls on the Tigers' 1996 NCAA win over UCLA.

He and Cody did an amazing job with this.

With the coming of a new academic year, there is much about Princeton Athletics to discuss these days. Today and tomorrow, for instance, are picture days for the fall teams, and pretty soon there will be scrimmages and, a week from tomorrow, the first actual game of the year (women's soccer at home against Colgate).

Still, there will be plenty of time to talk about all of that next week. For today and tomorrow, TB wants to keep the conversation about Coach Carril going.

TigerBlog has already lost track of the number of people who have checked in to talk about Carril, ranging from those who played for him to those who knew him well to those who watched him coach but never met him. He touched them all, that's for sure. 

TB's favorite picture in the video is the one of Carril with Kit Mueller's head on his shoulder, a picture that follows another one of Carril with a younger looking TigerBlog on his right and a really younger looking Mitch Henderson on his left.

The video has shots of Carril from his playing days at Lafayette and from his earliest days as the Princeton head coach. TB was with Carril at the end of his 29 year run with the Tigers. 

When it started, TB was still a little kid. 

Carril was hired on March 8, 1967, two weeks after Butch van Breda Kolff resigned to coach the Los Angeles Lakers. As you know, it was van Breda Kolff who coached Carril when Carril was a senior at Lafayette, and it was van Breda Kolff who recommended Carril as his Princeton replacement after Carril's one year at Lehigh.

A search of the Daily Princetonian archives shows that there have been 2,493 editions in which he was mentioned. That's a lot. 

The first time the name "Carril" in the archives appears, in fact, was all the way back to 1855, even before there was a Prince. This was in the Nassau Literary Magazine, and it said this:

The sound of the college bell will no longer ring in our ears the note of command. If heard at all it will be like the music of Carril, to wake the memory of past pleasures—the sad but pleasant reminiscences of life’s springtime.

TB has no idea what that means.

Carril, in a basketball context, first appeared in 1950, when Carril played against Princeton for Lafayette. Princeton won the game, the season opener, 56-45. Carril scored 12 points for the Leopards, and the Prince story describes him as "Little Pete Carril."

Fast forwarding to 1967, the paper has a story about possible replacements for van Breda Kolff. It mentions then-Director of Athletics Ken Fairman as saying nobody has been offered the job while at the same time Coach Carril's wife Dilly confirmed that he'd been interviewed a few times. 

There was also this:

Speculation began yesterday when the Associated Press compiled a list of seven possible replacements for the Los Angeles Lakers' new mentor. This list included Carril, Army coach Bob Knight, Rutgers' coach Bill Foster, Paul Lynner — van Breda Kolff's successor at Hofstra, Wake Forest's Jack McClusky, Penn's Dick Harter and Jack Ramsey, present general manager of the Philadelphia 76ers. 

That's quite a group, right? Imagine if Bob Knight had been the Princeton coach. He would never have stayed 29 years, but what if had? What would Indiana basketball have looked like.

The job, obviously, went to Carril, whose first win at Princeton was against Knight and Army. This excerpt from the story when he was hired is hilarious:

The new coach had the strong personal recommendation of his former coach, van Breda Kolff. Carril, whose quiet style of coaching is in marked contrast to van Breda Kolff's occasionally volatile histrionics, met with players and coaches yesterday in Princeton.

Quiet style of coaching? Um, er.

Credit has to go to Fairman for picking Carril from that field. Fairman talked about Carril as a teacher and not just a basketball coach. 

And then Carril was off, starting his 29 year run with the Tigers. 

That time was the true Music of Carril.

Wednesday, August 17, 2022

Talking Carril

The news of the passing of former Tiger men's basketball coach Pete Carril Monday morning predictably spread quickly throughout the Princeton community and the basketball world in general.

Shortly after the news broke, there was tribute after tribute on Twitter. 

It was a Who's Who really. Jay Wright. Dick Vitale. Fran Fraschilla. John Calipari. Phil Martelli. Even New Jersey Governor Phil Murphy.

Even Carril's biggest rival, Penn, felt the sting of his death. The Quakers' men's basketball account tweeted out tributes from current head coach Steve Donahue and former head coach Bob Weinhauer. 

It was Weinhauer who coached Penn to the 1979 Final Four. In that season, Penn beat Princeton in both meetings – both time by one point. 

There was also a tweet from Bruce Lefkowitz, a 1987 Penn grad and first-team All-Ivy League center. 

That's a wonderful thing to say about your biggest rival. TB would guess that Lefkowitz speaks for pretty much all of the players who had to go against Carril's teams. 

By the middle of the day yesterday, TigerBlog had heard from a ton of people who wanted to talk about Coach. They all expressed their sadness at his loss, and they all wanted to share their own experiences with him. Most of those stories were funny ones, but they all had poignant undertones.

And they pretty much across the board ended the same way: It's hard to believe he's gone. 

If you read TB's piece yesterday and reached out, he appreciates it greatly. If you haven't read it, it is HERE.

There was a lot to read about Coach Carril yesterday. If you click HERE, you can find links to a few of those stories on the bottom. 

Not shockingly, Alexander Wolff, the longtime Sports Illustrated writer and Princeton alum, wrote a great story that centered around Princeton's 1975 win at Virginia, the one that helped propel the team into the NIT, which the Tigers would win. 

That was the game where Carril was the only coach on the trip, and he ended up getting ejected. TB wrote about that game last month.

Wolff's story dives to a much greater depth that TB's entry did. You can read it HERE.

This is a great part of that story:

What Carril ceaselessly urged his players to do was play smart. “That game was the most beautiful display of knowledge I’ve ever seen,” Carril would later say of that February night, delivering himself of that rarest of things, a compliment. “The fellas played so smart, it was unreal.”

The best story that TB read, though, was the one by Sean Gregory, a former player of Carril's who graduated in 1998 along with current head coach Mitch Henderson and who now writes for Time Magazine. Gregory — "Bones," Carril called him because he was, as the coach said, "skin and bones" — was able to do something that nobody else was, and that was to weave his own experiences of playing for Carril into what he wrote. Plus, he's also a great writer.

You can read his story HERE.

This is something that Gregory said about his coach's advice before he arrived on campus to try to gain weight:

“Yo, Sean, here’s what you need to do to get bigger: drink a six-pack of beer and eat a ham sandwich, before bed, every night. Got that kid?”

You definitely want to read the whole story. In fact, you want to read them all.

Each time TB read another one and read the quotes from Carril, he could hear his voice in his head. Carril had a unique voice, one that the great sportswriter from the Philadelphia Daily News, Stan Hochman, once described as "the gravelly voice of a thousand cigars."

TB isn't the only one to still hear his voice. He talked to a few people yesterday who mentioned the same thing.

In addition to reading the pieces that were written yesterday, TB also went back to his own 2007 feature that he wrote on Carril, after his 10 years with the Kings. That story is HERE.

TB will leave you today with how that story ended:

Ultimately, in the end, he is a very simple man, and the more the world around him grew complex, the simpler he became. Make shots. Guard your guy. Be honest with people. And above all, work hard. No shortcuts. It's the tradeoff for not having to work 40 years for Bethlehem Steel.

It's that simple.

And no where is it more obvious than when he talks about the game that has been such a huge part of his life.

“Princeton offense?” he shrugs. “Whatever that is. You can translate it in one sentence.

“What it means is sharing the ball. That's it, right?”

And with that, his 76-year-old self pushes its way out of the chair in which he has spent most of the last hour. And then he's out the door and down the hall. Again, you can hear the voice as it echoes.

It seems to linger long after he's off, much as Pete Carril himself will linger forever at Princeton University, in a way that can never be matched.

Tuesday, August 16, 2022

Rest In Peace Coach

At one point yesterday afternoon, TigerBlog closed his eyes and imagined what was going on in the afterlife, if such a place exists.

He imagined Pete Carril, new in town. He could see him as he made his way down Main Street, greeting his old friends and family with a "Yo." He was dressed in his gray pants, his blue sweater and his white Princeton golf shirt, the one with an orange basketball that just happened to be under the hole in the sweater, making it look like it was the sweater that had the basketball on it.

"Hey, Pete," a voice called to him. It was John Chaney, the longtime Temple coach, like Carril a member of the Naismith Basketball Hall of Fame. Carril stopped and Chaney put his arm around him, bellowing with his deep laugh "I'm still not going to play you."

Eventually, Carril settled into heaven's version of Conte's, where his old friends Red Trani, Steve DiGregorio and Marvin Bressler were waiting for him with pizza and beer, and for Carril, a cigar. 

"So?" Marvin said. "What did He say?"

It was a moment 33 years in the making, coming as Pete Carril passed from this world to the next.

Carril laughed, with the same anguished face that he had on that day in 1989 when the call went against him, when his Princeton men's basketball team lost 50-49 to No. 1 Georgetown in one of the greatest NCAA tournament games ever — the "billion dollar game," ESPN called it, for the way it made the first round of the tournament such an event — on two swallowed whistles in the final six seconds, and when Carril was asked if he thought they were fouls, he said "I'll take that up with God when I get there." 

"What did he say?" Carril said, biting into a slice, the cigar and the beer at the ready. "He said he's been dreading this moment for a long time."

So, too, has every player who ever played for Carril during his 29 years at Princeton, and every fan who watched his teams play and marveled at them, and every opposing fan who ever chanted "Sit Down Pete" at him as his team surgically carved theirs up, all while he grimaced and thrust his rolled up program straight down in a gesture that said "no way," only it didn't really say "no way."

The moment they all dreaded came yesterday, when Pete Carril, 92 years old, passed away. His was the definition of a life well-lived, well beyond just his basketball genius and success on the court at Princeton that now bears his name, though his impact on the sport of basketball could be measured in the tributes that poured in yesterday, from the biggest names in the sport.

As for TigerBlog, he was one of the ones who chanted "Sit Down Pete" at the coach, back when TB was a Penn student, back when he knew nothing about Carril other than what he saw from the stands in the Palestra. He had no way of knowing what the future held for him, that the man he was chanting at would end up being the most fascinating person he'd ever meet.

He'd get to know him up close, first as a sportswriter and then as his final sports information director at Princeton. He'd see him at practice, on buses, in hotels and on airplanes. He'd walk with him to bookstores and record stores on the afternoons of away games, talking about history, or literature, or sportswriting or who knows what else might be the subject that particular day. 

He'd eat pizza with him at the Earth-bound Conte's. He'd laugh with him. He'd eat the soup that Carril would bring him in his office. He would get yelled at by him and feel the same intimidation that his players must have. He'd watch him drain 35-foot set shots with a cigar in his mouth. 

When Carril famously wrote on the blackboard at Lehigh that he was retiring after the Tigers beat Penn in the 1996 Ivy playoff game, TB was the only one in there at the time. When Carril was inducted into the Hall of Fame, it was TigerBlog who filled out the nomination form — by heart.

"You know more about me than I know about me," Carril once told him.

It probably wasn't true, but TB did know a lot about the man they all called "Coach." He knew about his father, Jose, a Spanish immigrant who worked 40 years in the Bethlehem steel mills and whose work ethic left a lifelong effect on his son. He knew about Joseph Preletz, Pickles, they called him, his high school coach at Liberty High School, where the game plan was always to push the ball and run and gun. 

He knew about the newspaper clipping he carried in his wallet about the night at Lafayette where he had 17 rebounds. He knew that he spent his time in the Army after college writing bios for colonels in a communications office. And he of course knew about the 29 years he spent on the Princeton sideline.

He'd heard the stories he'd tell, about basketball and about life, the ones that ranged from the poignant to the hilarious, from the insightful to the lighthearted, never knowing which kind was coming next.

When he was asked about one of his players who had made the all-tournament team at an in-season holiday tournament, without flinching he said this: "So did the guy he was guarding."

At another such event, he was talking to the media for the home team, the one that his team was going to have to play in the final the next night. "They'll be tough," he said. "They have a lot of big guys." "So does your team," the reporter said. "Yeah," Carril said. "But I didn't go down to the docks to get them."

After Carril won his 500th game at Princeton, he was asked to name some of the biggest wins. He said "you have to start with the Georgetown game." TB, standing behind him, whispered "uh, Coach, you didn't win that one."

There were dozens of those moments. There were hundreds more away from microphones and notebooks. Those moments stand out more, for all of the times that Carril made a point about something, anything, that TB had never before considered.

Maybe the one that resonated the most was the time when he was asked why, when every team in the country besides Princeton was wearing American flags on their uniforms during the Persian Gulf War, he said this: "What good is it if you wear a flag and play like a dog? What good is it if you put a yellow ribbon on your porch or flag on your lawn and cheat on your taxes?"

And in there was the essence of the man. He had no time for gestures. He had no time for shortcuts. He only cared about working hard and seeing results. "You can't separate the player from the person," he'd always say. 

As such, he wasn't always the easiest guy to deal with. TB said before that Carril yelled at him, and it made him freeze in a way that nothing else ever has. It got TB's attention. It made him want to work harder, be better, not allow it to happen again.

But that same quality of his sheer, unqualified, tell-it-like-it-is-pull-no-punches way also made him perfect for Princeton.

There were times when he could have left, taken a job elsewhere, maybe even in the pros. For those 29 years, he never did. TB has called him the "conscience," not just of the basketball team but of the entire University. He had no time for anything other than your performance, and the honesty of the effort you put into it. 

He once said that one day "I'm going to be dead, and two guys will come by my grave and say 'poor guy, never won a national championship,' and I'm not going to hear a word they say."

It was his way of saying that national championships were nice, but some things were more important. For everything he did say, here's something he didn't say: Princeton needed him, needed him as a reminder that life is not always easy and things aren't handed to you.

TB has talked to so many of those who played for him who said that it took them years to understand some of what he taught them. It's one of the great compliments that you can pay to a coach.

This coach? He was "Coach," capital C. The only one like him. The only one who will ever be like him. 

After he learned about Carril's passing yesterday morning, TB spoke with Carril's daughter Lisa. She was distraught, of course. It's never easy, even if you knew it was coming.

They talked for a few minutes. Eventually, Lisa Carril said this to TB: "He loved you."

It was one of the most moving moments of his life. 

To Lisa and Peter Jr. and the entire Carril family, TB sends his deepest condolences. To the players who played for him at Princeton, TB says that he knows how much you feel his loss and appreciate what he taught you.

And to Coach himself, wherever he is, TB says this: Thank you so much for the front row seat into your life, into your mind, into your values, into your world. Thank you so much for everything you taught him.

And he also adds this:

The feeling is very much mutual.

Monday, August 15, 2022

Two Newbies

Welcome to a busy week for Princeton Athletics.

The first athletic event of the 2022-23 academic year is a week from Friday, when the women's soccer team is hosting Colgate at 7. One week later, the field hockey, women's volleyball, men's soccer, men's water polo and  women's rugby teams will get started.

In the meantime, this week is a big week for athletes to report and begin practicing. You can expect more content like this:

There will be gear issued, team meetings, individual photo days and ultimately training on the field, something that coaches and athletes have been waiting for all summer.

It'll also mark the first time that the incoming class of athletes will be competing alongside their returning teammates. It's a big adjustment for freshmen, who come from all over to begin their Princeton experience.

TigerBlog would like to remind them, and their parents, that their time here will fly by. It may not seem like it, but it will. It seems like only yesterday that TB was dropping his daughter and her wide eyes off at Forbes, and in a blink, well, now she's a grad in the work place.

It'll happen for the Class of 2026 as well.

Before they get started, TB wants to talk about two of the incoming athletes.

One is women's golfer Catherine Rao, who competed last week at the U.S. Amateur outside of Tacoma. Rao played her way into the match play portion of the event, when the field of 156 was cut to 64. From there she won her first three matches, reaching the quarterfinals, before she fell to rising UCLA senior Annabel Wilson of Northern Ireland.

Rao defeated another Annabelle (okay, they're spelled differently) in the Round of 16. This time, it was Annabelle Pancake from Clemson, who became the first one of those Tigers ever to reach the Round of 16 at the U.S. Amateur.

Rao comes to Princeton from Camarillo, Calif., which is northwest of Los Angeles. Her accomplishments prior to college include being a top 10 ranked junior in the country.

Another incoming freshman is Casey Helm of the men's track and field team. Helm comes to Princeton from Madison, Kansas, a town of 689 in the southeast part of the state.

TB stumbled across a USA Today article about Helm, who is a discus and shot put athlete. In fact, he set the Kansas state high school record as a senior with a throw of 214-1. 

The old record, the story said, was set in 1980 by Clint Johnson, whose throw was 213-6. Johnson went on to win conference championships in the discus and shot at the University of Kansas.

Also, at far as Helm's 214-1 is concerned, it would have won outdoor Heps by nearly seven feet last spring. That is incredibly impressive.

His accomplishments as a track and field athlete, while incredibly impressive, aren't what stood out the most for TB from that story. It was this quote from Helm:

"I would like my legacy to be not necessarily the accomplishments of sports, but the teammate, friend and person I was on the field and in the school. You never know what someone is going through, so I believe it's more important to show them that you are there for them." 

That's perfect, right? That's exactly what you want to hear from the athletes on your team, right? 

Princeton Athletics is about athletic success, and it's also about the life lessons that are learned through athletic competition. Education Through Athletics, it's long been called, after Ford Family Director of Athletics Emeritus Gary Walters coined the phrase.

That quote speaks to both sides of that.

The rest of the story talks about how his grandfather was the one who introduced him to the discus. You can read the whole story HERE.

So those are just two of the incoming athletes to Princeton. The fall ones are arriving and getting started. The winter and spring ones will be on campus soon and will be getting going with their own teams.

It's an exciting time. TB wishes them all the best — and reminds them how fleeting these years are, so value every second of them.

Friday, August 12, 2022

The Adman Of Denver

For the fourth time in his life, TigerBlog received a jury duty notice in the mail.

He had to go online and fill out a long form that asked the kinds of questions you would expect (Is there any reason you couldn't impartially judge a case) and one that you wouldn't (what's your favorite book?).

Guess what TB answered for that one. HERE it is.

It took about 15 minutes to fill in all of his answers. When he hit submit, he was told to log back in after 4 on the day before he was scheduled to see what time to report.

The big moment came Wednesday afternoon, since he was supposed to go in yesterday. When he logged on, he saw this message:

"You are not required to report. This concludes your jury service."

And so, once again, TB has not been called to be on a jury. He's now 0 for 4. He's had the same thought each time: "It might be interesting to see what it's all about."

Maybe next time, though not for at least three years. The closest he's come is when his number was picked for a civil case but one of the party's lawyers dismissed him before he took two steps towards the jury box. TB regrets not asking why.

Seriously. Would you be judged by TigerBlog?

Anyway, the original plan for today was to talk about TB's experience on jury duty. At one point, he considered what he would do if he ended up on a case where he was sequestered. Would the judge allow him to write about Princeton Athletics every day? 

In need of something else to write, TB found it in the news of the new president of the Denver Broncos. It's none other than Damani Leech, Class of 1998, one of Princeton's best defensive backs of all time.

TigerBlog has always been a huge fan of Damani Leech, and he'll of course be rooting for the Broncos going forward. This is what team owner and CEO Greg Penner said about him:

"Damani is highly regarded throughout the National Football League for his leadership, strategic vision and collaborative spirit. As a former college player with executive experience at both the NFL and NCAA levels, Damani understands the value of teamwork and knows what it takes to win—on and off the field. Most importantly, he leads with integrity, empathy and respect. I'm confident Damani will help the Broncos grow across all areas of our business and make our staff, partners and fans proud of this organization."

Integrity, empathy and respect. Teamwork. They're all the perfect words to describe him.

TB can't really talk about Leech without mentioning two non-football things first.

Back in the 1990s, when publications were a huge part of what was done in the Office of Athletic Communications and technology hadn't yet caught up, it was required to actually make prints of photos, size them proportionally to the hole left in the layout and then drive them over to campus printing (at the Forrestal Village) to have them scanned.

Eventually, the OAC got an actual scanner in its office. The first picture that TB ever scanned was one of Damani Leech.

Also, TB's first experience ever with auto-correct involved Leech. He typed in Leech's name, and it auto-corrected to "adman." TB tried it again yesterday, and again it came back "adman."

The adman, as it were, has spent the last eight years working for the NFL, including three years as the CEO of NFL International. His resume also includes 17 years of working at the NCAA office in Indianapolis.

Leech was a three-time first-team All-Ivy League selection. Here's the list of Princeton defensive backs who have been first-team All-Ivy League three times: Damani Leech.

Leech is also one of two Princeton players to have at least six interceptions in two different seasons (the other is Frank Leal in 1988 and 1989). Leech is also one of only two players in Ivy League history to have at least 20 career interceptions (the other is Princeton's Dean Cain, who had 22).

Now Leech joins a long line of Princeton alums who are in senior management roles for professional teams. It was great to see the news.

Thursday, August 11, 2022


By now, TigerBlog is pretty sure you've seen the clip from the Little League regional.

If you haven't, you can see it here (tissues not included):

That's about as good as it gets. 

The number of views from that Twitter feed was approaching 20 million yesterday. 

Prior to that, the most-viewed clip from the Little League tournament was of a crushed home run and accompanying bat flip, which is about 180 degrees from the one of the young man who was hit by the pitch and then consoled the pitcher.

By the way, maybe TigerBlog is getting a bit old, but he can remember a time when a bat flip, or anything that showed up a pitcher, would never have happened, especially when the pitcher involved was, say, Bob Gibson or Steve Carlton or Jack Morris. Or really anyone. 

Flip your bat after hitting a home run against Gibson? Well, first of all, almost nobody did. But if you did and flipped your bat? You didn't want to come to the plate the next time, that's for sure.

Now? It's a regular thing. TB liked the other way better.

TB has always been a big fan of sportsmanship, something that has been vanishing from the professional athletics landscape through the years. Perhaps the Little League clip might resonate with some of them? 

The batter's name, by the way, is Isaiah Jarvis, and the pitcher is named Kaiden Shelton. Jarvis' team was eliminated, while Shelton's team moves on to Williamsport, but some things are just bigger than winning sometimes. 

Maybe one day Jarvis will be a big-time college or pro athlete. Hopefully he gets there. And hopefully he never loses what he showed on the field the other day.

Either way, his is a name worth remembering.

Speaking of names, TB was not the only Princeton fan who was not shocked to see the name Andrei Iosivas included in a story in The Athletic entitled "College Football Freaks."

This is what the intention of the writer, Bruce Feldman:

It’s been almost two decades now since I began writing about the biggest Freaks in college football. Initially, there were 10 of ‘em. My premise was to spotlight the players who generate buzz inside their programs by displaying the unique physical abilities that wow even those who observe gifted athletes every day. The Freaks list is compiled with the help of many coaches, players and sports information directors, as well as NFL scouts from all over the nation.

Yes, that pretty much sums up Iosivas.

TB has said before that he can't imagine there's a sport that Iosivas wouldn't be able to conquer. He's pretty much the definition of an athletic freak.

The best part of the write-up on Iosivas is when his wide receiver position coach Brian Flinn talked about the pre-draft physical tests he'd have to go through and said this: "He will destroy them all."

As you probably know, Iosivas is a wide receiver who is a breakaway threat on any play and a world class decathlete who has run the fastest 60 in NCAA indoor heptathlon history. That's a lethal athletic combination.

This is from his write-up as well:

Iosivas bench pressed 370 pounds this month and has vertical-jumped 39 inches. His 60-yard dash time would, by his own estimation, translate into a 4.2-something 40.

A year ago, Iosivas caught 41 passes and averaged 17.1 per reception. There were nine players in the league who caught at least 40 passes a year ago, and of the other eight, none of them averaged even 14 yards per catch.

In fact, there was only one other player in the league who caught at least 30 passes and averaged at least 17. His name is familiar too: Princeton's Dylan Classi. 

Iosivas was one of two "freaks" from the FCS listed in the top 39, and the other is a Towson player who transferred from South Carolina. All but two of the others are Power Five players.

The entire story is HERE (subscription required).

Wednesday, August 10, 2022

What's In A Name?

TigerBlog has mentioned before the fact that he's had nine different titles in his tenure with Princeton Athletics.

Is that a record? 

Perhaps somewhat fascinating is the fact that one of the titles he's never had is that of "sports information director."

For years, decades, that was the only title for people who worked in college athletic communications. Sports Information Director — SID for short. 

Everyone in college athletics knew what the SID did. He or she (but mostly he) kept stats at games, worked to get media placements, produced pregame notes for the media, sent out postgame results, wrote the media guides and updated the record books. The traditional SID was a public relations/media relations specialist.

TigerBlog isn't sure when the first SID was hired and where, though he knows that it primarily was an offshoot of general university communications offices. In fact, it wasn't until Gary Walters in the mid-1990s lobbied the University that Princeton's Office of Athletic Communications became a part of the Department of Athletics.

The national organization of SIDs was established in 1957, when a group split away from the American College Public Relations Association to create its own sports-specific entity. It was to be called "The College Sports Information Directors of America," or, as it's usually known, "CoSIDA."

You might be most familiar with CoSIDA though its longtime sponsorship of the official Academic All-American program, the CoSIDA Academic All-American. 

Actually, beginning this coming year, that Academic All-American program is changing. Instead of needing a 3.2 grade-point average to be eligible, the minimum has been raised to 3.5. 

In the past, each individual school's communications office would nominate its athletes for the various sports, and those athletes would be placed on a district ballot. Voting would then be done by the SIDs in in each district, and the winners would then be announced and placed on a national ballot.

Beginning this year, anyone nominated will automatically be named All-District and advance directly to the national ballot. Depending on the sport, there are limits to how many athletes can be nominated.

TB likes this change. For one thing, he's guessing that a small percentage of those who could were actually voting. Also, it's a real achievement to be nominated, since you need a 3.5 and you need to be a starter or key contributor, and now that achievement will be recognized.

The big question now is whether or not it will be the CoSIDA Academic All-American team for the foreseeable future. 

Because the term "SID" feels so antiquated and a link to days and tasks that no longer apply in a digital, social media/video-driven world, the CoSIDA board is putting up for a vote for the organization's first name change since it formed 65 years ago.

Coming up on Aug. 31, the CoSIDA membership will vote on whether or not to change the name to the "College Sports Communicators."

Do you like it? 

TB isn't sure yet. He's fine with change, and he too agrees that the term "SID" is outdated. To many, it conjures up black-and-white pictures of men in jackets and ties along press rows and press boxes in front of typewriters with paper and pencils and scorebooks.

Of course, many of those in those pictures were pioneers of the profession and very worthy of respect. It's just that those days are long gone.

It wasn't long after TB started at Princeton that the major shift in the profession really began, and that of course was due to the growth of the internet. Now, instead of being a media relations organization, each college athletic communications office is its own media outlet.

If that change hadn't occurred, TB would have left the profession decades ago. The overwhelming majority of words that TB has written for Princeton Athletics has come in this format, something that didn't exist when he started and something he probably couldn't have foreseen.

So is it to be College Sports Communicators? Or is it to remain CoSIDA?

TB loves the idea that the organization is being proactive. He also loves that one of the key reasons for doing this is to help those who do so much to promote these colleges and universities get the respect that they deserve (but haven't always received).

TB will let you know how he votes and how the vote turns out.

Tuesday, August 9, 2022

Poll Day


The preseason college football coaches' poll was released yesterday.

Shockingly, the top three teams were Alabama, Ohio State and Georgia. Who could have seen that coming?

In fact, without looking, can you name the other seven teams in the Top 10? Of course you can, or most of them anyway.

Clemson? Check. Notre Dame? Check. Michigan? Check. They're the next three teams. 

The rest are Texas A&M, Utah, Baylor and Oklahoma. Okay, maybe you didn't go 10 for 10, but doing these rankings is not exactly difficult.

Say what you want about the Football Bowl Subdivision, how exciting it can be, how much money it generates, how important it is to so many people, but at the end, you're almost always left with the same teams.

The College Football Playoff has been contested eight times. Here are the winners: Ohio State, Alabama, Clemson, Alabama, Clemson, LSU, Alabama, Georgia. Here are the teams those teams beat in the final: Oregon, Clemson, Alabama, Georgia, Alabama, Clemson, Ohio State, Alabama.

By contrast, of the last eight NCAA basketball championship games, there have been 12 different schools represented. Only one has won the title more than once in that span (do you know who it is?).

So that's the FBS. Is the FCS much different? Well, somewhat. There's one team that has won nine of the last 11 championships.

When the preseason FCS poll came out yesterday, that team — North Dakota State — received 52 of the 54 first-place votes. The other two went to South Dakota State, which has to absolutely hate North Dakota State, given that South Dakota State (preseason No. 2) is routinely a top three team but has never won a championship. 

Yesterday was a day of preseason football releases. In addition to those two, the Ivy League preseason poll was also released.

There were two teams who were tied for the top spot: Dartmouth and Harvard. Princeton, who tied Dartmouth for the championship last year, was picked third.

Here's the way the poll came out:

1. Harvard – 108 (8)
1. Dartmouth – 108 (4)
3. Princeton – 105 (4)
4. Yale – 83
5. Columbia – 67
6. Penn – 49
7. Brown – 29
8. Cornell – 27

Ivy League football is anything but predictable. In fact, since 2008, six of the eight teams have won at least one championship.

Since the start of the College Football Playoff, the same number of teams have won an Ivy title as have won the FBS title — five. That's five of eight in Ivy League football and five of 131 in the FBS. Even if you limit it to Power Five schools, that's still five of 65.

Does the preseason Ivy poll matter once the practices and games start? Obviously not, but it's still a fun thing to talk about. And it's a sign that the season is not that far away.

That's certainly how Princeton head coach Bob Surace feels:

"We are excited to once again be talking football and feeling the energy as preseason begins. There are eight teams around the League who have high expectations this year and think they have a chance to be in the top spot when the season ends in November. Our focus right now is on preparing for the challenges that await us this coming year, and making sure we have done everything possible to give our student-athletes their opportunity to win games and add to our program's legacy."

Princeton has won four Ivy League championships in the last eight years, including a year ago. For the fourth straight season, Princeton will have a new starting quarterback, as John Lovett was followed by Kevin Davidson, who was followed last year by Cole Smith.

You don't win four championships in eight years by being unable to replace your stars, though, and Surace and his staff have turned over the roster several times and still been at or near the top year in and year out. 

How will this year play out? You'll have to tune back in to find that out as the fall goes along. For today, though, the poll makes for a good conversation.

Oh, and the team that has won two of the last eight NCAA men's basketball championships? Villanova.