Pete Carril, the Hall of Fame coach who made the ‘Princeton Offense’ infamous during his 30-year tenure with the Tigers, passed away Monday morning at the age of 92.
“We kindly ask that you respect our privacy at this time as we process our loss and make the necessary arrangements. More information will be released in the coming days,” the Carril family said in a Princeton statement.
Using a deliberate, time-consuming offense that relied on backdoor cuts and accurate passing, Carril led Princeton to 13 regular-season Ivy League titles at a time when the conference did not have a post-season tournament. Princeton also won the NIT in 1975, beating Providence 80-69 at Madison Square Garden.
But it was the Tigers’ memorable March nights in their 11 NCAA tournament berths under Carril, in which the frenzied coach pranced up and down the sidelines as Princeton tried to outsmart superior opponents—during prime-time disruptions and near-commotions. television – which left an indelible mark on college basketball.
“Anyone can coach basketball. I can tell you that now. It’s not that hard to know about a pick and roll, a back pick, the shuffle cut, I mean it’s not that hard,” said Carril afterwards. he is retired. “But what’s hard is to see how to develop something, to have an idea of how your team is going to play. And that comes under the heading of thinking.”
That logic was seen in 1989, in Providence, Rhode Island. A No. 16 of the series, Carril’s Tigers won the No. 1 Georgetown Hoyas all the way in a thrilling 50-49 Hoyas win that captured the attention of the tournament.
In a press conference prior to the game, said the ever-so-realistic Carril, who was never shy about making his audience laugh. “I think we’re a billion-to-one to win the whole tournament. To beat Georgetown, we’re only 450 million-to-one.”
ESPN analyst Dick Vitale agreed with his good friend Carril. In a studio segment in Bristol, Connecticut, leading up to the game, Vitale made a promise: “Let me tell you what, I’m going home this weekend. If Princeton can beat Georgetown, I’m going to hitchhike to Providence, which isn’t so. “That’s a long way from here. I’ll be their ball boy at their next game. And then I’ll change into a Princeton cheerleading uniform and lead all the cheering.”
Far-fetched as it was, the Tigers led 29-21 at halftime and used their patient offense to frustrate a star-laden Hoyas team that included Alonzo Mourning and coached by John Thompson. Despite mismatches in nearly every position—not to mention Georgetown’s rebounding advantage of 32-13 led by Mourning’s 13—the Tigers fought to the end as a fearful Carril came off the bench gasping and puffing.
“They kind of put us to sleep by cutting the back door and bringing down the shot clock,” Mourning said after the game. “Once we slipped defensively, they took advantage.”
Several more close calls in the tournament followed for the New Jersey school known more for producing Rhodes Scholars and Pulitzer Prize winners than athletes. In 1990, as a No. 13 seed against No. 4 Arkansas, the Razorbacks outlasted Carril’s Tigers 68-64.
Losses to Villanova and Syracuse by a total of 10 points followed in the next two seasons, while the Tigers continued to dominate the Ivy League only to come up short in the NCAA tournament. But Carril’s program finally broke through with an all-ages March Madness game in 1996.
After winning the Ivy title in a one-game tiebreak by beating Penn 63-56 in extra time, Carril told his team he would be stepping down after the NCAA tournament. After the victory over the Quakers, he even wrote on a whiteboard in the locker room: “I’m retiring. I’m very happy.”
A week later, facing the defending National Champion, UCLA, Princeton, another No. 13 seed, upset the No. 4 Bruins 43-41 in Indianapolis.
“We just knocked off a giant,” said Carril in the post-match interview, with a big laugh.
Former UCLA coach Steve Lavin, who was an assistant to the staff in 1996, agreed. “It was,” he said, “one of the most memorable games in NCAA history.”
Indeed, the push and pull of a nail-biting NCAA tournament game turned out to be the perfect stage for an exhausted couch potato Carril, whose white hair rose in every direction as the Tigers clung to a classic first-round shocker that truly defines the essence of March. madness.
Carill, who also coached one season with Lehigh, finished his collegiate career with a score of 525-273, including 514 wins over Princeton. In 1997, a year after winning over the Bruins, he was inducted into the National Collegiate Basketball Hall of Fame and the Naismith Basketball Hall of Fame.
“Let me say that no one ever wants to be a Hall of Fame coach or a Hall of Fame doctor or a Hall of Fame,” said Carill in his Naismith inaugural address in Springfield, Massachusetts. “No one ever starts out that way. There’s a lot of forces at work, and you don’t know where you’re going to end up, and you don’t know why it’s happening.
“Princeton was always half decent at basketball. But we’re a national school now, basketball-wise. And I don’t think anything is going to happen to change that.”
Carril transitioned to a career as an assistant coach in the NBA, serving three separate stints with the Sacramento Kings before retiring in 2011.