April 4, 2001: From the Editor

Last week — it must have been Wednesday, March 7 — I received a phone call from a gentleman from the Class of 1949. He had some nice things to say about PAW, but the true purpose of his call was to make sure that we were planning to give the proper amount of coverage to the miraculous men’s basketball season.

As any regular reader of this space knows, he didn’t have to worry that the team’s accomplishments would go unnoticed. And even if I weren’t a thoroughly biased basketball fan, it would have been impossible to miss the buzz of excitement on campus over Princeton’s remarkable March 6, Ivy-League-championship- and NCAA-tournament-spot-clinching victory over Penn at Jadwin Gym. With students in orange wigs and body paint, Frist staying open late and giving out free pizza during the NCAA game, and plenty of media coverage, from local newspapers to a Sports Illustrated story on Nate Walton ’01 and his two ball-playing brothers, Princeton was once again transfixed by basketball.

But this season was a little different. Over the years, Princeton men’s basketball has become a highlight reel of great moments: Bill Bradley ’65 taking the Tigers to the 1965 NCAA Final Four; Geoff Petrie ’70 leading them to an undefeated Ivy season in 1969; Armond Hill ’85 pacing them to the 1975 NIT championship; the near upset of John Thompson II’s Georgetown Hoyas in 1989; Pete Carril’s electrifying farewell victory over defending national champion UCLA in 1996.

While this year had the personalities and the storylines — the unexpected departures of coach Bill Carmody, star center Chris Young ’01, and a passel of other talented players; the emergence of two sons of basketball legends, coach John Thompson III ’88 and newly assigned center Walton — it unfolded more quietly, not in single spectacular moments but in growing, shake-off-the-disbelief wonder. Not until a beaming Thompson and his team finished cutting down the nets in Jadwin did the magnitude of the team’s success finally sink in.

History may not distinguish this single Ivy League championship from Princeton’s many. But as Thompson said in a November interview with PAW (yes, the one in which we said Princeton didn’t have the horses to challenge Penn for the Ivy title), “The pressure is to maintain the level of excellence that has been established by Princeton basketball.” Against heavy odds, he and his players did just that — once again providing a thrill for Tigers from every generation.