January 30, 1968
Basketball Coach Pete Carril (Car·ril´)

By Roger A. Hall '68

Peter J. Carril, Princeton s first year head basketball coach, is a very intense man. There had been a week lapse in basketball practice for the varsity Tigers, a week during which the cagers had studied for and taken most of their examinations. While the team members were busy cramming, however, Coach Carril had been traveling through the country scouting high school basketball stars. On the night of this reporter's interview with Carril, the Tigers were about to resume their practices. The new Princeton mentor had just flown to Princeton from Dayton, Ohio, where he had been eyeing a few Midwestern prospects.

Carril running a practice in the 1990s

The members of the basketball team were warming up on the Dillon Gymnasium court when the coach arrived. As he changed from his suit and his distinctive bow tie into his coaching attire, he answered questions as fast as they could be asked, and he continued to answer them as he walked up the stairway, and stopped only as he stepped onto the court to begin the practice. The breadth and extensiveness of this interview testifies to the directness and intensity of the Tiger head mentor's love of the game he teaches.

Perhaps team captain Joe Heiser summed up the short man with the dark, thinning hair the best when he compared Carril to Willem "Butch" van Breda Kolff, under whom he played the previous two years. The difference, he said, is not in the type of basketball they teach, but in their personalities. "Mr. van Breda Kolff was always very jovial. Mr. Carril is intense; he's extremely concerned about things-a game, how we play, or the players themselves. He is completely dedicated to basketball, and that can't help but rub off on the team."

When you are as short as Pete Carril is (5'6") in a game that demands size as much as basketball does, you have to have intense dedication. That is exactly what he has shown throughout his career as player and coach. In high school he received All-State recognition before such later greats as Duke star Dick Groat and Cincinnati Royal all-pro Maurice Stokes. When he attended Lafayette, he was named to the 1951-52 Little All-America squad. After two years in the Army and two years at Lehigh getting a master's degree in education, Carril began coaching at Easton (Pa.) High School and produced a team that was runner-up in the Eastern Pennsylvania League. In 1959 he moved to Reading (Pa.) High School where, over a seven-year period, the Red Knights won two Central Pennsylvania championships and were runnerup four times. His final team won 25 straight games.

With the world of high school ball conquered, Mr. Carril assumed a Herculean task as basketball coach at Lehigh, where wrestling is king and basketball gets few fans, little publicity and almost no talented players. The Engineers had produced 13 consecutive losing seasons, and only once in those lean years had they won even so many as ten games. Mr. Carril took charge of a varsity team that had been 4~7 the previous year and a group of sophomores that had gone winless as freshmen. Somehow, Carril managed to urge his charges to an 11-12 season that included an upset of the Bobby Lloyd-led Rutgers quintet and a sweep of two games from archrival Lafayette-something Lehigh hadn't done for 20 years. More than that, however, he popularized basketball at Lehigh. Fans began showing up for the games, and the students started caring whether the team won or lost. When he left to take the reins of the Tigers, the student newspaper at Lehigh wished good luck to the man it called "The Miracle Worker."

What is it that makes a man so able to instill confidence and desire in others? With Pete Carril it has to be his absolute love of basketball and his fierce determination to win. As he put it, "You play basketball because you love it. You play it with integrity and you play it to win." This "love and win" theory, as it has been called, grew with him, Carril recalls, from his childhood. It was strengthened by his association with van Breda Kolff, who began his collegiate coaching career at Lafayette the year Carril was a senior. Carril and van Breda Kolff have always been close friends, and the present Tiger coach attributes many of his attitudes to the teaching of his former mentor. "Butch van Breda Kolff's honesty was a great influence on me at a time in my life when I was deciding what was going to be important to me. Butch never had a bad boy or someone who was involved in any kind of scandal." VBK's basketball theories also affected the collegiate Carril: "He made you think," the former captain of Butch's first college team said. "He made you selfish in pursuit of your own skills and taught you to play with your brains."

That is exactly what Carril tries to do, and what the tall Tiger center, Chris Thomforde, says the team failed to do when, after winning five games in a row, they suddenly dropped three straight. "We started to lose confidence and individually tried to do things we couldn't do." But Carril snapped them out of that, and Princeton soon reeled off another six victories. The Coach commented on his feelings about the team during that short losing streak: "You have to keep the boys from getting down on themselves or on each other. You don't want them feeling so bad that they go out on the court and cut their own throats, but you do want them feeling bad enough to be determined to play well."

Those three losses knocked Princeton out of the top ten in the national wire-service polls, but Pete Carril has an almost pathological aversion to many of the so-called "glamour" aspects of basketball such as polls, athletic scholarships, pom-pom girls and "team factory" colleges. "I just don't care about the polls," he stated at the beginning of the season. "I just want to see us playing a good game of basketball." His objections to the other items go hand-in-hand with that statement and with his belief that basketball should be played primarily for love. He came to Princeton because of its high academic standards, and because he is opposed to athletic scholarships. "I agree with Avery Brundage (president of the International Olympic committee) when he says that he sees no difference between a boy being paid $5,000 for playing basketball and a boy receiving a $5,000 scholarship for playing basketball."

This must have been a particularly sore point for a coach who had just come home from a recruiting trip or what the University likes to call "a venture in persuasion." Carril, without the potent attack of full scholarship offers, must compete for top prospects against coaches flashing "free ride" as their calling card. "The better a boy is, the more publicity he gets, and sometimes it is easy for it to go to his head," Carril stated. "Other coaches offer scholarships and pocket money, and they downgrade the top academic schools, telling the boy he won't get any publicity and would never be able to make the pros if he went to an Ivy school."

Princeton's growing basketball reputation helps to alleviate that kind of pressure, and Coach Carril is certain that the completion of the Jadwin Cage will continue the dynamic rise of the Princeton basketball fortunes. As Carril pointed out, "The only two things Princeton doesn't offer are athletic scholarships and a really good basketball facility."

But what exactly does a college coach look for when he scouts a high school star? In the case of Coach Carril, he looks solely for fundamentals. The style of play, whether the boy is a shooter or a playmaker or a one-man team. doesn't really matter too much. "The coach might be instructing him to play in a certain way," he observed. What is important is how well he shoots when he shoots, how well he passes, how he jumps, runs and hustles, his individual potentials. And, of course, one of the most important things is desire. After all, to play for Coach Carril at Princeton, the boy must love the game. "If they don't love to play," he concluded, "they won't be any good here. We don't have the pom-pom girls or cheerleaders to hold their hands as they walk across campus, or alumni to give them pocket money or cars. But boys who come to Princeton will be better off when they graduate."

When Carril came to Princeton, he expected to find "some good players, some good kids and a nice brand of basketball." And that expectation brings to mind the second half of the Tiger coach's theory: winning. "Winning," Carril stated "brings out the best in those who are good, and the worst in those who aren't. Winning takes character and intelligence. The dumber you are, the more games you lose. The less courage you have, the more games you lose." As head coach at Princeton, Carril inherited a team that he said "has a lot of integrity . But a losing season with integrity is not good enough for this team. This team has got to win-and win with integrity." The Tigers have a winning tradition and a good team. They will certainly have a winning season, but just how far they will eventually go will depend on the solutions to several Tiger problems.

Two of these problems seem to have been left over for the basketball team from coach Dick Colman's injury-ridden football team: Thomforde's injured heel that refuses to respond to treatment and John Hummer's pulled Achilles tendon.

Another problem for the new coach at the beginning of the season was an equally new group of sophomores, especially Hummer and Geoff Petrie. Petrie was of particular concern, because he had to learn the guard position after playing his entire career at forward, and because he would now have to be setting up plays as well as completing them. As the coach put it, "He had to learn to think like a guard." In part, he has done this, and at times his ball-handling, passing, driving and shooting are nearly flawless. "What I'd like to see now," Coach Carril commented, "is a little more consistency."

Although there have been several bright spots for Princeton, such as the fine play and leadership of seniors Heiser and John Haarlow and the ease with which senior Dave Lawyer, the sixth man, moved into the starting lineup when Hummer was hurt, Carril is hesitant to lavish praise on his players. As he confesses, it sounds a little superstitious, "but every time I say someone is 'coming along fine' or 'so-and-so is doing a good job,'the next game they'll play terrible. I hate to say anything anymore for fear it will jinx a boy."

There is one man, however, whom he does single out as a pleasant surprise-senior Bob Heuer. With Hummer sidelined, Heuer takes over the fifth starting position instead of Lawyer when the Tigers meet a tall team. The strong, sturdily-built forward played in the Far West Classic-his first really important playing time in three years of varsity ball-and he gained confidence with each appearance. When the Tigers met New York University in Madison Square Garden, Heuer responded to the pressure of playing in the Big Town with 13 points and a gamehigh total of 15 rebounds.

The new Tiger coach is personally concerned with every problem and every man on his team. At the first practice after most of the exams were finished, he asked, "Are any of you boys in academic trouble?" He was relieved, of course, that none of them were. But the question indicates the type of person Carril believes a coach should be to his team, "a father." Carril is very aware of his own inner drives. That is why he said, "I personally just don't have the temperament to coach in the pros. The only fun for me is being close to the boys. Of course, there might be more money, less aggravation and more privacy in personal life in other fields of work. But then I wouldn't have the satisfaction I get from coaching."

The Tigers themselves are beginning to catch on to Carril's "love and win" notions. Thomforde stated, "the members of our team are personally very close, and we've got great spirit. Other teams are often very businesslike and professional, but we can always joke and kid around." And where the fun is, the desire to win is not far behind. The Tigers want to win the Ivy championship so that they can avenge their three defeats in the NCAA tournament, and they believe they can.