PRINCETON - The man at the center of one of the most iconic photos in Princeton history is returning to campus.
Mitch Henderson, a 1998 Princeton alumnus whose celebratory leap following the 1996 NCAA Tournament win over UCLA has been part of Princeton and NCAA lore ever since, will be announced Thursday at noon as the 28th Franklin C. Cappon-Edward G. Green '40 head men's basketball coach at Princeton University.
"I am pleased to announce that Mitch, one of Princeton's terrific point guards, will succeed his teammate, Sydney Johnson, as the head coach of Princeton basketball," Princeton Director of Athletics Gary Walters '67, himself a men's basketball alumnus, said. "Mitch has developed and polished his craft at Northwestern, a Big Ten university that is similar in philosophy with its commitment to the student-athlete - with emphasis on both sides of that hyphen."
Henderson will take over a program that won its 26th Ivy League title, the most in league history, this season and made its 24th NCAA Tournament appearance, also the most in Ivy history, after winning a one-game playoff over Harvard on a buzzer-beating shot by junior Douglas Davis.
"I've never stopped being a fan since I've graduated," Henderson said. "When Doug's shot went through the net, I jumped off my couch, I was so happy. I was excited for Sydney and his staff, and for the team. I feel like I know our guys already."
Henderson was a four-year starter at Princeton who played in the NCAA Tournament in each of his last three seasons, contributing to the UCLA win as well as a win over UNLV in the first round of the 1998 tournament. During his senior season, Princeton was ranked as high as seventh in the country and earned a No. 5 seed in the NCAA Tournament, finishing 27-2.
"This is an exciting segue in the great tradition of Princeton basketball," Walters said. "We look forward to the future with a heightened sense of anticipation and excitement. Mitch played on some of Princeton's best teams with passion, energy and integrity, values that also reflect his approach to coaching. He has had strong relationships with his players, and we believe our student-athletes at Princeton will benefit from that experience and his character."
Since graduating from Princeton with a degree in economics, Henderson played part of the 1998-99 season in Ireland and was with the Atlanta Hawks in January 1999 before joining the Lendx Corporation of San Francisco as a research associate.
Henderson joined the coaching profession in 2000 as an assistant coach at Northwestern under former Princeton head coach Bill Carmody, for whom Henderson played at Princeton. Carmody was Henderson's head coach in his final two seasons following Hall of Fame head coach Pete Carril, who coached Henderson in his freshman and sophomore seasons.
"I'm so excited about the opportunity to coach here," Henderson said. "I'm eager to get going with growing on what Sydney has been able to do here the last four years."
During his time at Princeton, Henderson earned second-team All-Ivy League honors in 1998 and an All-Ivy honorable mention in 1997. Henderson is fourth in career assists in school history with 304 and eighth in career steals with 142. During his senior season, Henderson was a team co-captain and a co-winner of the B.F. Bunn Trophy, Princeton's most prized annual men's basketball award, sharing both with classmate Steve Goodrich.
"I felt very fortunate to be a part of that team that was doing something very special for this program," Henderson said. "I want to continue that moment with this team and keep building on it just like we did in '97 and '98."
Fans can call the Princeton athletic ticket office at 609-258-4TIX to reserve their seats for the 2011-12 season.