In his earliest days as Princeton men's basketball coach 40 years ago, Pete Carril used to sit and watch the construction of Jadwin Gymnasium. Now his legacy will be as much a part of the building itself as the foundation he watched the builders pour.
The Princeton University Department of Athletics will be naming the game floor at Jadwin "Carril Court" in honor of the Hall-of-Fame coach who won 514 games and 13 Ivy League championships in 29 years at Princeton. An official ceremony will be held on Feb. 21, 2009, as Princeton takes on Dartmouth.
"This is a fitting tribute to a coach who did as much to influence the sport of basketball as anyone in the late 20th century," says Princeton Director of Athletics Gary Walters, who played for Carril at Reading High School in the early ’60s. "He has also had an indelible mark on everyone who has played for him."
Carril coached Princeton from the 1967-68 season until the 1995-96 season, compiling a record of 514-263. He took Princeton to 11 NCAA tournaments and two NITs, winning the NIT championship in 1975. His final team at Princeton defeated Penn in a one-game playoff for the Ivy League's automatic bid to the NCAA tournament on the night he announced his retirement and then knocked off defending-champion UCLA 43-41 in the first round, scoring the winning basket with 3.9 seconds to play on a signature backdoor play.
Carril grew up in Bethlehem, Pa., where his father worked in the steel mills for 40 years. The son turned to basketball at an early age, and he played at Lafayette College, where one of the four head coaches he had was Butch van Breda Kolff. Carril would go to the Army and then to coaching at Easton High and Reading High in Pennsylvania before becoming the head coach at Lehigh, where he was 11-12 in 1966-67. When van Breda Kolff left Princeton to become the Los Angeles Lakers' head coach, Carril replaced him on the Tigers' bench.
By the time he left, he had coached 33 first-team All-Ivy selections and eight Ivy League Players of the Year. He had given the game some of its greatest moments, including the 1989 50-49 loss to No. 1 Georgetown in the first round of the NCAA tournament, the UCLA win and wins over Holy Cross, South Carolina, Oregon and Providence to win the NIT title in 1975.
He also helped teach a brand of basketball that became known as the "Princeton Offense" and eventually would spread to all levels of professional, college and high school basketball. His coaching legacy includes five current Division I head coaches who played for him at Princeton.
He was inducted into the Naismith Memorial Basketball Hall of Fame in 1998.
"Coach brought to the players who played for him in Jadwin Gym an unwavering commitment to the value of hard work and dedication to something larger than any one single person," says Georgetown head coach John Thompson, who played for Carril before graduating from Princeton in 1988. "These are lessons that college basketball players aren't necessarily open to learning, but they are also lessons that none of us have ever forgotten. I can't think of a better tribute to who he is, what he taught and what's he accomplished in that building than to have the court named for him."
Carril Court will be the name of the varsity game floor at Jadwin. It will also be part of the Dorrance Courts, which stretch from the east side to the west side of the building.