This is not glamorous business. This is a bus, rolling down another seemingly endless highway on another long, cold, seemingly endless winter night.
This is love. This is one man who could have traded all this for the more upscale accommodations that his craft offered and never did, and isn’t that what love—real love, enduring love, blind love—is all about?
This is irony. This is the story of a man completely mismatched for a university—and the 29 years they spent trying to understand each other.
This is a morality play. This is working hard every day because that’s what your father did and don’t you owe something to him?
Add it up, and what you’re left with is this: this is Pete Carril, basketball coach. Basketball, because there exists between the man and his sport an unbreakable fidelity, and coach, because for as much as he understands the intricacies of the game, Pete Carril understands the intricacies of the people who play it even more.
Go back to the bus for a minute, back to those long trips home from games in the middle of a thousand frozen nights. Pete Carril made these trips for 43 years, first as a high school coach and later with Lehigh and finally Princeton.
There’s one route that seems to stand out now, after all the miles, the trip from Dartmouth to Princeton. On a good night, it can be done in less than five hours. About two hours south on I-91 from Hanover, after midnight on a normal itinerary, the bus rolls through Springfield and past the Naismith Memorial Basketball Hall of Fame. Perhaps Pete Carril one time looked out his window and thought ‘maybe someday.’ It’s more likely that it never crossed his mind.
But in 1998, the building that Pete Carril zipped past once a year slowed down to open its doors to him. In doing so, it accepted as one of its own a man who never played a minute of professional basketball and never coached a national champion, a man who competed against the obstacles within his system and succeeded despite them, a man who never stopped believing that his teams could achieve anything for which they worked hard enough—because as he was most fond of saying: “what good is it being Spanish if you can’t chase after windmills?”
About Pete Carril
• Princeton head coach from 1967-1996
• 514-261 at Princeton and 525-273 overall
• 13 Ivy League titles
• 11 NCAA tournament appearances
• Led Princeton to the 1975 NIT title
• Elected to the Naismith Basketball Hall of Fame in 1997
• 10-year NBA assistant coach with Sacramento Kings