Greg Hughes ’96, who led the Princeton men’s lightweight crew to 2009 championships at Eastern Sprints, the IRA nationals and the Henley Royal Regatta, will begin his fifth season as the head coach of the Princeton heavyweights when the 2013-14 season begins.
In his first four seasons, Hughes has led Princeton to an 24-10 record, including an 15-9 mark in the Ivy League. Princeton has medaled twice at Eastern Sprints and hasn't finished below fourth. Last season, Hughes helped Princeton return to the grand finals at both the Eastern Sprints and the IRA national championships.
Hughes has also helped several of his rowers earn international success. In the summer of 2013, six current members of the Princeton heavyweight squad competed in either the Royal Henley Regatta or the U-23 World Championships. His 2012 captain, Ian Silveira, helped the U.S. M8+ win gold at the World Rowing Cup.
Twice in the last three years, Princeton has put its varsity eight in both the Sprints and IRA grand finals. In 2011, the V8, 2V8 and novice eight all reached their IRA finals, the first time Princeton achieved that trifecta in a decade. In 2013, without a novice eight, Princeton put both the V8 and 2V8 in the IRA finals, and the 2V8 achieved a perfect regular season.
“Greg established his bona fides with his successful stint as our lightweight coach, culminating in the 2009 team confronting every challenge and winning every race," Director of Athletics Gary Walters said of Hughes. "The rowing program is fortunate to have such a strong line-up of men’s and women’s coaches representing Princeton at the Shea Rowing Center, a Mecca for collegiate rowing.”
It didn't take Hughes long to make an impact on the Tiger heavies. One season after Princeton finished 13th at the Eastern Sprints, Princeton earned a silver medal at the 2010 Championships and battled eventual champion Harvard for most of the grand final.
Hughes, a former Ivy League and national champion rower with the Princeton men’s lightweights, took over as head coach of the men’s lightweight crew in 2006, following the retirement of his former coach, Joe Murtaugh. In his first year, Hughes turned a team that had gone 2-7 in consecutive seasons into a program that went 5-3 and earned a bronze medal at nationals. He'll enter this coming season with a 13-4 record.
In each of the next three seasons, Princeton’s winning percentage would improve, and the Orange and Black would win at least one medal at either the EARC or IRA championships. In 2008, the Tigers rose to No. 1 in the national rankings, won its first Goldthwait Cup over Harvard and Yale since 1999 and placed second at the Eastern championships.
All of that would be an appetizer for what was to come in 2009. The preseason No. 1 team in the nation, Princeton recorded its first perfect season since 1999 and won each regular-season race by at least three seconds. The Tigers went to the Eastern championships and won its first EARC/Ivy League title since 2003 and followed with its first IRA national championship since 1998. It was only the fourth time in program history the men’s lightweights swept both postseason races.
But that wasn’t the end of the story. Princeton went on to the prestigious Royal Henley Regatta and competed in the Temple Challenge Cup. After three wins and a hard-fought victory over Neurus (Netherlands) in the semifinals, Princeton took on the EARC champion Brown freshman boat in the final. The Tigers held off the heavyweight program by ¾ of a length to win the Henley crown and become only the second American collegiate lightweight program to win at Henley since 1973. For Hughes, it was his second career victory at Henley.
Hughes had prior experience with this program, as he once served as the assistant/novice coach for the Tiger men’s heavyweights. His freshman boat won the Eastern Sprints in 1998 and 2003 and went undefeated in both the 2002 and 2003 regular seasons. Hughes’ squad finished the 2003 season in grand style, claiming the Eastern Sprint title, the IRA national title and, finally, the Temple Challenge Cup at the Henley Royal Regatta in England. Six of those rowers were in Princeton’s first varsity boat that won the Head of the Charles, the Eastern Sprints and the Henley Royal Regatta in the 2005-06 season.
In eight years as the head freshman coach at Princeton, his boat was a perfect 16 for 16 in reaching grand finals at both the Eastern Sprints and IRAs.
In 1999, Hughes co-coached the U.S. lightweight men’s 2- and the heavyweight 2+ at the World Championships, with the latter winning the gold. He co-coached the U.S. men’s eight and the men’s pair at the Under-23 World Championships in 2000, where the eight won a bronze medal. The next year, Hughes assisted Murtaugh in coaching the U.S. lightweight eight that won bronze at the World Championships. In 2002, Hughes coached the Under-23 men’s eight to a gold and the pair to a bronze at the World Championships. He also led the U.S. 4+ to a bronze medal at the 2004 World Championships. In 2005, Hughes coached the US men’s 4- which finished 4th at the Under-23 Worlds, and he coached the U.S. men's 4+ to gold at the 2007 World Championships.
Hughes was a four-year lightweight rower under Murtaugh. A 1996 Princeton graduate, Hughes was undefeated in all of his four regular seasons and won two Eastern Sprints titles. He was an All-Ivy League rower on the 1994 and 1996 national championship lightweight crews. He served as team captain in 1996 and won the Gordon G. Sikes Award for the greatest contribution to Princeton lightweight crew. He would go on to be an alternate for both the 1997 and 1998 lightweight U.S. national teams.
Hughes replaced Jordan, who won a program record 129 races with the Tiger heavyweights and added 55 wins with the open crew. Jordan won seven Ivy League and three national championships at Princeton over his time with both programs.
“Most of what I have learned as a coach has come from Curtis,” Hughes said. “He is a leader, he is a mentor, but most of all, he is a great person. There is a selflessness in everything that he does. He has always made sound decisions as a coach and he has treated everyone with honesty and integrity. He is competitive and he produces winners, but win or not, Curtis and his team act with class when the racing is through. These traits have become a part of the legacy of Princeton Rowing. Building on that legacy will be a very special and rewarding challenge and it is an honor to have been given this opportunity.”