Bob Callahan has coached the greatest individual player in the history of college squash, and now he has coached the team that ended the greatest championship run in the history of college squash.
He has seen and done it all in an illustrious coaching career, but he continues to look ahead to the next challenge, and the next young player he can help develop both on and off the court.
Bob Callahan, a 1977 graduate of Princeton University, will be entering his 32nd year as the Tigers’ head men’s squash coach when the 2012-13 season begins. For the first time in nearly two decades, though, he'll be entering as the head coach of the reigning national champion.
Princeton capped a brilliant 2011-12 season by defeating Trinity College 5-4 in the CSA national team final to earn the Tigers their 11th national championship. It was the third national title for Callahan, and the first for any school besides Trinity in a 13-year span; the win captured national attention, reaching sites like ESPN.com and SI.com, among others.
With more than 300 career victories and 10 Ivy League team titles, Callahan has had one of the most distinguished careers in the history of collegiate squash. However, his run since the 1999-2000 season has been among the best in the history of the Ivy League. His teams have won eight of the last 13 Ivy League titles, including one last season. They reached eight national finals, and finally broke through on Kelly Shannon's win at the No. 4 spot last season.
He has also coached the greatest collegiate men’s squash player ever and has placed at least one player in the national individual final in 11 of the last 13 years. In the 2011 final, sophomore Todd Harrity topped Cornell's Nick Sachvie to claim his first national championship; he also became the 14th Princeton player to win an individual championship. He became the first American ever to win a collegiate softball championship; the last American to win nationals was Harvard's Jon Bernheimer in 1990, when hardball was still being played on the collegiate level.
The previous years will be remembered as fondly as any in the great tradition of Princeton squash. The 2005-06 Tigers claimed a share of the Ivy League title, routed Yale to reach the national final and nearly sprung a historic upset of Trinity. Two of Callahan’s top protegés reached the national semfinals, and the great Yasser El Halaby won his unprecedented fourth straight individual national title. El Halaby also made international history in 2004 when he became the first amateur to qualify for the prestigious Tournament of Champions in New York City.
When El Halaby graduated in 2006, most felt he took Princeton’s Ivy championship hopes with him. Instead, a trio of sophomores, including eventual national finalist Mauricio Sanchez and Yasser’s younger brother Hesham El Halaby, went unbeaten in league play to claim a second straight crown. The Tigers knocked off Harvard 5-4 to reach the national final, where it fell to Trinity for a second straight season.
What the 2007-08 season lacked in drama, it made up for in sheer dominance. Princeton won every single Ivy League match 9-0 and didn’t lose a single individual match to any team outside of Trinity. In its six Ivy League team wins, Princeton lost a grand total of six individual games. The Tigers made their way back to a third straight national final before falling to Trinity. Callahan guided Sanchez to a second straight Ivy League Player of the Year award and teammate David Letourneau to Ivy League Rookie of the Year honors.
The 2008-09 may have been the greatest collection of talent Callahan has ever produced. Princeton went 13-2 on the season, won the Ivy League title with a perfect 6-0 mark and made its fourth straight national final. No team had ever pushed Trinity as hard during the Bantams' 202-match win streak as Princeton twice did; the Tigers lost to Trinity 5-4 in the regular season and came within two points of upsetting Trinity for the national championship in a six-hour thriller. Princeton had seven All-Americas in the 2008-09 season and six All-Ivy honorees, including three-time Player of the Year Sanchez and Rookie of the Year Chris Callis.
Callahan, who has posted a career record of 302-63 with a winning percentage of .827 during more than three decades as the Tiger head coach. A four-year squash letterwinner while at Princeton, Callahan captained the Tigers’ 1977 national championship squad and earned All-Ivy League and All-America honors following his junior and senior years. Princeton claimed three nine-man national titles in Callahan’s four years, during which time he also played three years of varsity tennis.
After four years of working for IBM, Callahan returned to his alma mater in 1981 and assumed the head coaching duties in squash. In his initial campaign he led the Tigers to an undefeated season, the Ivy League title and the national championship. Princeton, consistently ranked among the top three teams, also won the 1993 national title. From 1999-2003, Princeton won three Ivy League titles, and during a historic 2003 campaign, Princeton won the Ivy League title, the national 5-man title, the national individual title and pushed Trinity to the limit before falling 6-3 in the national team final.
Callahan is a former national squash champion and a past president of the Intercollegiate Squash Association. In the summer he co-directs the prestigious Princeton Junior Squash Training Center, which annually attracts the top 300 junior squash players in America. He also served as the director of the World Junior Championships at Princeton in 1998.
Callahan and his wife Kristen live in Princeton and have five children, Greg, Scott, Tim, Peter and Matt. Each of the five sons are Princeton graduates, and each played squash for the Tigers.
|Totals||302-63||140-31||10 Ivy/2 5-Man/3 National|