Bob Callahan ’77, a man whose contributions to the sport he both played and coached at Princeton for 36 years earned him a 2012 induction into the U.S. Squash Fall of Fame, announced his retirement as head coach of the Princeton men’s squash team, it was announced Friday by Princeton Director of Athletics Gary Walters ’67.
“As a colleague of Bob’s for 19 years, and having seen him work his coaching and teaching magic at our Jadwin Squash Courts to the educational benefit of an incredible number of student-athletes,” Walters said, “it is absolutely a bittersweet moment for me and other members of the Princeton community to acknowledge Bob’s decision to retire.
“The word ‘legacy’ is often overused in today’s society, but Bob’s body of work over a 32-year coaching career merits such a term,” Walters said. “I have always believed that a coach’s immortality lies in leaving a vestige of oneself in the character development of one’s players.”
Callahan’s legacy is far more than simple numbers, though the numbers are spectacular. Since taking over the program he captained to the 1977 national championships, Callahan has led Princeton to 314 victories, 11 Ivy League titles and three national championships (1982, 1993, 2012). He has coached the individual national champion 10 times, including the 2011 championship by Todd Harrity, the 2013 Ivy League Co-Player of the Year. Princeton also won the 1988 National Six Man team championship.
“It has been a great ride over the last 32 years, and I have so many people to thank who have supported me along the way,” Callahan said. “Princeton Squash means so much to me, and right now, I think this is the best decision for myself and this program.
“I want to thank Gary Walters and his administration for all the support I have received over the years,” he added. “Both the hard work and consistent support from our department have helped Princeton squash reach great heights throughout this amazing journey of mine as head coach.
“I also want to thank two of the great squash coaches I have ever worked with,” Callahan said. “Gail Ramsay, the head coach of our Ivy women’s champions, has been a great coaching partner for the last 19 years. In addition, she does a fantastic job directing the Princeton Squash Camps. Also, Neil Pomphrey is one of the great squash coaching minds, and I have been proud to coach our men’s team with him for over two decades. Both have been great allies, and even better friends.”
"Where do you begin?" Ramsay said. "Bob has been the guiding light and visionary for Princeton men's squash for 32 years. Personally it is so hard for me to imagine him not at the helm, but he has left a mark that will surely be missed and never forgotten in the Princeton squash world. He has touched so many young men and provided tremendous guidance and support while they have been at Princeton. College squash has not seen a better coach or person and we all will miss his involvement moving foreword."
In a career that spans 314 victories, none drew as much attention as the 5-4 victory over Trinity in the 2012 national championship match. The win, held in front of a enthusiastic, capacity crowd at Jadwin, ended Trinity’s 13-year reign as national champion.
In his final season, Callahan took a team that graduated four seniors from the 2012 national champion and still managed to win its third straight Ivy League title. It was Princeton’s ninth league crown in the last 14 seasons, and the 11th in Callahan’s Hall of Fame career.
Callahan played on three national title teams, including his senior year when he captained the Tigers to an undefeated season (1976-77). A two-time All America, he was ranked fifth in the intercollegiates during his senior season.
He took over the coaching duties in 1981, and shortly afterwards, Callahan founded the nation's first major squash camp in 1982; he has run it continuously ever since. In 1998 he directed the World Junior Men's Championships at Princeton, the first time the U.S. had ever hosted a world singles championship. That event, while an incredible success at the time, would ultimately help him land a young player now considered the greatest collegiate male squash player ever.
Yasser El Halaby became the first male player to win all four individual championships (2003-06), and he helped Princeton to two of the eight Ivy League titles won by Princeton over the last 13 years.
"Playing for Coach Callahan's team is a privilege that one recognizes after the first few team training sessions but only truly understands with time," El Halaby said prior to Callahan’s 2012 Hall of Fame induction. "I have a tremendous respect for a one-in-a-million individual who exudes kindness, generosity and character integrity. The many lessons I have learned and continue to learn from Coach Callahan are not restricted to the game of squash, but encompass all aspects of life.
"A father-figure, friend and life mentor, Coach Callahan's greatness as a squash coach rests in his innate ability to recognize the team's needs and do everything in his capacity to create the most conducive environment for success," El Halaby continued. "I cannot imagine what my college experience would have been like without Coach Callahan. I have much love and respect for Princeton squash's leader, one of the greatest squash coaches I have come across."
“As a former Princeton great squash player and coach, Bob has greatly embodied the values associated with the Princeton Athletics core mission: Education Through Athletics,” Walters said. “There will be many tears shed upon this announcement.”