Mitch Henderson, a 1998 Princeton alumnus whose celebratory leap following the 1996 NCAA Tournament win over UCLA has been part of Princeton and NCAA lore ever since, was named the 28th Franklin C. Cappon-Edward G. Green '40 head men's basketball coach at Princeton University on April 20, 2011.
"Mitch has developed and polished his craft at Northwestern, a Big Ten university that is similar in philosophy with its commitment to the student-athlete - with emphasis on both sides of that hyphen," Princeton Director of Athletics Gary Walters '67, himself a men's basketball alumnus, said upon Henderson's hiring.
In his first season, Henderson continued a nascent string of 20-win seasons and postseason apperances into a third year as the Tigers finished 20-12 and advanced to the College Basketball Invitational quarterfinals. Princeton had another winning campaign in Henderson's second season, finishing 17-11 overall and 10-4 in the Ivy League, bringing his record at Princeton to 37-23, already the 10th-most wins in Princeton coaching history. Following the 2012-13 campaign, Henderson was named Ivy League Coach of the Year by CollegeSportsMadness; the Ivy League does not have an official Coach of the Year award.
Henderson took over a program that won its 26th Ivy League title, the most in league history, in 2010-11 and made its 24th NCAA Tournament appearance, also the most in Ivy history, after winning a one-game playoff over Harvard on a buzzer-beating shot by Douglas Davis '12.
"I've never stopped being a fan since I've graduated," Henderson said. "When Doug's shot went through the net, I jumped off my couch, I was so happy."
Henderson was a four-year starter at Princeton who played in the NCAA Tournament in each of his last three seasons, contributing to the UCLA win as well as a win over UNLV in the first round of the 1998 tournament. During his senior season, Princeton was ranked as high as seventh in the country and earned a No. 5 seed in the NCAA Tournament, finishing 27-2.
"This is an exciting segue in the great tradition of Princeton basketball," Walters said at Henderson's hiring. "We look forward to the future with a heightened sense of anticipation and excitement. Mitch played on some of Princeton's best teams with passion, energy and integrity, values that also reflect his approach to coaching. He has had strong relationships with his players, and we believe our student-athletes at Princeton will benefit from that experience and his character."
Since graduating from Princeton with a degree in economics, Henderson played part of the 1998-99 season in Ireland and attended training camp with the Atlanta Hawks in January 1999 before joining the Lendx Corporation of San Francisco as a research associate.
Henderson joined the coaching profession in 2000 as an assistant coach at Northwestern under former Princeton head coach Bill Carmody, for whom Henderson played at Princeton. Carmody was Henderson's head coach in his final two seasons following Hall of Fame head coach Pete Carril, who coached Henderson in his freshman and sophomore seasons.
During his playing career at Princeton, Henderson earned second-team All-Ivy League honors in 1998 and an All-Ivy honorable mention in 1997. Henderson is fifth in career assists in school history with 304 and eighth in career steals with 142. During his senior season, Henderson was a team co-captain and a co-winner of the B.F. Bunn Trophy, Princeton's most prized annual men's basketball award, sharing both with classmate Steve Goodrich.
A 1994 alumnus of Culver Military Academy in Culver, Ind., Henderson was the school's first 12-time letterwinner, competing in football, basketball and baseball. Henderson was drafted by the New York Yankees as an outfielder with the 24th pick of the 29th round, 815th overall, in 1994.