Pete Carril, old-school Princeton coaching maestro, dies

Aug 15, 2022, 1:22 AM | Updated: Aug 17, 2022, 10:14 am
FILE - Inductees to the Basketball Hall of Fame pose at a news conference in New York, Feb. 4, 1997...

FILE - Inductees to the Basketball Hall of Fame pose at a news conference in New York, Feb. 4, 1997. From left are Joan Crawford of Nashville, Tenn.; Denise Curry of UCLA; Pete Carril of Princeton; Alex English of the Denver Nuggets; Don Haskins of UTEP; and Bailey Howell of the Detroit Pistons. Carril, the rumpled, cigar-smoking basketball coach who led Princeton to 11 appearances in the NCAA tournament, where his teams unnerved formidable opponents and rattled March Madness with old-school fundamentals, died Monday, Aug. 15, 2022. He was 92. (AP Photo/Marty Lederhandler, File)

(AP Photo/Marty Lederhandler, File)

Pete Carril, the rumpled, cigar-smoking basketball coach who led Princeton to 11 appearances in the NCAA Tournament, where his teams unnerved formidable opponents and rattled March Madness with old-school fundamentals, died Monday. He was 92.

Princeton released a statement from Carril’s family, which said he died “peacefully this morning. It did not give a cause of death.

“We kindly ask that you please respect our privacy at this time as we process our loss and handle necessary arrangements. More information will be forthcoming in the following days,” the statement said.

Carril, a Hall of Famer, schooled his teams in a distinct and throwback brand of ball — the Princeton offense, a game marked by patience, intelligence, constant motion, quick passing and backdoor cuts that often ended in layups.

It was an offense that could be played on any level of basketball. At Princeton, it was usually performed by players often dismissed or overlooked by some of the nation’s basketball powers. Come the NCAA Tournament, however, Princeton’s unforgiving discipline could offset the disparity of talent on the floor.

During Carril’s 29 seasons as the Tigers’ coach, the system worked splendidly. His teams won 13 Ivy League titles and posted a 514-261 record without the benefit of scholarship players. Its deliberate approach draining the high octane from many opponents, Princeton led the nation in scoring defense in 14 of his last 21 seasons, including the last eight in a run that ended in 1996.

He guided Princeton to the National Invitation Tournament championship in 1975 and was elected to the Naismith Basketball Hall of Fame in 1997.

Basketball fans loved to watch the headaches Carril’s teams caused in March. That was certainly the case in 1989 for Georgetown’s John Thompson, the Hall of Fame coach sweating late in the game with his trademark towel draped over his shoulder.

Princeton gave a No. 1 Georgetown team featuring Alonzo Mourning and Charles Smith all it could handle, and as a No. 16 seed was on the verge of a monumental upset. The Tigers had two shots in the closing seconds at sending Thompson and his team home but were denied, losing 50-49.

Carril’s final season in 1996 was highlighted by a first-round NCAA victory over defending champion UCLA, an outcome many consider one of the biggest surprises in tournament history.

Peter Joseph Carril was born on July 10, 1930, to Spanish immigrant parents in Bethlehem, Pennsylvania. He played at Lafayette College under a venerable coach in Butch Van Breda Kolff. After an Army stint, Carril coached in high school in Pennsylvania in the 1950s and ’60s before getting a college head coaching job at Lehigh. He spent the 1966-67 season there, going 11-12, and then was on his way to Princeton.

Carril was more than a basketball coach. Friends and former players say he was intelligent, philosophical, a great judge of character, honest and caring. He was not the country-club type. He was down to earth, his attire simple: open-collared shirts, wrinkled sweaters, his thinning hair never quite combed. Occasionally, there would be a sport jacket.

On the court, Carril was demanding. He worked his players hard and sought perfection. It would not be unusual for him to sit on the bench with a 20-point lead and a pained look creasing his face following a bad pass, a turnover or missed layup. It was the craft, the process that mattered, never mind the score.

If asked about it, he would recall what his father had told him growing up in Bethlehem, one of the country’s steel capitals.

“When you lower your standards, they can turn around and attack you,” Carril said often.

Success on the court never changed Carril. He liked his cigars. He enjoyed a drink, a coffee or just chatting with people at Andy’s Tavern in Princeton, that is until it became a sushi bar in the 1990s. Conte’s Pizza remained one of his hangouts. He would occasionally stop at the Princeton basketball office to talk hoops with Mitch Henderson, who became Princeton’s coach in 2011.

After leaving Princeton, Carril jumped to unfamiliar ground — the NBA. He spent 10 seasons as an assistant coach with the Sacramento Kings. He helped Rick Adelman’s Kings win two Pacific Division titles and a spot in the 2002 Western Conference finals.

He joined the Washington Wizards staff in 2007 and in 2009 returned to the Kings, where in his first stint the Princeton offense found new life at basketball’s highest level.


More AP college basketball: and

Copyright © The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.


Arizona Coyotes forward Barrett Hayton, left, collides with Anaheim Ducks defenseman John Klingberg...
Associated Press

Drop the puck: What to know about the 2022-23 NHL season

The NHL is back to normal with the regular season stretching from October through the middle of April before the two-month thrill ride that is the chase for the Stanley Cup. Over that time, teams are scheduled to play a total of 1,312 games over 189 days, starting with Nashville and San Jose facing off […]
1 day ago
Phoenix Suns center Deandre Ayton (22) and Los Angeles Lakers forward LeBron James (6) battle for t...
Associated Press

LeBron in Vegas? He makes an expansion pitch to Adam Silver

LAS VEGAS (AP) — LeBron James came to Las Vegas for a preseason game. And a pitch. James, who has spoken in the past about wanting to eventually own an NBA franchise — with Las Vegas on his mind — sent a crystal-clear message to Commissioner Adam Silver on Wednesday night, reminding him of his […]
1 day ago
FILE - Dallas Stars' Jason Robertson skates during the third period of an NHL hockey game against t...
Associated Press

Stars sign 41-goal scorer Robertson to $31M, 4-year deal

FRISCO, Texas (AP) — Jason Robertson has signed a $31 million, four-year contract with the Dallas Stars after the young 40-goal scorer missed the first two weeks of training camp. The Stars announced the deal late Wednesday night, after their exhibition game in Denver, only a week before the regular season opener Oct. 13 at […]
1 day ago
The ski slopes are almost devoid of snow at the Tūroa ski field, on Mt. Ruapehu, New Zealand on Se...
Associated Press

Missing snow puts famed New Zealand ski areas on precipice

TUROA SKI AREA, New Zealand (AP) — New Zealand’s Turoa ski area is usually a white wonderland at this time of year, its deep snowpack supporting its famed spring skiing. This season, it’s largely a barren moonscape, with tiny patches of snow poking out between vast fields of jagged volcanic boulders. The ski area was […]
1 day ago
FILE - Kansas City Royals pitching coach Cal Eldred in the seventh inning of a baseball game, May 1...
Associated Press

Royals fire manager Mike Matheny after 65-97 end to season

KANSAS CITY, Mo. (AP) — Manager Mike Matheny and pitching coach Cal Eldred were fired by the Kansas Cty Royals on Wednesday night, shortly after the struggling franchise finished the season 65-97 with a listless 9-2 loss to the Cleveland Guardians. The Royals had exercised their option on Matheny’s contract for 2023 during spring training, […]
1 day ago
Los Angeles Lakers forward LeBron James (6) blocks a shot by Phoenix Suns forward Mikal Bridges (25...
Associated Press

James scores 23 points, but not enough as Suns defeat Lakers

LAS VEGAS (AP) — LeBron James flashed his midseason form Wednesday night, scoring 23 points in 18 minutes before the Phoenix Suns beat the Los Angeles Lakers 112-115. James, who missed all seven of his shots in Los Angeles’ loss to Sacramento on Monday, was much more aggressive with the Lakers playing without Anthony Davis. […]
1 day ago
Pete Carril, old-school Princeton coaching maestro, dies