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Pete Carril, Princeton’s Textbook Basketball Coach, Dies at 92


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Pete Carril, who coached men’s basketball at Princeton for 29 years and scared big-name opponents along with his undersize, often underskilled scholars playing an old-fashioned textbook game, died on Monday. He was 92.

His family announced the death in an announcement posted on the Princeton Tigers’ website. It didn’t say where he died or give the reason behind death.

As the lads’s head coach from 1967 to 1996, Carril (pronounced care-ILL) taught a considering man’s basketball at Princeton. As an Ivy League member, Princeton couldn’t offer athletic scholarships, and its academic demands were high, but Carril’s teams, almost invariably outmanned and overmatched, still won twice as often as they lost.

His record at Princeton was 514-261, with 13 Ivy titles, 11 appearances within the National Collegiate Athletic Association’s championship tournament, two within the National Invitation Tournament (his team won in 1975) and just one losing season. Fourteen of his Princeton teams led the nation in defense. In 1997, he was elected to the Basketball Hall of Fame in Springfield, Mass.

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He emphasized a deliberate off-the-ball offense that kept players passing the ball and setting screens until a shooter was open or someone broke free to the basket in a patented backdoor play. The scores were low, and regardless of how much opponents prepared, they were frustrated and infrequently lost their poise.

“Playing Princeton is type of like going to the dentist,” said Jim Valvano, the North Carolina State coach who died in 1993 at 47. “ that down the road it will possibly make you higher, but while it’s happening it will possibly be very, very painful.”

Within the N.C.A.A.’s annual tournament, Carril’s teams might lose to national powers but not before unnerving them and threatening an upset. In the primary round alone, Princeton lost to Georgetown by 50-49 in 1989, Arkansas by 68-64 in 1990 and Villanova by 50-48 in 1991.

Carril’s final college victory got here on March 14, 1996, in Indianapolis, in the primary round of the N.C.A.A. tournament against U.C.L.A., the defending champion. Thirteenth-seeded Princeton, 7 points behind with six minutes left, scored on — what else? — a backdoor with 3.9 seconds left and won. The subsequent day, The Day by day Princetonian, the coed newspaper, ran this headline across Page 1:

“David 43, Goliath 41.”

Carril said he was under no illusions: “If we played U.C.L.A. 100 times, they might win 99 times.” (The Tigers went on to defeat, 63-41, within the second round against Mississippi State.)

Across the Princeton campus he was a revered, raspy-voiced figure in a well-worn sweater and baggy khakis (or, when he dressed formally, a bow tie). A colleague once described him as “a rumpled Lilliputian who would look as misplaced in an Armani suit as he would in a Vera Wang gown.” And through games he was known for an animated coaching style.

Every yr at his first rehearsal, Carril made the identical speech to his players.

“I find out about your academic load,” he said. “I understand how tough it’s to provide up the time to play here, but let’s get one thing straight. In my book, there isn’t any such thing as an Ivy League player. Whenever you come out of that locker room and step across that white line, you might be basketball players, period.”

But he also told his players:

“Princeton is a special place with some very special professors. It’s something special to be taught by one among them. But you aren’t special simply because you occur to go here.”

Pedro José (later referred to as Peter Joseph) Carril was born on July 10, 1930, in Bethlehem, Pa. His father, an immigrant from Spain, worked for 40 years on the blast furnaces of Bethlehem Steel and, his son said, never missed a day of labor.

In highschool in Bethlehem, Pete was an all-state basketball player, and at Lafayette, where he played for Butch van Breda Kolff, he was a Little All-American. Then, for 12 years, he coached highschool basketball in Pennsylvania while earning a master’s degree in education from Lehigh University in 1959.

Within the 1966-67 season, he coached Lehigh to an 11-12 record. Then, van Breda Kolff, who was coaching Princeton, left to teach the Los Angeles Lakers of the National Basketball Association. Princeton considered Bobby Knight and Larry Brown as successors. As an alternative, it took Carril.

He left college coaching after the 1995-96 season.

“I’ve been dodging bullets for 30 years,” Carril said. “I find I’m not seeing as much. I used to think the youngsters felt my coaching was value five points a game to them. Possibly it was, but I get the sense they don’t feel that way now. I feel I make less of a difference.”

The subsequent yr, he became an assistant coach of the Sacramento Kings of the N.B.A. under Coach Rick Adelman, spending most of his time breaking down game tapes. He remained with the team for many of the following decade, retiring in 2006, but three years later, at 78, he rejoined the Kings as a consultant.

“Being an assistant doesn’t trouble me in any respect,” he said. “The aggravation and the pain in your stomach and the headaches that you just get once you see things which are done improper or once you lose, or all those problems you could have as a head coach, I’d had enough.”

With Dan White he wrote “The Smart Take From the Strong: The Basketball Philosophy of Pete Carril” (1997). His coaching methods were even the topic of an educational paper by a Fordham University marketing professor, Francis Petit, titled, “What Executives Can Learn From Pete Carril.”

Information on his survivors was not immediately available.

Carril was ambivalent about his success. He once said: “People ask me, ‘How do you should be remembered?’ I tell them I don’t.”

But he will probably be remembered, regardless that none of his teams gained the last word honor. He brushed that off, too.

“Winning a national championship shouldn’t be something you’re going to see us do at Princeton,” he said in his final years there. “I resigned myself to that years ago. What does it mean, anyway? After I’m dead, possibly two guys will walk past my grave, and one will say to the opposite: ‘Poor guy. Never won a national championship.’ And I won’t hear a word they are saying.”

Frank Litsky, a longtime sportswriter for The Times, died in 2018. William McDonald contributed reporting.

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