March 21, 2008

NICE TO SEE YA':

BLUE-COLLAR COACH IN A BUTTON-DOWN LEAGUE: Pete Carril looks dumpy, smokes stogies and hangs around a seedy bar, but with a 190-81 basketball record at Princeton, he does not need an Ivy image (Kent Hannon, 1/02/78, Sports Illustrated)

Billy Omeltchenko tells the story best, although any of his teammates seated around a table at The Pub, Princeton's on-campus watering hole, could relate a similar encounter. This one took place several years ago when Omeltchenko, now a starting guard on the Princeton basketball team, was a senior at Great Neck (N.Y.) North High School and was being recruited by a few colleges in the East.

"One night I was told that Pete Carril, the Princeton coach, would be in the stands to watch me play," Omeltchenko recalls. "During the game I noticed this bald little man lying down on the bleachers with his head propped up on one elbow. He looked like a bum. He was wearing gray corduroys with suspenders and Hush Puppies with white socks, and he was sucking on a cigar butt that was maybe an inch long. After the game, my coach came by my locker and said, 'Billy, I want you to meet Coach Carril.' And it was him, the guy in the bleachers! I mean, he looked like Columbo. I didn't see how he could be from Princeton. He said, 'Nice to see ya, nice to see ya,' and then spent the next 20 minutes tearing my game apart. I couldn't get over him. He was wonderful. So here I am at Princeton, paying $6,500 a year to play basketball for him."

Omeltchenko's recruiting tale describes the predicament that Pete Carril finds himself in while trying to foster winning basketball at a rich man's school. It also hints at how he has gone about assembling such successful teams as his present group, which is attempting to make the Tigers the stingiest defensive team in the nation for the third season in a row and which will be aiming for Princeton's third straight Ivy League championship when conference play begins this week.

Posted by Orrin Judd at March 21, 2008 5:20 PM
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