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Princeton basketball, rich in tradition, forges new identity as they make NCAA run

The Princeton Tigers leave for Louisville and the Sweet 16 on Wednesday.

Matt Trapani and Nick Meidanis

Mar 22, 2023, 2:27 AM

Updated 460 days ago


The Princeton Tigers leave for Louisville and the Sweet 16 on Wednesday. They are a long shot to win the NCAA tournament, but the program was once considered a powerhouse for its success and its style.
That style was because of the late coach Pete Carril who led the Tigers to the NCAA Tournament 11 times.
Carril developed the so-called Princeton offense that is used by teams across the country. But the game has changed since then and so has the team.
Carril's impact is on display at Princeton. His accomplishments hang from the rafters. His name appears on the court.
Mitch Henderson, one of Carril’s prized players, now calls the shots for the team. But he says he has his own identity.
“We built the team and the team’s quite different than maybe our parents’ Princeton teams,” Henderson says.
Those teams played under Carril and went to the NCAA Tournament multiple times. Carril’s style is slow-paced, with backdoor cuts and precision passing.
It almost worked against Georgetown in 1989. It did work years later against UCLA. Henderson was on that team.
"So much of what comes out of my mouth is an honoring and what I’ve learned from Coach Carril. Coach would always say about free throws, ‘These are free points. You gotta get every one of them.’ Even when I call the team together, I go, ‘Yo, let's go fellas,’” Henderson says.
Some of the current players were unfamiliar with Carril’s style of coaching – having grown up under the faster-paced Steph Curry era.
The Tigers are hoping to advance in the tournament after pulling off two upsets.
Carril died seven months ago at 92. The team wears a patch of his signature bow tie.
Princeton will play Creighton Friday night.

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