The world will no longer hear “Yo, yo, yo, yo, yo, yo, yo”.
At least not in the unique way Pete Carril put it when trying to get your attention. What he always deserved.
Carril, a Bethlehem native, Liberty and Lafayette graduate, former Easton teacher, Basketball Hall of Famer and Princeton men’s basketball coach for 29 memorable and passionate years, died Monday at 92. .
Again, much of what Carril did fit neatly into “unique,” if not any other tote basket.
This cry “yo-yo-yo” will echo around Jadwin Gym for a long time. That’s how he caught your eye and, believe me, he certainly caught your eye with it, usually waving his hands, which most often carried a cup of strong coffee and a strong cigar – bans on Smoking inside was not nice to Carril.
I had a particular vision of the great man, since I was manager of his teams in 1981-82 and 1982-83. Freshman year was one of Carril’s least memorable seasons (outside of a win over Duke), as the team struggled to reach .500 (which it did, preventing its first season loser, and indeed he never had one as a Tigers coach). The second saw the Tigers win the Ivy League, beating Penn in a showdown at the Spectrum in Philadelphia, and winning Oklahoma State in the NCAA Tournament – much better.
I could tell many stories about Carril – his keen sense of error, his rapier wit, his wide smile that could light up the gym when something was right, his attention to the smallest details, his devastating criticisms, sometimes coruscantes, his capacity for friendship, his passion for doing things right, his commitment to being the best – but the best of them always feel like they should stay in the fashion of oral history, not be written down, to keep the great man alive in our thoughts and lives rather than clouding memories written in dusty history books.
Carril, who was also the head coach at Lehigh and Reading High School, was first and foremost a teacher. He taught basketball. He gave life lessons. He learned to be a man.
He also taught physical education classes, usually racquetball. (I bet John Calipari never had to do that.)
He had weird ideas. He hated replacing players, because he thought a substitution should be an improvement, and the best player was already playing, yo, right?
Replace a tired player? “Yo, yo, yo, how can a young man in his prime be physically tired playing a game?” he would say. “Yo, yo, yo, I’m an old man. I have the right to tire myself.
Carril was probably most famous for his legendary willful offense, with his backdoor cuts, weaves, and “point crosses” running offense.
But don’t you dare call it a stall. Oh no. “Yo, yo, yo, we’re just looking to get a good shot, and if it takes a while, then?”
The definition of a “good shot” was an open jumper or an open layup, and the latter is best not missed. A player let a lay-up pass for a dunk once, missed the dunk by slamming the ball over the back edge, from where he shot to half court, and the opposition converted him in a layup. Carril was so hot he was smoking and this player anchored the bench for a long time.
Carril was however flexible and could change over time. He would have preferred to have a team where he could run the floor for transition layups and play more aggressive defense, and the early days of practice were often like that until he realized he wasn’t. there was no way Princeton could hang on to its killer schedule. (more on that later) and it was back to “the Princeton offense”.
When the shot clock and the 3-point shot came in, a lot of people predicted Carril’s death, but he knew better. By 1982, it was becoming increasingly difficult for Princeton to recruit the kind of athletic and powerful game-changing players. “Yo, yo, yo, but 6-3 guards that can shoot jumps?” he would say. “I can get them.” And he certainly did, as the next 10 years showed.
He saw, around 1983 or so, that coaching in the Ivy League would become increasingly difficult as costs soared. In the 1970s, Princeton could offer players like Armond Hill or Brian Taylor or Geoff Petrie packages close enough to what scholarship schools could offer that the added thrill and prestige of the Ivies made up the difference.
But by 1983 the difference had reached thousands and thousands of dollars, and Carril himself was telling the parents of really good players who wanted to come to Princeton that if they got a scholarship offer from, say, William & Mary, to take it.
Carril could have made his life easier by going somewhere else, but he never did. He loved the challenge and he also respected the academics of the university. He might be dismissive of the people “across the road” – that is, the faculty and administration, located on the west side of Washington Road; Jadwin is on the east side – but academics have always come first.
And I mean always. The long bus rides (we seemed to take as long to get to Ithaca as Ulysses) were quiet as everyone was reading or working. Practices during reading time or exams were optional, and he meant it: “Yo, yo, yo, do you have to study? You stay home and study; We’ll be fine.” If a professor called Carril to complain about your performance in class, even the best backdoor cut couldn’t save you from a memorable lecture.
He was, to put it mildly, dismissive of the academic endeavors of some of the Tigers’ non-Ivy enemies (and even some Ivys). When told of a well-known player’s decision to turn pro for the sake of his family, Carril said, “Who taught him to spell that?”
But, yet, Carril wanted to play the best he could play, regardless of academics. His non-conference schedules were stacked with the top 25 teams. He once dismissed the idea of playing local schools such as Drexel or Rider saying, “If I’m going to play a scholarship team, I want to play Virginia (who had Ralph Sampson at the time).”
The problem for Carril was that, as part of the rise of the conference double-round robin like the alpha and omega, many of the teams he loved to play — St. John’s, for example — would no longer schedule. Princeton. Bringing good teams — or any teams — to Jadwin, like Duke and BYU did in 1981, was nearly impossible.
In the early 1990s, he was playing fast-paced Loyola-Marymount and powerhouse UNLV, and wrote in a letter to boosters that year that “anyone who wants to coach in these games, give me a call”.
Carril wanted to play against those teams because he thought they could be beaten, if Princeton played their basketball like the Tigers could. He never, ever thought otherwise and he never coached otherwise. With attention to detail, flawless execution and complete mental focus, he always believed his team could win, in any game, anywhere.
That’s why he looked so anguished along the sideline, his hair askew, clutching his rolled up program, gesturing skyward – to him, basketball was easy and his players made it hard. This, he never quite understood, that his ideas and teaching could be anything but basic, easy to learn and apply.
He was indifferent to statistics of all kinds. Once, after kicking Cal out of his own gym, someone noted that the Tigers were massively overrun. “Yo, yo, yo, if you don’t miss a lot of shots, there’s no rebounds. ” Absolutely.
In 1982 we were desperate to win our last game in freezing Barton Hall at Cornell to hit .500 and save the coach from a losing season. We were doing. He couldn’t care less. It was just a statistic.
He could also be indifferent to everything that was not in his immediate circuit. I once saw him pass by the outstretched hand of Princeton President William G. Bowen after a 1983 loss to Penn, without the slightest acknowledgment. Media outside the premises that have covered it for years could be dealt with quickly. Receptions and parties were not his style. Athletic department officials could be treated with, well, indifference.
And there were times when he seemed a bit lost in the world. One evening during that difficult 1981-82 season, he asked me to run to the Wawa to buy some Jiffy-Pop popcorn for his dinner. I did, but always felt like I should have invited back to the dorm cafeteria for a proper meal. When he was inducted into the Basketball Hall of Fame in 1997, he seemed amused by all the attention, with that wry, knowing smile at his cut through all the emphasis.
By then he had left Princeton and was working for the NBA’s Sacramento Kings, where Petrie, a former player, was in the front office. When asked kindly if the pros pay attention to him, Carril replied, “The ones who don’t, I don’t teach. Those who do, I teach.
The latter were the luckiest, wherever “Yo, yo, yo” could be heard.
This has always been the case. And if they found out, Carril was delighted. After the memorable 1989 NCAA loss to No. 1 Georgetown, 50-49, a game where Carril could very easily have been angry with the officials, he laughed and then joked with the press, ruffling the hair of the crew. leader Bob Scrabis (who was fouled – twice – late in the game by Alonzo Mourning, we’ll always believe him), because his team had done what they were taught so well.
Of course, winning was always better, and Carril might be the happiest little elf after wins over (especially) Penn and Rutgers. No one who watched him will ever forget the joy he beamed after Allentown Central Catholic graduate Gabe Lewullis upset defending national champion UCLA in the NCAA Tournament in March 1996.
It was Carril’s last win on his 525. It couldn’t have been more fitting. This was a team that had learned to play basketball the Pete Carril way and to win the Pete Carril way.
For my money, there was no better way. Yo, yo, yo, coach – we can never forget you.
Thank you for counting on us to deliver journalism you can trust. Please consider supporting lehighvalleylive.com with a voluntary subscription.
Brad Wilson can be reached at [email protected].