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Mind the gap.

Today is the fourth day of Princeton's most recent coaching search. How long can you expect the wait to last before the next head Tiger is announced. Well, if history is any indication...

1996: Coach Pete Carril steps down on March 9th following Princeton's Ivy League playoff win over Penn. Bill Carmody is promoted immediately but does not take the reigns until the season is officially over following the Tigers' NCAA Tournament loss to Mississippi State.

From Princeton Alumni Weekly:

Carril drained the color from the face of athletic director Gary Walters '67 when, during the press conference following the Tigers' 63-56 playoff defeat of Penn at which he announced his retirement, he tweaked equal-opportunity protocols-and alluded to the dynastic way he had been chosen to succeed his mentor, Butch van breda Kolff '45, 29 years earlier - by saying, offhandedly, "I have on my staff the guy who's gonna succeed me, Billy Carmody . . . after a brief search."

Gap = zero days.

2001: Bill Carmody accepts the Northwestern job on September 6th. Assistant coach John Thompson III is promoted the same afternoon and introduced officially one day later.

Gap = zero days.

2004: John Thompson III meets with his players privately the evening of April 19th to inform them he is leaving for Georgetown. The next day Princeton receives permission to talk to Joe Scott. It must have been quite the talk, as Joe Scott is hired away from Air Force and announced as Princeton's next coach on April 21th.

Gap = two days, if that.

2007: Joe Scott departs suddenly and unexpectedly for Denver late on March 20th. No replacement is announced by the time Princeton's awards banquet rolls around on April 17th. Without a head coach, the banquet is led by current assistant/candidate for the job Mike Brennan, who does a lovely job despite awkward circumstances. The next morning a source tells that Sydney Johnson has been offered the job. The official press release comes from Princeton two days later on the 20th and a press conference is held on the following Monday, April 23rd.

Gap = 29 days.

Stuart Schulman said,

April 8, 2011 @ 2:52 pm

When you had a single heir apparent on staff, the transition was 0 days

When you had multiple options, some on staff and some not, the process took longer.

2011 looks a lot more like 2007 than any of the other transitions in that regard, and so I'd expect a longer process.

Jim Waltman said,

April 8, 2011 @ 2:58 pm

Stuart, there's another way to look at this. In 2007, the program was in free fall and it was time for some reflection. In 2001, 2004, and now, the team was/is on the rise, which argues for a simple transition to a known entity: Brian Earl.

Brian Martin said,

April 8, 2011 @ 3:32 pm

If I remember correctly, in 2004 JTIII to Georgetown seemed to be a done deal for a few weeks before it was announced, so both Scott and Walters had advance notice to consider their options even if they could not officially discuss the job.

Will Carry said,

April 8, 2011 @ 3:34 pm

In reaction to Coach Johnson's departure, there has been a significant amount of conjecture regarding the role that Princeton's admissions standards for athletes may have played in his decision, e.g. President Tighlman and Dean of Admissions Rapelye share responsibility for Sydney's departure because they place less emphasis on athletics and won't match the lower recruiting standards of our Ivy competition, especially Harvard. In particular Shirley seems to be popular target of some of the comments posted in the last few days. I have been wondering if there is any hard evidence to back up these assertions. Based on what I gleaned from some quick research, in a word: no.

From a quick review of the available evidence, it certainly does not appear that Tiger athletics are suffering under the current administration. To the contrary, in four out of the last five years Princeton was the highest ranked non-athletic scholarship school in the Director's Cup, which ranks each Div I school according to success across a broad range of sports. In 2010, Princeton ranked 33 nationally, well ahead of Cornell (#52), Harvard (#64), and Yale (#76). Princeton has ranked as least as high as 40 in four out of the last five years, significantly better than many power house schools in big time conferences.

Furthermore, from 2006 to 2010/2011, the men's teams at Princeton have won 28 league (Ivy, ECAC, etc.) championships. Out of the 19 men's varsity sports, 14 teams have won at least one league crown during that period. (I would have run the numbers for the women's teams as well, but ran out of time). The men scored 6 league championships alone in 2010, including a national championship in light weight crew. This a record Princeton or any school should take pride in. And this level of achievement simply does not happen without the full support of the administration and the board of trustees. This is hardly the record of school that is backing away from its athletic program.

Finally, in terms of basketball, both the men's and women's teams won the Ivy League and made the tournament this year. And what of Tommy Amaker's crew of vaunted recruits from the past few years? Still without an Ivy League championship. Doug Davis made sure of that on a splendid March afternoon in New Haven. Might Amaker be getting a little more leeway than Sydney was in terms of recruits? Sure, but there is only so much room to maneuver within the strictures of the AI. It also may that Amaker is just a damn good recruiter. I think Princeton can and will continue to compete in terms of recruit quality.

In any case, I don't see any reason to place the blame for Sydney's departure on the admissions office or President Tighlman. Just my two cents.

Your thoughts?

Will Carry said,

April 8, 2011 @ 3:37 pm

Oops. Harvard did share the crown this year. So let's say, "still without a NCAA tournament bid."

Steven Postrel said,

April 8, 2011 @ 8:11 pm

I just don't see the vast superiority of the Harvard players over our guys that would lead anyone to assume that they will walk home with the championship next year. Certainly we have holes to fill, but no matter how much talent Amaker's stockpiled, he's still playing a six man rotation that hasn't improved much in the time I've watched them. Unless the coaching change disrupts things, I fully expect our returning guys to continue their history of getting better each year.

Glenn Morris said,

April 9, 2011 @ 11:14 am

Let me expand on what Will Carry wrote:

Our athletic success is sustained and unparalleled in "prep sports" such as soccer (M&W); Squash (M&W) and crew (though it is an odd duck; both prep and non-prep rowers) and sports where individual success is aggregated to create a team score: Track (M&W) Cross Country (M&W) Swimming (M&W), Fencing (M&W) and to a lesser extent, Golf and Tennis, both genders.
Princeton's emphasis is on academics and prep schools field these teams and prepare students well. There's no mystery here.

Our women's team sports, field hockey, hockey, soccer, basketball, lacrosse and water polo are sustaining terrific trajectories. I speculate but I believe it is because young women recruits seek a team environment that is challenging but also socially reinforcing. Those readers who follow women's team sports here in detail realize that our coaches have created outstanding environments for their players. Frankly, I think the word is "out" that Princeton is the go-to school for women athletes. However, I believe that softball will struggle because it is a "sunshine state" sport . This is golf's issue, also).

In our men's team sports, hockey is formidable and competitive; baseball suffers from the sunshine syndrome but is more than respectable being very competitive in its division. Football and lacrosse are struggling and basketball is returning to its competitive stature. The status of each of these is easily explained for ordinary reasons: both football and lacrosse are in transition with coaches and have been hard hit by injuries to key positions. Skill players in the Ivy League are rare and invaluable for obvious reasons--just a few, whether playing or hurt for the season, can radically alter team prospects. Fans must wait for both these teams to become healthy and then we will have a better measure of the program's competitiveness.
Basketball has made a stunning return and now we are again in transition. We will see what the new coach will be able to do with the returning players, which are a solid group.

I'm in Will Carry's camp: Princeton athletics are sound and truly outstanding within the parameters of the league and our admissions. The evidence is that good athletes come to Princeton. In our major men's team sports, we need to see them healthy. Only then will we begin to know if they measure up to the league standards and those of the school, which are quite high.

Coco said,

April 9, 2011 @ 11:59 am

Not to quibble with the analyses of Princeton's athletic success, but I do think it is important to understand that in several sports, the competition is more limited.

For instance, according to the NCAA, in '08-'09 in D-I there were 332 colleges offering MEN'S basketball, 292 for baseball, 238 for football. 302 for cross country, 291 for golf.

By contrast, only 58 offered ice hockey, 57 for lacrosse, 22 for volleyball and water polo, and only 19 for fencing, 28 for rowing, 9 for squash.

On the WOMEN's side, the numbers were 331 basketball, 327 cross country, 317 volleyball, 311 tennis, 310 soccer, 276 softball, 243 golf. Rowing 87, Lacrosse 86, Field hockey 76, Fencing 22, water polo 32, squash 9.

p. 65-66

Jim Waltman said,

April 9, 2011 @ 12:22 pm

I do not hear a lot of clamoring for Princeton to lower its admissions standards. The concern is the perception that the administration is unwilling to pay a competitive salary to keep someone like Sydney Johnson around for a while. I would guess that, relative to the teams that we strive to compete against, the salaries of most other Princeton coaches are more competitive than men's basketball (I have no data to base this on). I don't think anyone would suggest that Princeton should pay its basketball coach the same as Kentucky, but to be outbid by Fairfield is stunning.

Coco said,

April 9, 2011 @ 1:48 pm

from the Daily Princetonian, Nov. 17, 2010: (Based on 2009 IRS Filings)

Among University administrators, Provost Christopher Eisgruber ’83 had the second-highest compensation with $538,176.

Executive Vice President Mark Burstein earned $521,233.

Vice President and Secretary Bob Durkee ’69 received $373,552.

Anne-Marie Slaughter ’80, who served as Wilson School dean until February 2009, when she stepped down ...received $505,655 for the 2008-09 academic year, according to the University’s tax filings...

Dean of the College Nancy Malkiel, who is due to step down from her post at the end of this academic year, earned a compensation of $339,535.

Fred Smagorinsky said,

April 9, 2011 @ 3:58 pm

I don't think I have seen a link to this commentary from TigerBlog (Jerry Price, I believe) on the SJ fiasco (He also has a nice write-up of the Derek's Dreams dinner that Jon posted about last week.).

TB does a nice job of sifting through the situation and trying to make sense of it. His citation of the comparative attendance figures between Fairfield (2726) and Princeton (2952) was new to me and underscores the baffling nature of this move.

I have now moved from disbelief, grief and anger to acceptance and now hope the powers that be choose well and do so quickly ...

George Clark said,

April 10, 2011 @ 12:25 pm

The controversy generated by the unseemly departure of SJ for the "greener" pastures of Jesuit Fairfield should provoke an assessment of the state of basketball at Princeton. Not "athletics" in general. From the perspective of a young and highly talented coach, the principal distinction between the two schools is the amount of compensation allocated to the position. (Evidently, sitting in an endowed "chair" is not enough.) This strikes me as the least significant of the issues we are now forced to face. A second distinction, far more difficult to resolve, is the commitment of the institution to basketball. I do not suggest for an instant that Johnson is so mercenary that such a concern was not central to his decision. The question is whether we intend to continue to compete in the manner that Pete Carril and his progeny have competed for more than 40 years. And did not SJ answer that question for himself? Presumably, he knows the situation better than anyone else. It has been argued that Johnson's deperture is a temporary setback and that the arc of Tiger basketball will continue to rise on the plane he has restored. I am not persuaded. All three Harvard contests were excruciatingly close. If you conclude that a miraculous 15 footer as time expired in the rubber match establishes the Tigers as the better team, you must also conclude that the margin is thin. Harvard loses no one and has recruited a group envied in the League. The Tigers lose two remarkable players. I was fortunate to see 8 Tiger wins this year. Without Maddox at least 6 of them would have been losses.(Without Maddox, one of them, the playoff, would not have occurred.) It may be comforting to assume that our players will get better and theirs will not, but it is unrealistic.

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