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Mitch Henderson hired at Princeton.

Photo credit: Northwestern University

Former Princeton guard Mitch Henderson '98, who served under Bill Carmody the past 11 seasons as an assistant with Northwestern University, is the new Princeton basketball coach.

Henderson replaces Sydney Johnson after a 16 day search for the Tigers' next head man.

A press conference is scheduled for tomorrow afternoon to introduce Henderson.

Here's the official press release from Princeton:

PRINCETON – The man at the center of one of the most iconic photos in Princeton history is returning to campus.

Mitch Henderson, a 1998 Princeton alumnus whose celebratory leap following the 1996 NCAA Tournament win over UCLA has been part of Princeton and NCAA lore ever since, will be announced Thursday at noon as the 28th head men’s basketball coach at Princeton University.

“I am pleased to announce that Mitch, one of Princeton’s terrific point guards, will succeed his teammate, Sydney Johnson, as the head coach of Princeton basketball,” Princeton Director of Athletics Gary Walters ’67, himself a men’s basketball alumnus, said. “Mitch has developed and polished his craft at Northwestern, a Big Ten university that is similar in philosophy with its commitment to the student-athlete – with emphasis on both sides of that hyphen.”

Henderson will take over a program that won its 26th Ivy League title, the most in league history, this season and made its 24th NCAA Tournament appearance, also the most in Ivy history, after winning a one-game playoff over Harvard on a buzzer-beating shot by junior Douglas Davis.

“I’ve never stopped being a fan since I’ve graduated,” Henderson said. “When Doug’s shot went through the net, I jumped off my couch, I was so happy. I was excited for Sydney and his staff, and for the team. I feel like I know our guys already.”

Henderson was a four-year starter at Princeton who played in the NCAA Tournament in each of his last three seasons, contributing to the UCLA win as well as a win over UNLV in the first round of the 1998 tournament. During his senior season, Princeton was ranked as high as seventh in the country and earned a No. 5 seed in the NCAA Tournament, finishing 27-2.

“This is an exciting segue in the great tradition of Princeton basketball,” Walters said. “We look forward to the future with a heightened sense of anticipation and excitement. Mitch played on some of Princeton’s best teams with passion, energy and integrity, values that also reflect his approach to coaching. He has had strong relationships with his players, and we believe our student-athletes at Princeton will benefit from that experience and his character.”

Since graduating from Princeton with a degree in economics, Henderson played part of the 1998-99 season in Ireland and was with the Atlanta Hawks in January 1999 before joining the Lendx Corporation of San Francisco as a research associate.

Henderson joined the coaching profession in 2000 as an assistant coach at Northwestern under former Princeton head coach Bill Carmody, for whom Henderson played at Princeton. Carmody was Henderson’s head coach in his final two seasons following Hall of Fame head coach Pete Carril, who coached Henderson in his freshman and sophomore seasons.

“I’m so excited about the opportunity to coach here,” Henderson said. “I’m eager to get going with growing on what Sydney has been able to do here the last four years.”

During his time at Princeton, Henderson earned second-team All-Ivy League honors in 1998 and an All-Ivy honorable mention in 1997. Henderson is fourth in career assists in school history with 304 and eighth in career steals with 142. During his senior season, Henderson was a team co-captain and a co-winner of the B.F. Bunn Trophy, Princeton’s most prized annual men’s basketball award, sharing both with classmate Steve Goodrich.

“I felt very fortunate to be a part of that team that was doing something very special for this program,” Henderson said. “I want to continue that moment with this team and keep building on it just like we did in ’97 and ’98.”

John Poole said,

April 20, 2011 @ 1:25 pm

I guess that the big unanswered questions now are, which assistant coaches will remain for continuity: how effective Mitch is as a recruiter; and, whether he will be able to retain the recruits (especially, the Tulsa guard) tentatively committed by Sidney Johnson. Good luck Mitch.

Jon Solomon said,

April 20, 2011 @ 1:27 pm

John, I will do my best to get these questions answered ASAP.

I do not expect all of Coach Johnson's 2010-11 staff to remain at Princeton.

Rodney Johnson said,

April 20, 2011 @ 1:50 pm

I am also curious how he projects the style of play he will favor--same as Carmody, or more up tempo? Sydney Johnson liked the pick and roll; Carril disliked it. How much of a difference will the current players notice?

Best wishes to Mitch.

Coco said,

April 20, 2011 @ 2:41 pm

And for those at home keeping score, Sydney's departure was announced April 4, and Mitch's hiring announced April 20, so this search took no more than 16 days.

And exhibiting unusual restraint, for once Gary Walters refrained from offering his usual "so and so begat so and so, who begat..." line of succession.

Gregg Lange said,

April 20, 2011 @ 3:16 pm

Which brings up an interesting nuance that not all here may know:

When Michigan bought football coaching legend Fritz Crisler away from Princeton in 1938 (sound familiar?), one of the sweeteners was an Assistant AD position. The AAD they fired to open up the slot, and who ended up at Princeton, was loyal Michigan alum (who likely never would have left on his own).... Cappy Cappon. Thus are 73-year coaching chains born.

You can look it up.

Peter Clapman said,

April 20, 2011 @ 4:04 pm

Since our daughter was in that same class, I saw a lot of Princeton basketball in those years. My impression of MH was that he always came up big in important games and against the best opponents. He never backed down physically even against bigger players. Had the confidence to take big shots at critical times. Not the smoothest, but one of the toughest--and smart. Never can tell what will happen as a coach but sounds like a really good choice.

Steven Postrel said,

April 20, 2011 @ 4:56 pm

My fingers are crossed. Certainly MH has the potential to be an excellent coach for Princeton. I'm inclined to be optimistic, although I have no idea what kind of recruiter Mitch is. The link to the glory days is nice, and a tough leader on the court is the kind of guy who might translate well to the bench.

My biggest concern is that I haven't been too impressed with Northwestern's defensive prowess over the Carmody years--yes, sometimes their 1-3-1 trap looked pretty good, but not consistently--and this Princeton team is going nowhere if it doesn't really lock up and guard. I hope we can keep some of that Georgetown-style toughness in defense and rebounding.

TigerHeel said,

April 20, 2011 @ 5:22 pm

Solid hire in a relatively short time frame. This should make the Princeton Basketball faithful pleased and rightfully so. I share some of the questions and concerns expressed above but at least still feel emotionally invested and excited to see how the Mitch Henderson tenure plays out. Let's hope it is a longer tenure than our previous coaches and that the administration gives Coach Henderson the support and resources he wants.

George Clark said,

April 20, 2011 @ 6:03 pm

As one of the faithful I am thrilled to welcome Mitch home. You stats guys can correct me if I am wrong on this: Of the last four Tiger head coaches, three had never been head coaches previously. Each won the Ivy League, and two won the title in his first season. Mitch Henderson is superbly prepared and has a decent returning group. Go Tigers!!!!

daniel schmidt said,

April 20, 2011 @ 7:30 pm

I'm so pumped about this hire. What a great decision! I think Mitch is going to do fantastic things for the program and will pick-up where Syd left off.

Jon, imagine we'll find out more tomorrow, but do we know:
1) Did Mitch interview for the gig last time-around?
2) Any indications on whether or not Earl stays (once again, if I only had patience to wait till tomorrow!).

This is a good day. Check. This is a great day.

Jim Waltman said,

April 20, 2011 @ 7:46 pm

Great choice! MH was a really gutsy, athletic and creative point guard and I think he'll make a great head coach. SJ had the connection to the huge upset over UCLA, but Mitch's team in '98 was a legitimate powerhouse. The Kentucky game felt like shades of UCLA but more like Georgetown, Arkansas, Villanova, Cal '97, Rutgers '76, etc. I'd rather see the program get back to where it was in '98! And let's hope Brian Earl can be retained.

Jon Solomon said,

April 20, 2011 @ 7:57 pm


1. Yes.
2. We'll all find out soon enough. I've heard talk about every assistant *but* Brian Earl these last 16 days, for whatever that is worth.


Jack said,

April 20, 2011 @ 8:13 pm

Looks like a great hire. More experience than Johnson had. Hope Brian stays. Hope they got a commitment for him to stay more than 4 years.

Daniel Mark said,

April 20, 2011 @ 9:43 pm

I also hope Coach Earl stays, but I think smart money is that he goes. It's likely that he was also a serious candidate for the position (or at least he should have been), and it's hard to see him staying as an assistant for the guy who's more like his peer/colleague. (Sure, Coach J is only a year ahead of Coach H, but still.) And that's also my best guess based on the rumblings around town.

John Poole said,

April 20, 2011 @ 10:18 pm

Like nearly everyone else, I am hoping that Brian Earle will stick around, at least for a couple of more years, to ease the transition for the current players. But, if he leaves, I'm hoping that we get Scott Greenman back as a potential successor to Henderson. Even at his young age, he has significant coaching experience and, if I remember correctly, is a very respected scout.

Jon Solomon said,

April 20, 2011 @ 10:36 pm

A very interesting decision for Brian Earl, similar to Mike Brennan's quandary when he did not get the Princeton job in 2007.

I wonder if Earl would consider joining his brother at Penn State. It sounds like his brother would have come to Princeton if Brian got the job but that's a story for the morning.


Daniel Mark said,

April 21, 2011 @ 11:01 pm

Bring back Marcus Schroeder.

Jack said,

April 22, 2011 @ 8:59 am

Haven't heard any comments about Mike Brennan. Did he interview?

It would seem it would be great to get Brian Earl to stay since he's so connected to the current players but isn't it likely Henderson will want to bring his own #1 assistant?

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