5. Courtney Banghart
A prodigious recruiter throughout her time at Princeton, Banghart’s efforts paid off in 2011-12 with the most talented women’s basketball team yet. Led by the Ivy League Player of the Year junior forward Niveen Rasheed, the Tigers became the first nationally ranked squad in Ivy League history and earned a No. 9 seed in the NCAA Tournament. For the season, Princeton’s defense allowed only .75 points per possession. Talk to players after a game, and they’ll tell you that they knew exactly what the opposing team was trying to do with the ball — credit to Banghart and her assistants.
4. Steve Dolan
The head coach of the men’s cross country team and the distance coach of the track and field team, Dolan helped Princeton’s strongest running unit claim three Ivy League championships for the second straight year. A very personable coach, Dolan helped many of Princeton’s runners shatter their personal bests, giving the Tigers a very deep distance squad that was ranked as high as ninth nationally in the cross-country season.
3. Chris Bates
Three things doomed the men’s lacrosse team to a 4-8 record in 2011: injuries, face-offs and offense. With the first out of his control, Bates focused on fixing the latter two, leading the team to an Ivy League championship and NCAA Tournament bid. By rotating players through the face-off circle and putting two long-poles on the wings, Bates helped what had been the nation’s worst face-off unit improve by 10 percentage points in 2012. And the head coach opened up what had been a sluggish attack, turning the Tigers’ offense from a weakness to a strength. In a season that began with tragedy — the death of his wife, Ann Bates, who had brain cancer — Bates’ success is the top story in college lacrosse coaching.
2. Bob Callahan ’77
Callahan’s 31st season as head coach of the men’s squash team may have also been his most rewarding. After going 12-1 in the regular season and winning the Ivy League title for the first time in three years, Princeton reached the national final against 13-time defending champion Trinity. The Tigers overcame a 4-2 deficit in the final shift to win one of the most exciting matches in Princeton history, 5-4, to dethrone the Bantams and earn their first national title since 1993. It may not have been Callahan’s most talented team of individuals, but it will go down in history as one of champions.
1. Luis Nicolao
In the fall, Nicolao helped the men’s water polo team integrate a number of freshmen into a lineup that had to gain experience on the fly. Despite some disappointing losses to regional foes throughout the season, Princeton came together to win Eastern Championships for the third time in school history, then won the third-place game at NCAAs. Six months later, Nicolao is back to the NCAA Championships after leading a juggernaut women’s water polo team to a 28-4 record and its first Easterns victory since 2000. Nicolao is the first Princeton coach to take two teams to national tournaments in the same year since Glenn Nelson did so with the men’s and women’s volleyball teams in 1997-98.
Original URL: http://www.dailyprincetonian.com/2012/05/09/30926/