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Princeton holds celebration of life for legendary basketball coach Pete Carril

Carril led the Tigers to 13 Ivy League championships as the head coach.
Matt Drapkin/The Daily Princetonian.

On Friday, Sept. 30, Princeton celebrated the life of legendary men’s basketball coach Pete Carril in Jadwin Gymnasium. Spectators listened to a heartwarming series of speakers who spoke to Coach Carril’s legacy.

Carril passed away on Aug. 15. During his 29 years with Princeton men’s basketball, he led the program to over 500 wins. The court in Jadwin Gymnasium has borne his name since 2009.


The event was open to the Princeton community and the general public. One side of bleachers was pulled down for visitors to sit in, with additional seating reserved for close family and friends on Carril Court. Both the current men’s and women’s Princeton basketball teams were in attendance.

Former players who spoke at the event included Rev. Dr. Chris Thomforde ’69, Geoffrey Petrie ’70, and John Rogers ’80. The commentary spanned from recollections of Carril’s quick wit to reflections on his enduring impact.

“Bill Jenkins was a great high school player at Reading [Senior High School] with [Carril],” Petrie shared. “At practice one day, Jenkins got really upset with Pete. He says, ‘Coach, I’m gonna go get my gun and I’m gonna shoot your ass.’” 

“Coach looks at him and says, ‘Well, the way you shoot, I don’t have anything to worry about.’”

Rogers focused on Carril’s legacy as a teacher.

“Coach started talking about how he felt sorry for Kevin Durant,” Rogers said. “Why? Because as a shooter and player that Kevin is, Coach said that [he] never learned how to dribble. Coach said he hoped to have an opportunity to help him get better. He was always looking for opportunities to teach and make us all better.”


University President Christopher Eisgruber ’83 spoke about Carril’s legacy as well. He said that his successes on the court “earned him almost mythological status on Princeton’s campus and beyond.”

The final speaker of the ceremony was Carril’s daughter, Lisa Carril. She emphasized that the reverence so many held for her father was mutual:

“You were important to Dad. Each one of you. Whether you were the team’s manager, the star player, or one of my high school buddies who became a diehard basketball fan,” she said. “He left his imprint on you, and in turn, you made his life better. You enriched his life, made it fuller and gave meaning to his one real passion.” 

“You became his family,” she continued. “Each one of you had that special relationship with him that in many ways transcended basketball. No matter who you were. No matter what you did, big or small. You got on his planet. Because you — each one of you here — you were important to him. You matter, and I am here today to give you that message. He loved you very much, and you need to know that.”

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Before departing, Rev. Dr. Thomforde took to the podium once more to close the ceremony. He instructed everyone in front of him to stand up and follow his lead. On the count of three, everyone in Jadwin rejoiced in a big, bellowing “Yo!”, an homage to Carril’s famous tagline. 

Matt Drapkin is an assistant editor for the Sports section at the ‘Prince.’ He can be reached at or on Twitter at @mattdrapkin.

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