There’s bracketology. Then, there’s hairology.

The NCAA has too many rules. Head coaches micromanage. It’s one of the last avenues of creativity for players.


Princeton is back in the NCAA tournament. They won the Ivy’s first-ever conference tournament, beating Penn in OT in the first round and pummeling Yale in the finals.

In case you haven’t noticed, Ivy League basketball is not the Ivy of yesteryear. It’s no longer just Penn and Princeton. When they beat a highly-ranked team, it’s not a monumental surprise. Indeed, it’s only a matter of time before the Ivy has a regularly ranked team and gets two NCAA bids.

How are they doing it?

They’re getting hardcore ballers, landing elite, top 100 talent. Officially, there are no “scholarships” in the Ivy. Unofficially, they’re offering “grants,” which are basically scholarships.

Back in 1996, there was none of this.

But there was Pete Carril, a hoops genius, whose teams – mostly white guys with boring, Wall Street ready haircuts – ran a deliberate offense that was always looking backdoor. They were more geek than athletic freaks – at least on the surface. But their appearance belied their chemistry and ability.

And yes, though they rarely if ever dunked, they were extremely athletic.

Most memorably, in 1996, Carril’s Tigers upset heavily favored U.C.L.A., 43-41. In 1989, they came within a point of upsetting Georgetown and Alonzo Mourning. Sure, there was a racial element to all of this. In a way, it was White Man Can’t Jump – except, of course, it was real.

Carril, the man behind this oh-so-slow but fun production, didn’t look the part either. For starters,  actual games looked like absolute agony for him. Carril often wore a rumpled sweater and clutched a stick of paper. And his hair, of what little was left was often unruly. Carril didn’t care. It was all about the game, achieving perfection.

Watching Princeton back then was art, a moving chess match with hoops and a ball.

During his career, Carril was mistaken for a cabbie and janitor. He could definitely pass for a disgruntled philosophy professor.  In the current state of custom-made, designer suits, Carril, who coached the the Tigers for 29 seasons, would be a wonderful breath of fresh air.

Though they won’t admit it because, well, they’re the Ivy League, they have gone big time. Back when they definitely weren’t, Pete Carril with his wonderful style, gave them a taste of it.