Pete Carril, the rumpled, cigar-smoking basketball coach in charge Princeton to 11 NCAA Tournament appearances, where his teams unnerved formidable opponents and sparked March Madness with old-school fundamentals, died Monday. He was 92.
Princeton released a statement from Carroll’s family, which said he died “peacefully this morning.” It did not give a cause of death.
“We ask that you respect our privacy at this time as we process our loss and take the necessary steps. More information will be provided in the coming days,” the statement said.
Hall of Famer Karyl taught his teams a special and long-standing style of football, Princeton’s offense, a game characterized by patience, intelligence, constant movement, quick passes and backdoors that often ended in layups.
It was an offense that could be played at any level of basketball. At Princeton, it was usually performed by players who were often rejected or overlooked by some of the national basketball powers. In the NCAA Tournament, however, Princeton’s relentless discipline may make up for the difference in talent on the floor.
During Carrillo’s 29 seasons as the Tigers’ coach, the system worked admirably. His teams won 13 Ivy League titles and posted a 514-261 record with no scholarship benefits. With a single-minded approach that extracted high-octane output from numerous opponents, Princeton led the nation in scoring defense in 14 of the last 21 seasons, including the last eight in a streak that ended in 1996.
He led Princeton to the National Invitation Tournament championship in 1975 and was elected to the Naismith Basketball Hall of Fame in 1997.
Basketball fans loved watching the headaches Carrillo’s teams caused in March. That was the case in 1989 with Georgetown’s John Thompson, a Hall of Fame coach who sweated at the end of the game with his signature towel draped over his shoulder.
Princeton gave a No. 1 Georgetown team featuring Alonzo Mourning and Charles Smith all it could handle as the No. 16 seed was on the verge of a monumental upset. The Tigers made two shots in the closing seconds to send Thompson and his team home, but were denied in a 50-49 loss.
Carrillo’s final season in 1996 was marked by an NCAA first-round victory over defending champion UCLA, a result many consider one of the biggest upsets in tournament history.
Peter Joseph Carrillo was born on July 10, 1930, to Spanish immigrants in Bethlehem, Pennsylvania. He played at Lafayette College under respected coach Butch Van Brady Kolf. After serving in the Army, Caryl worked as a high school coach in Pennsylvania in the 1950s and 60s before landing the head college coaching job at Lehigh. He spent the 1966-67 season there, going 11-12, then went to Princeton.
Caryl was more than a basketball coach. Friends and former players say he was intelligent, philosophical, a great person, honest and caring. He wasn’t the country club type. He was down-to-earth, his clothes simple: shirts with open collars, wrinkled sweaters, his hair sparsely combed. Sometimes there was a sports jacket.
Karyl was demanding on the court. He worked hard with his players and strived for perfection. It wouldn’t be unusual for him to sit on the bench with a 20-point lead and a pained look on his face after a botched pass, turnover or missed pass. What mattered was the skill, the process, not to mention the number.
If he had been asked about it, he would have remembered what his father had told him when he was growing up in Bethlehem, one of the capitals of the nation’s capital.
“If you lower your standards, they can turn around and attack you,” Caryl often said.
Success on the court never changed Carrillo. He liked his cigars. He enjoyed drinking, coffee, or just talking with people at Andy’s Tavern in Princeton until it became a sushi bar in the 1990s. Conte’s Pizza remained one of his hangouts. He occasionally stopped by the Princeton basketball office to talk with Mitch Henderson, who became Princeton’s coach in 2011.
After leaving Princeton, Caryl jumped into an unfamiliar area — the NBA. He spent 10 seasons as an assistant coach with the Sacramento Kings. He helped Rick Adelman’s Kings win two Pacific Division titles and reach the 2002 Western Conference Finals.
He joined the Washington Wizards staff in 2007 and returned to the Kings in 2009, where the Princeton forward found new life at basketball’s highest level in his first stint.
This is reported by the Associated Press.
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