When Pete Carril announced his retirement in March, after 29 years as Princeton's basketball coach, he said he was leaving because he couldn't get through to his players anymore. Then, in the first round of the NCAA tournament, those players gave Carril a parting gift that made him look like a fool.
The shot that beat defending champion UCLA ended Princeton's excruciating string of near misses in the tournament throughout Carril's tenure. But that basket also upbraided the 65-year-old coach, who was always carping that the generation gap had opened into an unfordable chasm. During a timeout with 20.8 seconds to play and the score tied at 41, Carril told freshman forward Gabe Lewullis, his youngest regular, precisely what to do: If his defender, UCLA's Charles O'Bannon, failed to be fooled by a backdoor cut to the basket, Lewullis was to circle back to the wing and try again. Sure enough, O'Bannon covered the first rush. But Lewullis just as surely did as he had been told. The bounce pass from the high post, by center Steve Goodrich, was so well executed that Lewullis might have been flustered by its beauty. Yet the freshman took it, went up strong and delivered a chaste kiss. The defending champs were beaten 43-41.
NCAA tournament games have turned on sudden dunks ( Lorenzo Charles) and dramatic free throws ( Rumeal Robinson), on half-court heaves (U.S. Reed), feathery threes ( Scotty Thurman) and coast-to-coast scoops ( Danny Ainge and Tyus Edney). But in this instance the videotape jockeys reran and the beblazered analysts dissected and the disbelieving fans beheld a shot that honored all the workaday passing and cutting that had gone before it.
All hail the pebble in the slingshot. All hail the simple layup.