Pete Carril was enjoying a drive through the Princeton campus when his demeanor suddenly changed. "See that building?" he said, nodding toward a large rectangular structure. "That's the admissions building. The financial aid office is also in there. If they don't get me on one floor, they will on another. I call the place Heartbreak Hotel."
Supreme pessimist, perpetual cigar smoker, history buff, ref baiter and one of the best coaches in the country, Carril was singing another refrain of The Princeton Recruiting Blues. "I love that kid," Carril will say of any of half a dozen members of his squad. "He's bright—and he's paying his own way."
But the results of Princeton's games undermine Carril's complaints. He predicted that the underfunded Tigers would win nine times last year. They were 22-8 and swept their final 13 games. The last four victories gave Princeton a stunning NIT championship and the longest current winning streak among major college teams.
The return of four starters and some key reserves gives Carril even less reason for dire predictions this year. The Tigers are strongest in the backcourt with Armond Hill and Mickey Steuerer. Hill, an unselfish offensive player and an exceptional defender, keeps the one-on-one moves he learned in Brooklyn under wraps most of the time, and his 13.9 scoring average shows it. Steuerer, another restrained New Yorker, averaged 12.3 points.
Carril's emphasis is always on defense—the Tigers ranked fourth in the nation last year by allowing only 61.2 points per game—but with 6'5" Frank Sowinski, a 19-point scorer as a freshman, joining 6'7" Senior Barnes Hauptfuhrer (14.7) at forward, Princeton also should score well. Hauptfuhrer is from sound stock; his father George, a star at Harvard, was the first man ever drafted by the NBA. He turned down the Celtics to enroll in law school. Last February an old family friend from Philadelphia unexpectedly dropped in to see Hauptfuhrer play against his father's alma mater. She was Princess Grace of Monaco. "I had never met her and I was pretty shook," Hauptfuhrer says. "I missed four one-and-one free throws." Carril remembers the glamorous occasion well. "We won" is how he describes it.
In fits of pessimism during practice, Carril will admonish his Tigers and predict that they will win five—not nine—games this season. Forget you ever heard it. This is the season Princeton should end Penn's domination of the Ivy League. "Top 20?" Carril says. "Do me a favor and keep us out." Sorry Pete.