Pete Carril

He is one of the legendary faces of basketball. Hall of famer Pete Carril spent 30 years at Princeton University and won more games than any other coach that didn’t offer athletic scholarships. In 1997 he joined the Sacramento Kings as an assistant coach and has been there ever since.

Listen to the Pete Carril CYInterview:

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Chris Yandek: First off how are you?

Pete Carril: “I am doing all right.”

CY: Why did you decide after decades of coaching college basketball that it was time to be an assistant coach in the NBA with the Sacramento Kings?

PC: “I don’t know if there is a necessary time to go to the NBA. I wanted to stay in coaching, but I didn’t want to continue as a head coach. I just had been doing that too long. When Geoff Petrie called from Sacramento, who played for me at Princeton, he said would I be interested and I said sure. I thought it would be a short life for me here, maybe two or three years at most. I have been here ten years now.”

CY: What’s it like to go from coaching and working with a bunch of kids with an Ivy League education who just wanted to play the game of basketball to the NBA where you have the elite players who play basketball for a living?

PC: “Well, it’s a little different. The differences are magnified by people that I am not sure know what’s going on because you are trying to teach somebody something whether it is in the pros, college, or high school on the basis of what you see and think he needs to learn. If you are correct in your assessment then there will be good cooperation because he will see that he has to make some improvements in certain areas and then he goes to work and does that. In the pros they might be a little bit more reluctant to do that. It’s not a great cap button also. You want to get better.”

CY: What is the working relationship like between you and Sacramento Kings head coach Rick Adelman?

PC: “It’s good. Been at it for eight years now. If it weren’t any good I wouldn’t be here in either case. He wouldn’t want me and I wouldn’t want to stay. It’s been ok.”

CY: Game six against the San Antonio Spurs is Friday night. Are you surprised at how well this team has hung with the San Antonio Spurs, and what do you think it will take to force a game seven?

PC: “Well, if you go back and look at our games during the season every one of them was a close game. We felt we could play with this team. There are a couple of these games where we didn’t have Ron Artest. Now that he’s with us we have gotten so much better in certain areas, defensively in particular. We feel that he is going to a good job on one of their scorers. He has until this last game. Even in that game we lost, the score was 91-91 with two minutes and fifty some seconds to go. At the end they had four or five times where they executed perfectly and we had four or five times where we didn’t. One game was determined by a bad defensive play on our part. Another was determined by a lay up on our part. It’s been a good series.”

CY: How do you feel this team’s chemistry has improved with the addition of Ron Artest this year and is he easy to coach?

PC: “Yeah. He is. A lot of stuff rubs off on that guy on the basis on what happened over there in Detroit and a lot of it rumor. He seems to be happy here. He gets along with his teammates. He’s critical when they don’t work hard, but he’s critical of himself. He felt that the defense let us down. He pointed fingers at certain guys, but he also pointed fingers at himself. He raised his hand and said me too. I did a lot of the job. He’s a pretty good guy.”

CY: How do you think basketball has changed in general since you started coaching?

PC: “The players are more athletic. I don’t know that they are that skillful. Of course in the pros we got a lot of young guys coming in, too young to be able to improve their game. Although you have certain guys like Lebron James and others who have made the jump extremely well, but for the most part they could use a couple more years of seasoning. It’s more athletic period.”

CY: How do you feel now knowing many of your former assistant coaches at Princeton got division one coaching jobs?

PC: “I am really happy for them. They do well and have been doing well. Chris Mooney had a rough year at Richmond this year and Joe Scott had a rough year at Princeton. Bill Carmody at Northwestern is doing better, but it’s still not what he is used to.”

CY: What do you think keeps you going after all these years and how many years do you think you have left?

PC: “I don’t know. Sometimes I feel tomorrow is the last. Some days I feel like I can go for years. I think my goal is that I enjoy it. I don’t think I want to stop working. I think my dad worked in steel work for almost 50 years. The minute you saw him stop working you could see him go apart. I don’t want to do that.”

CY: What was it like for you to see your Princeton Tigers team beat the defending national champion UCLA Bruins 43-41 in the 1996 NCAA Tournament in your final year as head coach of the team? Was there any other moment more magical than that through your coaching career?

PC: “We happened to lose to Georgetown. That was bad. Of course UCLA, when Geoff Petrie was here in 1970 they had to make a shot at the buzzer to beat us. They had five guys who eventually went into the NBA. Some of the losses would have been great if they would have been wins. I agree that it was a good moment. It was a good moment, but I don’t know. I had quite a few of them. I never ranked them. I know one thing. When I am happy I am happy.”

CY: How did the Princeton offense come about?

PC: “I am tired of explaining it, but I will explain it to you. Parts of the offense I copied from the Boston Celtics when Bill Russell was playing it in the NBA. Much to my amazement somebody hasn’t bother to taken me up on that back to look and see what they did. Another part of it was from watching the New York Knicks play when Bill Bradley and Walt Frazier was there. We put that in. Starting out as a junior varsity coach in high school you pick up things along the way and put them all together. Something has gotta come out of it. It’s basically stuff I picked up from other people.”

CY: Finally, did the gratification kick in for you as a head coach when you were inducted into the Naismith Memorial Basketball Hall of Fame in 1997?

PC: “Well, yes. That was a nice honor. There is no doubt about it when they put you in there with some of the greats of the game. Makes you feel good. Frankly that has never been what sustains me. There are other things that I appreciate more and get a kick out of more than that. It’s an honor. No doubt about that.”