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Friday, April 20, 2007

Sydney Johnson To Take Princeton Head Coaching Job

So reported Fox Sports an hour ago.

The Daily Princetonian scooped the story on Wednesday night (namely, that Princeton had offered Johnson the job), and the Princeton Basketball News blog (a great blog, by the way) as usual had great information on developments. Naturally, the delay between the offer and now the purported acceptance had some Tiger fans concerned.

I thought that Johnson would be among Princeton's top three or four choices, with the others (in no particular order) being Georgetown (and former Princeton) assistant Robert Burke (who apparently wasn't in the pool, seemingly because, being the top aide at a Top 10 program, he can get a much more "big-time" job in the next year or so), Northwestern assistant (and former Princeton player) Mitch Henderson and Brown head coach Craig Robinson (a former Princeton player and two-time Ivy Player of the Year; Johnson was Ivy Player of the Year his senior year).

I think that Sydney Johnson is an excellent choice. By all accounts, he was very well-liked and well-respected on campus when a student, and he played the game with exceptional effort and determination (so much so that after an early-season contest either his junior or senior season, then-Indiana head coach Bob Knight took him aside after the game and spoke with him for several minutes about how much he appreciated how Johnson played the game "the right way"). Johnson is a bit light on coaching experience (only 3 years as an assistant at Georgetown), but he's had the opportunity to learn from outstanding coaches (Pete Carril, for whom he played, and John Thompson III, whom he assisted) and, no doubt, will hire some good assistants (as of now, it's unclear whether long-time and much-respected Tiger assistants Mike Brennan and Howard Levy will remain with the program) to help out. He's certainly a part of the Princeton family, and the question will be how much, if at all, he sticks with the "Princeton system." The bet here is that he has his own system that is more akin to the Georgetown modified Princeton system than the orthodox Princeton system of Joe Scott.

He does come into a program that is at its nadir, as last season it had its worst Ivy record ever (2-12) and its first last-place finish in the Ivies, ever. He does have two promising rising sophomore guards in Marcus Schroeder and Lincoln Gunn, and a promising rising sophomore center in Zach Finley. What is unclear is if there are any incoming recruits other than a swingman from Long Island. As Tigerhawk reported the other day, one-time top Princeton recruit Jeff Peterson, a PG from DeMatha in suburban DC, signed a letter of intent with Iowa. I also read where the Tigers had been competing with Rice for a 6'9", 230-pound center from Texas, but I haven't read any more on the subject. When you compare the paucity of Tiger recruits to what by most accounts is Penn's strongest recruiting class since the class that contained Ugonna Onyekwe, Duane King, Dave Klatsky and Koko Archibong, you can see the tough task that faces Sydney Johnson.

Then again, with respect to Jeff Peterson, keep this in the back of your mind -- the Ivies don't recognize letters of intent (because the Ivies give aid based on need), and Georgetown (with in all likelihood Sydney Johnson involved) recruited two of his teammates, who will be Hoyas this fall. Don't think it's beyond the realm of possibility that Sydney Johnson gets Jeff Peterson to change his mind and come to Princeton. He just might.

It would have been great to see former Tiger great Craig Robinson coaching the team instead of being the head coach at rival Brown, so I'll continue to wish Craig endless 12-2 seasons in the Ivies. That said, Princeton AD Gary Walters is around 62 years old and won't remain in Tigertown forever. Perhaps theTigers will pursue this outstanding alumnus to succeed Walters. Just a thought, of course, but I think that Craig Robinson would do a great job as Princeton's AD, too.


Blogger Jon Solomon said...

Princeton has a minimum of four recruits coming in next season.

3:18 PM  
Blogger SportsProf said...

Thanks, Jon, for the clarification. I should have checked your blog as opposed to ESPN The Insider's recruiting board.

I did read about the quality of Penn's recruiting class. How does Princeton's compare?

8:25 AM  
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