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Monday, May 26, 2008

The Old Princeton B-Ball Windbreaker

Years ago, when Pete Carril coached basketball at Princeton, if you supported the friends of Princeton basketball group at a certain level, you got to choose a gift from the b-ball program (only the difference was tax deductible, for those of you who care about these details). Anyway, if you gave over $100, and you got to choose from Princeton b-ball sweatsuits, umbrellas, blankets, athletic socks and windbreakers. Over the years, I picked up about 4 sweatsuits (one for me, one for my spouse and two for friends), a blanket and two windbreakers (one for my mother for yardwork and one for me).

I've had my windbreaker for about 15 years and it's shot. The lettering (placed where a left breastpocket appears on a sportcoat) has all but faded, and, well, the windbreaker looks bad and even out of style. I've insisted upon wearing it up through this spring, but the family has prevailed upon me to get rid of it because, well, it doesn't look flattering any more. I've always worn it with pride to show my support for the "Little Engine That Could" of college basketball, but now it's time to discard it.

Unfortunately, I can't replace it. (Once Bill Carmody became head coach in 1997, he discontinued the practice of giving the gifts, probably because some of the gifts cost about $50, the donors probably didn't need them or had collected plenty of them over the years, and the program needed the money for various enhancements the university couldn't provide). I still support Princeton basketball with great enthusiasm, even if there have been many lean years since John Thompson left four years ago. I'll miss my constant spring reminder of doing more with less, of a "Moneyball" approach to college basketball, of backdoor cuts and interesting bits of philosophy.

I'll probably look nicer, but then again, the guy who sent me the windbreaker as a thank you never really cared about that, as it was and remains what's inside that counts.

As it always was with Coach Carril. He wasn't about flashy "Midnight Madness" displays or fancy trappings, just getting the best out of each kid and winning ball games. I'll still remember the Carril era for its economy of movement, clearness of purpose and honesty in its everyday dealings, windbreaker or not.

But, Coach Johnson, if you want a suggestion. . . enable your fan base to purchase some logoware. You'll be surprised, even in your rebuilding years, how many people will wear it proudly to show their support.


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