Princeton Principles

Watch the man in front of you, he tells you what to do!

Competition, Society and other musings of Pete Carril

The following are quotes I’ve collected over time and from them have formulated my own values, beliefs and actions…………….in life and coaching!

Pete Carril former Princeton University Basketball Coach stated at one time or another the following:

One of the dominant themes of our society is competition. It is no accident that we shoot to win, or get high grades, or whatever. But when one or more competitors has to cheat, or do unwholesome things to win, or when the pressure, the greed gets so great they start to cheat, that doesn’t mean competition is bad; it means they don’t understand how to compete.


In this life the big, strong guys are always taking from the smaller, weaker guys but…the smart take from the strong.
An athlete who is fundamentally sound and plays intelligently and hard will generally come out on top.

What other reason besides winning is there for sports in the first place?

I define success as having a chance to win every game.

When you teach basketball, it has its technical parts and its life parts.

What you must realize is that you cannot coach without factoring in the human equation. When you are coaching, you cannot help teaching the parts that apply to life.

That’s what education is: changing behavior.

I take a look at a basketball player who’s got some innocence in his face, with eyes that are telling me he wants to be good and wants me to help him – that turns me on.

Great philosophers of education have said there are two things important in learning. Both begin with a definition of the words to know. One is learning facts, data – information. The other is knowing how to behave intelligently. That is what discipline means: behaving wisely.

A coach’s job is to put his team where it can function effectively and win.

You try to put a player in a situation where those things he does well can occur.

It is in the best interest of a coach to make sure he is not spending three hours a day practicing things that don’t happen very much. If you watch what your players are doing when they play, they’ll show you what to teach them – that’s an important principle in coaching. When a coach picks a style of play, that style cannot be his; it has to come from what his players indicate they can do and can’t do.

Your team will dictate the things you can teach them – and you find out by watching them carefully.

Winning is in the details. The coach has to make sure that he is watching, and that he corrects every mistake, and doesn’t take any shortcuts.

Whatever you emphasize and to the degree that you do, you get better at it.

It’s results that count, and they should determine your principles.

It is a mistake we all make as coaches to think that there is only one way of doing something. There is not. Whatever works works.

When you explain a point to player X, the other players should listen so that they learn about that point as well.

Each player has to have an idea of what every one of his teammates is doing. Not only does it save time when you are teaching something, but it enhances the effectiveness of what you are trying to do.

When you go to change a player, you have to know he is not having success where he is.

Because the basics remain the key to success on every level of the game, and you can teach them. And you have to.

Wherever fast players go, they always get there faster than slower players.

One thing I do know about my coaching, which I have always done and could not do any other way, is that I prepared my team to win every game they played regardless of where they played and whom they played.

There is a difference between teaching and coaching. When you are instructing your team about the actual game, you are teaching them, transmitting knowledge and information to them. There are guys who don’t teach their players anything or much of anything, but who go around and recruit the best players and they win – they’re coaches but not teachers.

You try to do those things well that matter and you work hard to do them right. If you have good work habits, you don’t have to worry about who you play, or where, or whatever. You have your work habits to fall back on.

If what you are doing – what you are good at – doesn’t happen that often, then there’s no real benefit to being good at it.

My philosophy is to always do what I have to do, and if it turns out that it’s also something I want to do, that is just that much more gravy.

Work hard to make things easy.

Good habits are hard to break and so are bad ones.

If they learn to do things right, or well, that gets to be the way they do things, and whatever happens, that isn’t going to change.

Workers get the most out of themselves; when a body has limited talent, it has to muster all its resources of character to overcome this shortcoming. If you think you are working hard, you can work harder. If you think you are doing enough, there is more that you can do. No one really ever exhausts his full potential. Winning takes character and intelligence. It is the most important thing you can do because it’s a reaffirmation of your character.

I can check the level of your honesty and commitment by the quality of your effort on the court.

When I say talent I mean having the skills that when used properly insure success.

Without talent, developing precision and trying to do things 100 percent correctly will reduce the number of mistakes and, therfore, the number of failures.

A good mind has never handicapped a player.

It is hard to teach things that take time to learn.

Every little thing counts.

The high school coach who does not make his players learn and practice should be arrested.

There is a whole bunch of dribbling drills, but my complaint about some of them is that they aren’t connected to the actual skill and situation in a game. No drill is any good unless it’s used in some form in the game.

You have to play alot to become a good dribbler and if you don’t play much, there’s no way to make up for it.

Anybody can know the facts about something, but knowing how to do it is what’s crucial.

If you want to become a better dribbler, dribble.

A passer who can see people open is the same guy who sees where and when to screen, avoids picks, helps on defense – in other words, he can see.

No single aspect of basketball does more to develop good team play than passing, and conversely nothing destroys a team faster than a shooter who never passes.

Little things lead to little things lead to little things, which lead to wins.

To often, players will pass only after they cannot do something else. That is not a pass.

Try not to talk too much about shooting. Spend the time instead taking a lot of shots.

If he makes his shots, I don’t care how ugly the shot is, I don’t mess with him.

Take a shot that you know you can make, because knowing when not to shoot is just as key as knowing when.

When a player shoots a layup on the left side of the basket, he normally would do that with his left hand, but sometimes it’s better for him to shoot it right handed because doing so puts him a half step closer to the basket, or makes him quicker getting there, which can be the difference between making the shot and getting it blocked be a chasing defender.

I tell my players to shoot different kinds of layups each day so that their shots and the movement of their legs don’t become stereotyped.

The worst thing in shooting is to be indecisive.

The free throw is the only shot in basketball where it is okay to be greedy.

The word “never” is one I rarely use; however, may I say you should never get tired of making shots.

A shot is never too far out if it goes in.

When you make the long shot is spreads the defense over the court and makes your slower players seem taller and faster.

The more you can shoot without dribbling, the more it sets up other things.

Bad shooters are always open.

The rule for any shot depends on the player who’s shooting it and his ability to make it.

Teach a guy fundamentals and he can play anywhere.

Losing requires absolutely nothing.

People ask for my philosophy on motivating athletes. I don’t believe in all that motivational stuff. I cause the tension on my teams. If I had to stop and think about everything I said before I said it to them, I would have been a psychologist. I don’t try to psyche them. I just tell them what is on my mind very emphatically. I tell them their good points and I tell them their bad points.

I don’t praise them for doing what they know they can and should do in the first place.

What gives me the most satisfaction as a coach is bringing together people who have divergent backgrounds and getting them to achieve a goal by sacrificing and integrating their skills. And, of course, I like to win.

There’s a difference between the guys who play to win and those who play not to lose.

Physical courage is where you are so exhausted you cannot move, yet you keep moving.

Everybody makes such a big deal today about team play because there’s such a scarcity of it. Greed is a reason.

A player has to be selfish in his pursuit of the development of his skills, but he cannot be selfish when it comes time to blend in with what is good for his team.

I like the idea of the ball going through the hoop.

The epitome of great basketball is five guys passing , cutting, moving the ball, doing what’s natural and not fighting for possession of the ball.

In every little drill, if you care enough to put maximum effort into it, almost everyone improves. The key is to make sure all drills are relevant.

Repetition is the key to success – doing what you have to do over and over and always doing it right.

Do you expend energy trying to stop a guy from shooting who can’t shoot?

I’ve heard some coaches say they have to “sell” their team on defense before they can teach it. I resent that word “sell” and I’ve never used it in my life in basketball. You must SHOW a guy how important defense is. You educate him.

The first principle of teaching defense is to recognize what your players can do defensively.

There is no single absolute. The result counts no matter how you do it.

Any defense is good regardless of what it is if it’s effective.

The force of the coach determines the quality and intensity of the defense.

The strength of my Princeton teams has always been attitude, intelligence and discipline.

Defense is head, heart and legs.

My philosophy and feelings on sliding drills are a little controversial: Basically I feel that if you want to learn how to guard your man, you learn that by guarding a man.

Nothing is more intimidating than deflecting passes. It makes a passer very tentative. I say that if you don’t use your hands, you’re committing a big sin and aren’t as effective defensively. My view on this is also controversial.

Truth is, you can take whatever defensive philosophy you want and reverse it and a forceful coach will make it work.

Your principles have to be guided by the results.

I emphasize to my guys that anything we do in practice is not a drill. If they get to thinking it’s a drill, they won’t notice it’s the same thing that goes on in a game.

One of my most fundamental points is that we will not do one single thing in practice that doesn’t show up in a game. Everything we do in practice must show itself somewhere in the game, or else we don’t do it.

Repetition is the mother of learning.

Sports do not build character. They reveal character.

When you go to do something, just go ahead and do it and don’t make a big thing out of it. Don’t think that it is too much or too little. Instead think that because you’ve decided to do something, you’ll do it the best you can.

When you’re fundamentally unsound, you inhibit the way your team can play.

Being intelligent means behaving wisely, with discipline. Playing intelligently means knowing when not to think, too.

There’s a difference between being a friend and being a teammate. A friend is one thing, but a teammate is another. A teammate understands you have to compete, that you want to be better that the other fellow is. The harder they play against each other without being nasty or dirty, or violating the spirit of good competition, the more they learn, and the better friends they’ll become because they will respect each other.

In the end, you try to get the kids to understand that they shouldn’t worry about who makes the shot, only whether or not the shot is made.

I don’t like to see a guy get patted on the back for doing simple things, for doing the things he should do. You show respect by praising them when they do the things that deserve praise. They must learn the difference between what is done right and what is done wrong, and if you try to make them similar with every praise you’ll never succeed in teaching them the difference.

I’d rather have the thing that lasts forever: respect for what you have done. It is important to play the game for the right reasons.

If you insist on less, you get it.

Nothing brings out a sense of satisfaction better than the successful completion of a difficult task no matter what it is.

There is only one ball. Basketball is a series of one-, two- and three-man plays; if all five guys were to try to get into the action at the same time they would run into each other. There cannot be competition for the ball. If you have five players competing for the ball, it makes it a lot easier for the defense to guard them.

The main goal of the offense is to get a shot you can make, a good shot, every time you have the ball. The quality of your passing determines the quality of your shots.

We mainly try to get the point across that every little thing you do on offense counts. That means that every pass, every cut, every dribble is part of the end result and therefore requires care and concern. Timing and execution are the keys to everything we try to do. We try to make it simple and we work hard to make things easy.

Against a run-and-shoot team with more talent and speed than your team, you want to make the game a shorter contest in order to close the gap between their talent and yours.

You are never in trouble as long as you have the ball.

Watch your teammate in front of you. He will tell you what you should do by what he himself does. You will know what to do by watching the man in front of you. It’s a fundamental tenet that applies to every offense I know of.

Most of the time, your defender will tell you which direction to cut by how he moves. If he tries not to let you cut – he is playing denial defense, or overplaying – then cut behind him.

You have to prepare your team for whatever the situation calls for. That’s the fundamental goal of your teaching. If you do that and have some talent to coach, you’re going to have some success.

No matter what, the most important thing is doing it. You can make almost anything work if the right guy is doing it.

You have to have a scorer at the end of the press, someone who knows what to do when he gets the ball. When you can convert a press into a score for yourself, then the psychology of the press changes in your favor – the other team doesn’t want to press you because they know you will kill them.

Thomas Jefferson used the term “education of discretion” to mean that is somebody does not know how to do something, teach him how to do it instead of taking away his opportunity to do it.

You decision how to attack the zone has to be based on the shot you can make. To say it another way: The shot you can make dictates your offense against any zone.

I always told my guys that whey you play and the crowd is hostile, use that and it will make you work harder.

I tell the team they have to play basketball for the right reasons, which are to be good at what they’re doing, show teamwork and of course win, and that whether someone is there to watch them or not is irrelevant.

Pivoting is one of the most underrated techniques and skills.

The first thing I tell anyone about faking is that if you’re going to fake, your move has to look like the real thing.

I tell my players if you play hard every time you play, you’ll be in good enough shape – as a matter of fact, you’ll never have to worry about getting tired.

I don’t tell my guys to stay off their legs the day before a game. When you mention to your guys the possibility of their getting tired, you’re instilling an idea they’ve probably never thought about. I worry about guys who think about getting tired.

A bad win is one where you score more points but they’ve outplayed, outsmarted and outworked you. A bad win is still better than a good loss.

My ideal player loves to play, constantly learns, has good character, does not give in to defeat. He uses all the parts of his abilities, not just one particular thing. I want a kid who goes ahead and does what he knows has to be done, who doesn’t give himself an excuse to fail.

It’s what you do versus what you could do that counts. Life or basketball, it’s all the same.

If you have a good strong heart, you can overcome your environment, whatever it is.

When you prepare to play a game, you first look over the talent of your opponent to see how you’re going to beat them.

Once a game starts, the coach has to see whether what you’re doing works, and be ready to make a change. In general, when you’re overmatched you have to make the game shorter, and the way you do that is by making the points longer, by not shooting as quickly. After about eight minutes on the average, a coach should have a pretty good idea of what’s going on.

But most of what the team does is what the coach prepared in practice; that’s where you teach your players the general philosophy of how to play that game.

Playing to win, you have to subjugate your own personal desires to the role that’s required of you to win. Some guys don’t like that.

Over the years, people have faulted me for our deliberate style of play, saying that it’s hard for us to catch a team that has opened up a lead. I don’t agree with that. By trying to be even more deliberate, by not panicking, by not trying to play a style of offense that you aren’t good at and haven’t practiced you can catch up. Play your game, get two here, three there, one here, and pretty soon the score adds up.

You have to know what you’re good at doing and do it.

If you have a fast team and you don’t run, you’re being stupid. And if you have a slow team, you must take the run out of the game.

Sometimes you hear coaches and fans say that s certain player performs better as a substitute than as a starter. I do not believe in that stuff. If you can play, you can play. The rest shouldn’t matter. However, if you feel a player is more comfortable by being a sixth man, then do it.

Whether you win or lose on Thursday, either way, it cannot affect what you do on Friday. That’s important to remember, and if you can learn that, you can learn to avoid ups and downs.

There are so many things that don’t show up on the stat sheet, or in a win and loss column, that no one can explain, but you see them and they affect the outcome of games. there are hundreds of them.

Every year, I look at the films of the last season and try to see whether our breakdowns are because of poor teaching or sloppy execution. I want to know if I’m insisting on teaching something we just cannot do well, and I want to figure out a few things we do well and concentrate on those for the new season.

One of the dominant themes of our society is competition. It is no accident that we shoot to win, or get high grades, or whatever. But when one or more competitors has to cheat, or do unwholesome things to win, or when the pressure, the greed gets so great they start to cheat, that doesn’t mean competition is bad; it means they don’t understand how to compete.

The most important thing that you can do is to DO what you are doing well. When you’re out there on the court, basketball should be the most important thing. When you play, PLAY.

I have a lot of pride in what I do, but I never look and say I’m proud of myself. I don’t even understand what that means. If there are things I have to do, I just do them.

The fans may or may not like a lot of passing, but I know they don’t like losing.

Growing up, I was taught not to notice what others had and not to cry foul over the difference between what I have and what someone else might have. I’ve never worried about the difference.

You coach for the people who come through your program. You coach for guys who come and work as hard as you do. People told me I asked a lot of my kids, and I told them, Princeton kids have a lot to give.

My values, the things I have always tried to tell the players are: Make sure you do not count on anyone else but yourselves. Be prepared. Have a good work ethic. Be loyal to your friends. This is what is important.

All I ever wanted as a coach was to get the best from every kid I had.

It was always important to me that my players get the best of what I had. It might not have been good, but it was still the best of what I had.



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