At times Pete Carril, the Kings' 65-year-old rookie assistant
coach, looks a bit lost on the sideline, uncertain about what to
do with himself. At Princeton, where he had such a splendid
29-year career that he was elected to the Basketball Hall of
Fame in Springfield, Mass., on Feb. 4, Carril was known for
foot-stomping, program-flailing histrionics that often left him
disheveled, his gray hair sticking out in all directions. But
with Sacramento he sits placidly on the bench, a couple of seats
away from head coach Garry St. Jean. He gets up only for
timeouts, and then he stands outside the huddle, his arms
crossed as he studies the masked trampoline artist or the
scantily clad dancing girls or some other aspect of NBA life so
unfamiliar to him.
The game is no longer Carril's domain. He does his work in the
film room and in practice sessions and in meetings with the
staff. "He's a witty, intelligent guy who has tremendous
knowledge and grasp of the game," says St. Jean, 47, who's in
his fourth season at the helm of the Kings. "He's our coach
emeritus, so his duties include everything. You know how a
college will endow an academic chair for a professor? Well,
that's what we've done here for Pete."
When Carril left Princeton last year after winning an Ivy
League-record 525 games as well as 13 conference titles and the
NIT championship in 1975, he had no immediate plans. He knew one
thing for sure, though: He never wanted to be a head coach
again. "I saw myself getting more cantankerous, less
understanding and less patient," Carril says. "I was less
forgiving of errors, so I felt it was time to go. Being a head
coach for so long is like being in the infantry--you're getting
shot at all the time, bullets flying all over. I decided it was
time to join the quartermaster corps, where you bring the
supplies to the front lines and then go back."
He thought he might hire on somewhere in college as a
restricted-earnings coach. But then came the job offer from
Kings vice president Geoff Petrie, who played for Carril at
Princeton from 1968 to '70. Carril realized he would have to
leave the haunts that had become as familiar to him as his
Macanudo cigars. He would have to move cross-country. And he
would have to get used to dealing with some of the most gifted
athletes in the world, all of them wealthy and many of them
spoiled. But Carril said yes. He felt a change of scenery might
do him good.
February 24, 1997
"It's been, for the most part, an enjoyable experience," Carril
says. "There's a game every other day, sometimes two in a row.
I'd like a little more time to practice, to straighten out your
sets. In the pros there's a lack of emphasis on fundamentals.
There's not enough time spent on learning what's a good shot, on
how to defend, on how to bring your teammates into play."
At first the Kings players weren't sure what to make of Carril.
Take second-year forward Corliss Williamson. At Arkansas he was
aware of the reputation Carril's Tigers had for being the team
that nobody wanted to play in the first round of the NCAAs. "But
I never watched any of their games on TV," Williamson says. "I
didn't like that style." What future pro would? Under Carril,
Princeton used a methodical approach, relying on screens, ball
movement and backdoor cuts, that was antithetical to most NBA
teams'--or, for that matter, to Arkansas's and that of most
other big-time college programs.
Soon after Carril arrived, St. Jean asked him to help Williamson
with his jump shot, his footwork and his ball handling. "He's
added a lot of knowledge," Williamson says. "The man's been
around for a while, and we realize he really knows a lot about
the game. He's helped us get movement in our offense and options
within the flow. He's really helped me, especially with my shot.
It used to be a slingshot, but now it's a legitimate jump shot."
Such praise pleases Carril almost as much as his beloved
stogies. "This is a no-lose situation for me," he says, puffing
away. "I'm not doing it for the money. I got a very nice
retirement from Princeton. But the things that make me happy
have never been very expensive. After the season, if I feel like
I've helped Garry and the players, then I'll stay. But if I
don't feel like I have, then I'll go home and do something else.
I think I'm helping so far. At least that's what the look in
their eyes tells me. For me it's always been about the players,
and that's the same in the NBA as it was at Princeton."
Carril has always liked the fast pace of the pro game. As a kid,
he would come from Bethlehem, Pa., to New York City to see his
heroes, the Celtics, play the Knicks. He would have loved to
teach Red Auerbach's fast-break style at Princeton, but he could
never recruit athletes capable of executing it. Carril's teams
consisted mostly of future lawyers and stockbrokers who had a
lot more brains than size or quickness or jumping ability.
During his last few years at Princeton, Carril taped Bulls games
and showed them to his players. He didn't expect any of his kids
to be able to emulate Michael Jordan or Scottie Pippen, but he
did see something in Chicago's style that he thought could be
applied to what he was trying to teach.
"They play at a faster pace, but the unselfishness is the same,"
he says. "They run a two-guard offense, which Princeton has had
for 20 years. I've always believed in the value of long-range
shooting, and so do they. Their inside-outside game--we used to
do it all the time. And if you're only going to do one thing,
you've got to do what [Dennis] Rodman does. He's an exceptional
A creature of habit--he ate breakfast at the same coffee shop in
Princeton almost every morning--Carril has had to adapt to the
pace of the NBA. On a typical day he's in the office by 9:15
a.m., watching tape. There's practice at 11, followed by lunch;
then he's back in the office for more tape-watching. Game days
stretch past midnight, and when there's no home game, he'll take
a tape or two to his apartment in Roseville.
"I know my way from my apartment to the office to the airport
and back to the apartment," he says. "Outside of that triangle,
I don't have much of a life. I haven't had a chance to enjoy
Sacramento, to visit the Napa Valley or go to Lake Tahoe.
There's just so much work to do."
Carril's game attire, which consisted mainly of sweaters at
Princeton, is now usually a bow tie and a sport coat. "We've
elevated our wardrobe by adding Pete," St. Jean says. "We now
have one of the more dapper staffs in the league with the
bow-tie look." On occasion Carril has done more than dress up
the bench during games. When the Kings beat the Trail Blazers
101-99 in overtime on Dec. 21, Carril designed the game-winning
bucket by Mitch Richmond, who scored on--what else?--a backdoor
At the Hall of Fame induction ceremony on Sept. 29, Carril hopes
to be accompanied by former Tiger Bill Bradley and by Butch Van
Breda Kolff, who was Carril's college coach at Lafayette in the
early 1950s and his predecessor at Princeton. It will be an
emotional time for Carril, who's so modest that he didn't
announce he was leaving Princeton until just before last year's
NCAA tournament because he didn't want his Ivy League rivals to
feel compelled to honor him as he passed through one last time.
The Kings will be represented in Springfield by Petrie and St.
Jean, whose summer home is on Cape Cod.
"I'll be there even if I have to walk all the way," St. Jean
says. "In the game of basketball and the game of life, I
consider myself to be on the back nine, and when you get to walk
a couple of the holes with a guy like him, it's something you
FOR THE WEEK OF FEBRUARY 10-16
"He's a blue-collar guy from Schenectady, New York, and you guys
[the media] bought that he was glamorous. He's more blue-collar
than any guy you want to meet."
--Pistons coach Doug Collins, on the misleading Showtime image
of Miami coach Pat Riley.
Since activating 32-year-old guard Nate McMillan from the
injured list on Feb. 11 after a 23-game absence for a torn
stomach muscle, the Sonics have beaten the Nuggets, the Rockets
and the Lakers. Coach George Karl considers McMillan's defense
and leadership indispensable if Seattle is to repeat as Western
With an 83-75 loss to the Cavaliers on Feb. 12, the Pacers
failed for the eighth time this season to rise above .500.
Will the NBA face a referee crisis? On Feb. 12 refs Henry
Armstrong and George Toliver were indicted by separate federal
grand juries on tax-evasion charges. Allegedly, they exchanged
first-class airline tickets for cheaper coach tickets and failed
to pay taxes on the difference. The league has placed the two
officials on paid leave, and more refs may be indicted.