The Smart Take from the Strong: The Basketball Philosophy of Pete Carril


“The strong take from the weak, but the smart take from the strong.” So said Pete Carril’s father, a Spanish immigrant who worked for thirty-nine years in a Bethlehem, Pennsylvania, steel mill. His son stood only five-foot-six but nonetheless became an All-State basketball player in high school, a Little All-American in college, and a highly successful coach. After twenty-nine years as Princeton University’s basketball coach, he became an assistant coach with the NBA’s Sacramento Kings. In 1997 he was ...
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“The strong take from the weak, but the smart take from the strong.” So said Pete Carril’s father, a Spanish immigrant who worked for thirty-nine years in a Bethlehem, Pennsylvania, steel mill. His son stood only five-foot-six but nonetheless became an All-State basketball player in high school, a Little All-American in college, and a highly successful coach. After twenty-nine years as Princeton University’s basketball coach, he became an assistant coach with the NBA’s Sacramento Kings. In 1997 he was inducted into the Naismith Memorial Basketball Hall of Fame.
Coach Carril inspired his teams with his own strength of character and drive to win, and he demonstrated time and again how a smart and dedicated team could compete successfully against bigger programs and faster, stronger, more athletic players. His teams won thirteen conference championships, made eleven NCAA Tournament appearances, and led the nation in defense fourteen times.
Throughout his reflections on a lifetime spent on the basketball court and the bench, Carril demonstrates deep respect for the contest, his empathy and engagement with the players, humility with his own achievements, a pragmatic vision of discipline and fundamentals, and an enduring joy in the game.
This is an inspiring and wonderful book, even for those who never made a basket.
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Editorial Reviews

John McPhee
"Pete Carril is the Stonewall Jackson of NCAA basketball-unbelievable in victory, unforgettable in defeat."

-John McPhee

Senator Bill Bradley
"Pete Carril is very clear about what he wants in basketball, and he wills things to happen."

-Senator Bill Bradley

John McPhee

“Pete Carril is the Stonewall Jackson of NCAA basketball—unbelievable in victory, unforgettable in defeat.”—John McPhee
Senator Bill Bradley

“Pete Carril is very clear about what he wants in basketball, and he wills things to happen.”—Senator Bill Bradley
Publishers Weekly - Publisher's Weekly
Last year, Carril retired from head coaching after 43 years, of which 29 were spent at Princeton. His memoirs, written with freelancer White, are a warm and wise series of random jottings about the values he learned growing up in a Pennsylvania steel town, his views on society, athletes past and present and, of course, his philosophy of winning basketball. Some of his observations are lengthy, like that on defensive fundamentals, while others are disarmingly brief but equally trenchant: "A good mind has never handicapped a player." He believes sports do not build character but reveal it, and his greatest enthusiasm is reserved for the team player. He is disarmingly candid about recruiting, which, he confesses, he did badly, probably all to the good because Princeton's sports programs are ultra-clean; he even wonders whether he could have been such a straight arrow if he'd been at a less scrupulous college. (Mar.)
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780803264489
  • Publisher: UNP - Bison Books
  • Publication date: 10/28/2004
  • Pages: 205
  • Sales rank: 789,901
  • Product dimensions: 5.40 (w) x 7.40 (h) x 0.50 (d)

Meet the Author

Dan White is an award-winning freelance writer, the author of eight books, and a contributor to the New York Times, Philadelphia Inquirer, and Detroit Free Press.
Bob Knight won three NCAA titles as men's basketball coach at Indiana; he currently coaches at Texas Tech.
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Table of Contents

Introduction 15
Who takes from whom? 17
The nature of a coach 17
Pick your general 19
The only difference 19
What turns me on 21
Behaving wisely 21
How we learn 22
The only objective standard 23
Never say never 24
The coach's job 25
Knowing what to coach 26
The kind of coach I am 27
What to emphasize 28
Make sure they are all listening 28
I can teach a guy basics 29
The truth about fast players 30
Teaching versus coaching 31
What to be good at 33
What I look for in a player 35
Modus operandi 36
A body with no talent 37
You cannot hide on the court 39
Overcoming certain obstacles 40
Emulate the great 40
The three basics 42
Dribbling 42
Pass to play 47
Two kinds of elitism 51
Just shoot it 51
The simple layup 54
You never tire of making shots 56
From close in 64
Shooting confidence 65
Compensation for poor shooting 65
A limit to what you can teach 66
Before you give up ... 67
What losing requires 68
Whom does the player get mad at? 68
Motivating players 69
What it takes to be extraordinary 71
Satisfaction 73
Sometimes you can, sometimes you can't 73
Play to win 75
Character 75
Core toughness 76
Growing up with courage 77
South Bethlehem 78
What is genuine and what is not 79
Greed 80
Team concept redefined 80
Necessity is the mother of invention 81
The socioeconomics of basketball 84
When I played 85
Lafayette 87
On being 5' 6 3/4" tall 88
Coaching taller players 89
Coaching at reading 89
Why practice? 91
Defense is the heart of the game 91
Zone versus man-to-man 97
Defensive fundamentals 97
Defending the pivot 102
Legs don't lie 104
Stern discipline 104
Don't think it's a drill 104
What is the value of a drill? 105
Punctuality 106
Locker room habits 106
Drinking and basketball 107
Autographs 108
Relationship between athletics and life 108
The challenge of coaching at Princeton 109
Just do it 110
Fundamentally unsound 110
What I found at Princeton 111
Communing to win 113
Playing intelligently 114
No such thing as an Ivy League player 115
Competing against a friend 115
Do not come to Princeton to be famous 116
Praise exposed 117
Every day, a new day 118
If you insist on less, you get it 118
Speed wins the race 119
Lesson number one on offense 120
Get a good shot 120
Closing the talent gap 121
Play without the ball (and the coach) 122
Cut with credibility 124
Back-door 125
Our offense simplified 128
Who is doing it? 129
Good reading habits 130
Pay attention 130
Bounce passes on the back-door 131
Slower fast break 132
Small, slow shooters 132
The three-point shot 133
Driving is a knack 133
Knack for rebounding 133
Who gets the rebound? 135
Where's the nearest railroad? 135
Hands don't change 136
Solving a press 136
Inbounds passes 137
Jump balls 138
Cerebral basketball 139
Make a zone run 141
One gym versus another 142
Turn on the fans 142
Princeton-Penn 144
The real stars at Princeton 147
Winning 147
Pick 147
Pivoting 149
Fakes are like lies 150
Preseason stuff 151
Conditioning 151
Weight-training 153
"And two's" 154
In the NCAAs 154
A coach's heart 157
Home court 157
Stay off your legs? 158
Team camaraderie 159
A bad win 159
Nothing else but luck 160
Rough on refs 161
Care how you play 162
Fame 163
Learn any offense in thirty minutes 164
What can youngsters learn? 164
A good high school coach 166
Coaching high school versus college 166
The rat race 167
Burglars get into homes, too 169
Three-car-garage guys 169
Can he pass? 170
Character shows 170
Lightbulbs 171
Look beyond talent 171
The campus tour 172
Don't worry about tuition 173
Admissions 174
Yes for the shot clock 175
Our toughest opponents 177
You against yourself 177
Heart 177
The coach's role 178
Playing catch-up 180
Use your assets 181
Sixth man 181
Blowout against North Carolina 182
Avoid the ups and downs 182
Mop-up time 183
Character witness 183
Are you worthy? 184
Jetting in, jetting out 185
NBA draft 185
They don't show up, but you see them 185
Year-end review 187
Not enough creative coaching 188
How I get along with parents 188
Religious question 189
Competition is not bad 190
Do what you are doing 191
Prideful 191
College sports are not exempt 192
Coaching my way 192
Coaching all-stars 192
Spanish pessimism 193
Anonymity at Princeton 193
"The poor guy" 194
Style versus substance 195
What I value 195
What kids really need 196
All I ever wanted 196
No middle ground 196
The toughest coach 197
Fame and the worms 197
A hundred grand and nothing 198
How players have changed 198
Premature retirement 199
Five hundred and twenty-five wins 200
The final question 203
Twenty-five little things to remember 203
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Sort by: Showing 1 Customer Reviews
  • Posted May 7, 2009

    more from this reviewer

    An Entertaining Basketball Mind

    This book took a while to warm up to. At least, it did for me.

    The Smart Take from the Strong is a collection of legendary Princeton coach Pete Carril's thoughts on the game. As the title might suggest, Coach Carril views success in an entirely different light than someone like Rick Pitino would. Princeton's athletes bring one advantage to the court every game, and it's the same advantage they bring to the classroom - they're ambitious and smart as hell.

    So, it falls to an Ivy League coach to fill those brains with perceptive strategies and tactics that can even the playing field against taller, stronger, faster, more athletic teams. Carril not only did that, but gave his Tiger teams the emotional toughness to hang in to the final buzzer. It was a combo that led to a 65% win percentage, 13 Ivy titles, 11 NCAA bids, and an NIT championship. Pete ended his career on a high note, upsetting the defending national champs of UCLA in the 1996 tourney in his last collegiate game as head coach.

    So, the guy has a lot to say. And the only reason I took a while to warm up to it is because I went in looking for something specific. My interest was more tactical, and the first seventy or so pages of the book were general observations, like this one: "Wherever fast players go, they get there faster than slow players". Funny, but not particularly enlightening.

    But I'm happy to report that there's something for everyone in this slim paperback. Around page 90, I began to read sections with titles like "Zone vs. Man-to-Man" and "Defending the Pivot". Yeah. That was more like it.

    What I found most interesting was the fact that Carril made a 29-year college career out of dredging as much as he could out of smart and unathletic players, and then turned around and did the opposite. He joined the NBA and taught his Princeton system to players who had all the natural talent in the world, but more often than not, were not Mensa candidates. Talk about being adaptable.

    It helps, while reading this book, to go back to the front cover and look at Carril; imagine him saying everything you're reading. Here's an irascible, tough, 5'6" garden gnome in a bow tie telling you how it's going to be on a basketball court. I strongly suspect I could sit and listen to ol' Pete talk for hours if ever given the chance. It has to be a hoot. Case in point: discussing one of his hot-shooting players, Carril says "We called him 'Molasses', because he wasn't the fastest guy around. That was a nickname we used for a lot of players at Princeton." Ha!

    Short story long: this book has no narrative structure. It can be set on the bedside table and read in small chunks without a deep time investment. For anyone who wants to understand the mind that gave us the Princeton offense, or find reality-based inspiration for facing overwhelming odds, this book has it all. It's right around 200 pages, so it's an easy read. And, if you find yourself in need of an even quicker fix than that, Pete ends the book with his list of Twenty-five Things to Remember.

    Put it on your summer reading list, Einstein.

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