Around the Princeton campus, he was a respected, raspy figure in a threadbare sweater and baggy khaki (or, if he was dressed formally, a bow tie). A colleague once described him as “a crumpled lilliputian who looks as out of place in an Armani suit as he does in a Vera Wang dress.” And during matches, he was known for his animated coaching style.
Every year, during his first practice session, Carril gave the same speech to his players.
“I know about your study load,” he said. “I know how hard it is to give up time to play here, but let’s make one thing clear. In my book, there is no such thing as an Ivy League player. If you come out of that locker room and step over that white line, you’re basketball players, period.”
But he also told his players:
“Princeton is a special place with some very special professors. It is something special to be taught by one of them. But you’re not special just because you happen to come here.”
Pedro José (later known as Peter Joseph) Carril was born on July 10, 1930, in Bethlehem, Pennsylvania. His father, an immigrant from Spain, worked in the blast furnaces of Bethlehem Steel for 40 years and never missed a workday, his son said.
In high school in Bethlehem, Pete was an all-state basketball player, and at Lafayette, where he played for Butch van Breda Kolff, he was a Little All-American. He then coached high school basketball in Pennsylvania for 12 years, while earning a master’s degree in education from Lehigh University in 1959.