Sydney Johnson ’97, head coach of the Ivy League champion men’s basketball team, resigned from Princeton April 4 to become the coach at Fairfield University. A national search for his successor is underway, according to a statement by Director of Athletics Gary Walters ’67.
In four years with the Tigers, Johnson’s teams were 66-53 overall. He led a remarkable turnaround that culminated with three memorable games this March: a 70-58 win over Penn at the Palestra that clinched a share of the Ivy title; a 63-62 last-second victory against Harvard in the Ivy playoff game; and a 59-57 loss to Kentucky in the NCAA Tournament.
Walters thanked Johnson for his contributions in a press release. “Obviously we’re disappointed that he is not staying to carry on the tradition of Princeton basketball,” he said. “But as a Princeton basketball alumnus, we wish him well as he takes another career step.”
Since 29-year veteran Pete Carril retired in 1996, no Princeton men’s basketball coach has stayed with the program longer than four seasons. Bill Carmody (1996-2000) left for Northwestern, John Thompson III ’88 (2000-04) departed for Georgetown, and Joe Scott ’87 (2004-07) moved on to Denver.
Johnson, a three-year captain as an undergraduate, returned to Princeton after assisting Thompson at Georgetown for three seasons. His first Tiger team stumbled to a 6-23 record, but from that point forward, the program made a steady climb in the Ivy standings. In 2009-10, the Tigers finished 22-9 overall and 11-3 in Ivy games, placed second behind Cornell, and reached the semifinals of the College Basketball Invitational. This season, Princeton finished 25-7 overall, 12-2 in Ivy play, and won all 12 of its games at Jadwin Gym.