When Gabe Lewullis ’99 has a rare block of free time during his sports medicine fellowship at New England Baptist Hospital, he often heads to the Harvard Business School gymnasium. Over the years, a group of former Ivy League basketball players who now work in Boston have established an invitation-only pick-up game at the breeding ground of Wall Street’s next top draft picks. Lewullis received his introduction to the game from Matt Henshon ’91, a practicing lawyer and captain of Princeton’s 1991 men’s basketball team.
March 23 marks the 35th anniversary of one of Princeton’s brightest basketball moments — the men’s team’s victory over Providence in the championship game of the 1975 National Invitation Tournament at Madison Square Garden.
Led by captains Armond Hill ’85 and Mickey Steuerer ’76, Princeton went 18-8 in the regular season and won its last nine games, but Penn won the Ivy League, earning a spot to the NCAA Tournament. The Tigers accepted an NIT bid, and while the Quakers made a first-round exit in the NCAAs, coach Pete Carril’s team continued its winning streak, building a following with each successive trip to New York. The championship run was a crowning achievement for Tim van Blommesteyn ’75, left, and Brien O’Neill ’75, who appeared on PAW’s April 15, 1975, cover. Below, read Dan White ’65’s account of Princeton’s improbable postseason.
From PAW, April 15, 1975
‘The Smart Shall Take from the Strong’
Princeton wins the National Invitation Tournament
By Dan White ’65
It was the most unlikely finish of the past decade. Originally picked to win less than half of its games, Princeton’s basketball team went undefeated against its last 13 opponents and captured the National Invitation Tournament championship. In becoming the first Ivy school ever to win a post-season tourney, it triumphed over Holy Cross, South Carolina, Oregon, and Providence. Princeton’s winning streak, currently the longest of any major college, propelled it to 12th place in the national rankings of the Associated Press.
Yet what will be remembered about this season is not so much a single victory (like the upset of South Carolina), or brilliant play (Tim van Blommesteyn racing downcourt with a stolen ball), or frustrating loss (Brown edging Princeton out of the Ivy lead), as the euphoria that caught up everyone, university and town alike, in the end.
Congratulations to our four prizewinners for The Weekly Blog’s basketball trivia quiz: Stuart Schulman ’84, David Taylor ’02, and Robert Comfort, who each scored a perfect 10-for-10; and Al Kaemmerlen ’62, who had nine correct responses.
Kaemmerlen, a former Tiger basketball captain, had a distinct advantage on the first question: He played in Princeton’s 1961 NCAA tournament win over George Washington, scoring 16 points as the Tigers topped the Colonials 84-67 at Madison Square Garden.
Answers to the quiz are included below.
1. Princeton has won 13 NCAA tournament games, most recently in 1998. In what year did the Tigers pick up their first postseason victory? 1961, vs. George Washington
2. Princeton and Penn have tied for the Ivy League title four times (including once in a three-way tie with Yale). Which team has the upper hand in head-to-head Ivy playoff games? Princeton, 2-1
3. Which quotable coach explained his switch to zone defense by telling reporters, “It seems that as the cost of attending Princeton increases, so does the slowness of our team”? Pete Carril
4. Fill in the blank: Bill Bradley ’65 made headlines at Princeton before he even played a varsity game, sinking 57 consecutive free throws for the Tiger freshman team.
‘Time’ links Ben Folds to Princeton’s Nassoons
When acclaimed singer-songwriter Ben Folds asks you to perform “Girl from Ipanema,” off the cusp, in front of a full house at Princeton’s McCarter Theater, you do it. So learned the Nassoons, Princeton’s oldest all-male a cappella group, while opening for Folds at his Feb. 11 concert.
The Nassoons first linked up with Folds in early December after Princeton’s Jonathan Schwartz ’10’s a cappella arrangement of Folds’ song “Time” won the group the chance to record on Folds’ upcoming a cappella album. Folds packed a skeleton crew and his own equipment into the Mathey College common room, where he recorded with the Nassoons for several hours.
“He was extraordinarily down to earth, and we had a blast with him,” said senior Nassoons member Brian Gurewitz. Before Folds left, the Nassoons joined him for a casual sing-a-long at the piano, where he took requests for their favorites of his songs.
The group gathered for extra rehearsals in the weeks leading up to Folds’ concert in Princeton, ensuring that their voices would be in good shape when they opened the show with Schwartz’s arrangement of “Time.” After the Nassoons finished their performance, the headliner asked them to sing one more song. He’d enjoyed their version of “Girl from Ipanema” during the recording session in December.
“We weren’t as prepared for that, but there certainly was a lot to be said for the spontaneity of the moment,” Gurewitz said.
The Nassoons chatted with Folds onstage and off, apparently not too fazed by his stardom. “Meeting Ben wasn’t unlike meeting a new friendly roommate,” Gurewitz said, “but it only took a short time to realize that despite his laid-back demeanor, he exudes talent. Ben seems genuinely interested in both the culture and style of collegiate a cappella music. I have a feeling he would have loved being in the Nassoons in college!” By Sarah Harrison ’09
Bonus: Watch the Nassoons perform Ben Folds’ “Time” in a fall 2008 music video.
Carril gets top billing on Jadwin floor
On Feb. 21, Princeton will honor former men’s basketball coach Pete Carril (at right, on PAW’s April 3, 1996, cover) by renaming the game court at Jadwin Gym “Carril Court.” Carril coached the Tigers for 29 seasons, winning 13 Ivy League titles and becoming one of the most beloved figures in Princeton sports history. His career concluded in 1995-96, the year that Princeton topped Penn in a one-game Ivy playoff and shocked UCLA in the first round of the NCAA Tournament.
By the time that ’96 Princeton squad beat the defending-champion Bruins, Carril had “become known as the gruff Professor Almost,” in the words of Alexander Wolff ’79. His teams had suffered postseason near-misses against Georgetown, Arkansas, and Villanova. But, as Wolff noted in a 1996 PAW story, that view overlooked Princeton’s 1975 NIT Championship as well as regular-season defeats of highly ranked opponents: North Carolina (in 1971), Florida State (in ’72), Alabama (in ’75), and Notre Dame (in ’77). Carril’s Tigers also knocked Oklahoma State out of the NCAA Tournament’s first round in 1983.
Carril was inducted in the Naismith Basketball Hall of Fame in 1997, and his legacy continues through the work of protégés coaching in college and the pros, including 10 alumni (see below).
Not far from the tree
Ten Princeton alumni who played for Pete Carril currently coach professional or Division-I college teams. They are (top row, left to right) David Blatt ’81, head coach, Dynamo Moscow and the Russian national team; Mike Brennan ’94, assistant coach, American University; Brian Earl ’99, assistant coach, Princeton; Mitch Henderson ’98, assistant coach, Northwestern University; Armond Hill ’85, assistant coach, Boston Celtics; (bottom row, left to right) Sydney Johnson ’97, head coach, Princeton; Chris Mooney ’94, head coach, University of Richmond; Craig Robinson ’83, head coach, Oregon State University; Joe Scott ’87, head coach, Denver University; and John Thompson III ’88, head coach, Georgetown University.
Carril’s basketball connections also include Northwestern head coach Bill Carmody, a longtime assistant who succeeded Carril at Princeton; Sacramento Kings general manager Geoff Petrie ’70; Mercer County (N.J.) Community College head coach Howard Levy ’85; and Gary Walters ’67, the Princeton director of athletics, who played for Carril at Reading (Pa.) High School and later assisted him on the sidelines.
Questions and answers with actress Molly Ephraim ’08
What do a religion major from New Hope, Pa., and Donny Osmond have in common? They are related. On screen, that is. In the recently released Walt Disney movie College Road Trip, Molly Ephraim ’08 plays Osmond’s daughter, Wendy. Throughout the movie, the duo terrorizes co-stars Raven Simone and Martin Lawrence with annoyingly cheerful show tunes. Ephraim, in addition to making her big-screen debut, played a murder victim in a recent episode of Law and Order. When not acting off-campus or with the Princeton Triangle Club and University Players, she tries to find time to work on her thesis, an investigation of female figures in Hindu and Buddhist religions. Ephraim recently spoke with The Weekly Blog’s Julia Osellame ’09.
When did you start acting?
My first passion was dancing, which I started when I was really young, 3 or 4. I started acting when I was 8 or 9, but my first professional show when I was 13. My parents always joke that I was asking for an agent for my birthday when I was 10. Most kids that age are asking for a pony. Coming to Princeton after I had done two Broadway shows, I was pretty certain of what I wanted to do with my life, but I wanted to keep my options open.
What was most difficult about your movie debut?
When you’re used doing theater you know the lingo, but when you do a movie, nobody sits you down and says, “Here’s the vocabulary list you need to know.” The first day on set, Donny Osmond was five feet ahead of me and was rehearsing the scene really quietly. I thought he was on vocal rest, something done to save your voice for theater shows. Of course, I couldn’t realize why I was so much louder than everyone. I had forgotten that the microphones pick up your voice, so you don’t need to project as much as you do on stage. The director said I was speaking six decibels higher than everyone else, but that it was great for keeping in Wendy’s character.
Did filming College Road Trip interrupt your summer?
Filming was only four days at the end of the summer. It was a great summer job! I went from working in the Rubin Museum of Himalayan Art in Chelsea to doing a Disney movie.
What is being on a movie set like?
I was just really happy to be there more than anything else. There isn’t the instant gratification of doing something in front of an audience, but working on a movie is much less stressful than being on Broadway. With all the little perks, it was like I was a kid in a candy store, literally. I’d stash Starbursts in a little purse that I carried. And I was so happy to have my makeup done by somebody else, but the makeup artist could always tell that I was snacking, because my lipstick would come off.
Any upcoming plans?
My next project is my thesis and then after that, I don’t know. I’ve been taking things as they come, which has been great. I’ve been really lucky and one project has been rolling into the next. But I do look forward to auditioning again. A Broadway actor’s schedule isn’t much different than a college student’s ― go to bed after a show at 1 a.m. and wake up at noon. I like being a night owl.