Our Richard Kent caught up with Princeton women’s basketball coach Courtney Banghart, who has led the Tigers to the NCAA tournament in four of the last five years, making Princeton the gold standard of women’s hoops in the Ancient Eight during that stretch. While Princeton relinquished the Ivy crown to Penn last year, the Tigers are back with a vengeance so far in 2014-15, currently boasting a 15-0 record with an average margin of 25.5 points per victory. After the jump, check out what Banghart had to say about the prospect of starting up new in-state rivalries with Rutgers and Seton Hall, her team’s recent visit to the White House and much more.
IHO: With full recognition that it is difficult to compare teams, is this your most complete unit to date at Princeton?
Teams are difficult to compare year to year, as there are so many variables, but this team is the most complete I’ve had. We defend the ball as well as we have with my most elite teams and we have more weapons on the offensive end. We have physicality at every position and key pieces to the puzzle. We also have experience all the way through the roster. It’s a long year, and how this team handles the marathon will determine just how good we can be come March.
IHO: The Ivy appears to be down this year, who are your toughest conference opponents?
It’s hard to know much about the league, given the variation in scheduling philosophies across the League. We know the league has the automatic bid, and to earn that we have to win the league. So we’ll treat every team with the respect and attention they deserve to give ourselves a chance to earn the title this year.
IHO: Due to the conference your RPI could suffer, does that worry you?
I only worry about what I can control. And to me that’s how hard my team plays, how they treat one another, and what we emphasize. The rest (and the winning) takes care of itself.
IHO: For the first time in decades, maybe ever, New Jersey has three legitimate top 25 teams. Isn’t it a shame that none of you play each other?
We would love to play Rutgers and Seton Hall every year. I think it would be great for New Jersey basketball. Some years, we’ll be the best of the three and other years, we won’t be. That’s the nature of the game. It’s an easy travel trip for all teams and could develop into a great rivalry.
IHO: Talk about winning the Fordham Tournament and what it means to the team psyche?
It’s something we haven’t done here — winning a tournament on the road — coming into this year. Then we won in Cancun and then most recently at the Fordham Classic. We had to beat traditionally solid programs to do so, on the road and right out of the holiday break. I loved how our team battled. We didn’t play as well the first night, but bounced back and played 40 solid minutes of defense to earn that victory. A good team finds ways to win, even when they’re not shooting well. This team did that.
IHO: How was the White House trip? (The Tigers visited the White House in November.)
The White house trip was a lifetime memory for us all. We always say that once you’re a Tiger, you’re in the Tiger family forever, so we get excited about meeting anyone’s family. To also get to experience the White House in that way, and to have the First Lady in our locker room at the half? It was very, very special. We thank the Obama’s for opening up their home and court to us.