How Princeton women’s basketball clawed its way to the top of the Ivy League

The 2019-20 Princeton women’s basketball team’s campaign ended all too quickly due to COVID-19, but not before demonstrating the enduring strength of the program under a new coaching staff. (Princeton Athletics)

The 2019-20 Princeton women’s basketball team was by no means a “one-hit wonder.”

It was the product of a process begun more than a dozen years ago. Successful coaches do more than win games; they build a program, an organization that can produce highly competitive teams year after year. Successful programs are designed to withstand graduations, injuries, and the inevitable clash of egos and personalities in groups of a dozen or more highly competitive and talented individuals. To achieve success in college basketball over time is incredibly difficult. To achieve credibility on the national scene with a mid-major program and no athletic scholarships defies belief. Princeton has done that.

In 1970, the 225th year of Princeton’s existence, school administrators decided to adopt the revolutionary idea of coeducation, not coincidentally, I have always believed, in the year following my graduation. One year later, varsity basketball was introduced as a women’s intercollegiate sport. The Tigers enjoyed early success, winning the first four Ivy titles following the launching of a women’s postseason tournament in 1975. (The women played a postseason tournament until 1982. In 2017, the present tournament format was adopted. The top four men’s and women’s teams compete at the same site over the same weekend to determine the league’s NCAA representatives.)

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Ivy hoops roundup – May 11, 2020

Yale women’s incoming class announced

Yale women’s basketball announced its three-member Class of 2024 Monday. The class consists of:

  • Brenna McDonald, a 6-foot-2 forward from Natick, Mass. who was named to the Boston Globe Dream Team her senior year
  • Haley Sabol, a 6-foot-2 forward from Pittsburgh who was a first-team all-state selection her junior and senior years for Episcopal High School in Alexandria, Va.
  • Elles van der Maas, a 6-foot-2 guard from Sydney who made the 2018 All-Australian team

Read moreIvy hoops roundup – May 11, 2020

Ivy 60 for 60: Craig Robinson

Craig Robinson was the first two-time recipient of the Ivy Player of the Year award. (Princeton Athletics)
Craig Robinson was the first two-time recipient of the Ivy Player of the Year award. (Princeton Athletics)

Following our countdown of the top 10 moments in each Ivy school’s men’s basketball history this summer, Ivy Hoops Online is delighted to continue celebrating the 60th anniversary of modern Ivy League basketball by honoring the top 60 players in Ivy hoops history (in no particular order). For the next entry in our Ivy 60 for 60 series, three IHO writers give their individual perspectives of Craig Robinson, one of the greatest players in Princeton basketball history… 

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Q&A with Sports Illustrated senior writer Alexander Wolff

Now that's a clever book title.
Now that’s a clever book title.

Alexander Wolff, Princeton ’79, has a new book out that studies Barack Obama through his love of basketball, and that’s good news for anyone who likes sharp biographical and political writing. Wolff, a senior writer for Sports Illustrated who has been on the publication’s staff longer than anyone else (since 1980), was kind enough to answer a few questions from IHO about that book, The Audacity of Hoop: Basketball and the Age of Obama.

Ivy Hoops Online: What was your first exposure to Ivy basketball?

Alexander Wolff: I grew up in Princeton until age 12. I remember as a six-year-old being sent to bed by my parents on a December night in 1964 and understanding that they, and not I, would be watching Princeton and Bill Bradley play Michigan and Cazzie Russell in the Holiday Festival later that night. It made a huge impression on me because, even then, I knew my parents didn’t care at all about sports, yet Bradley and the Tigers had so captured the community that even they had gotten hooked. A few years later I sat right behind the bench at a Princeton freshman game in Dillon Gym and watched Geoff Petrie and John Hummer play. I also caught the occasional Les Keiter telecast on Channel 17 from the Palestra . . .

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