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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Q&A with Princeton coach Carla Berube

First-year Princeton coach Carla Berube went 384-96 (.800) in 17 seasons at Tufts. (Princeton Athletics)

Our George Clark (Toothless Tiger) caught up recently with first-year Princeton coach Carla Berube. Berube talked about why she left Tufts after 17 years to come to Princeton, introduced her all-new coaching staff, touted the importance of facing power-five competition and much more:

Princeton names Carla Berube its next head coach

Carla Berube was named the 10th head coach in Princeton women’s basketball history Wednesday night after being the head coach at Tufts for the past 17 seasons. (FIBA)

The wait is over.

Twenty-nine days after former Princeton head coach Courtney Banghart took the same position at North Carolina and with just two full days left until June, Princeton named Banghart’s successor Wednesday evening.

Carla Berube has been named the 10th head coach in Princeton women’s basketball history, succeeding Banghart after serving the past 17 seasons as head coach at Tufts, a Division III university.

Berube led Tufts to the NCAA Final Four in four consecutive seasons from 2014 through 2017, reaching the championship game in 2016 and 2017. Berube was the 2015 United States Marine Corps / Women’s Basketball Coaches Association (WBCA) NCAA Division III National Coach of the Year.

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