Former Princeton coach Bill Carmody announces his retirement

Then-Princeton coach Bill Carmody directs future Princeton coach Mitch Henderson during the Tigers’ battle with Michigan State in the second round of the NCAA Tournament in 1998. Henderson later was an assistant on Carmody’s coaching staff at Northwestern. “He always does the right thing,” Henderson said of Carmody to IHO following Carmody’s retirement announced Tuesday. (Getty Images)

Former Princeton men’s basketball coach Bill Carmody announced his retirement from coaching late Tuesday afternoon, stepping down as coach at Holy Cross.  In a career that spanned over 40 years, Carmody spent 18 of them with the Tigers as an assistant and head coach.  He finishes with a record of 342-308 as a Division I head coach at Princeton, Northwestern and Holy Cross, including a 92-25 (.786) mark with the Orange & Black.  Between 1996-2000, he led the Tigers to a 50-6 (.893) Ivy record, two first-place finishes, and a first round victory over UNLV in the 1998 NCAA Tournament.

Carmody graduated from Union College in 1975 and immediately got his first job coaching at Fulton-Montgomery Community College in Johnstown, N.Y.  After one season, he went back to his alma mater as an assistant coach to Bill Scanlon.  Four years later, he made a big jump to the fledgling Big East to join Gary Walters’s staff as a part-time assistant at Providence College.  Carmody stayed for one more year under returning coach (and former Brown coach) Joe Mullaney before moving to Princeton in 1982 to be an assistant to future Hall of Famer Pete Carril.

The Rahway, N.J. native would go on to work with Carril for 14 seasons, winning seven Ivy titles in that time.  In their last season together, 1995-96,  the Tigers were co-champions with Penn and went to a one-game playoff at Lehigh to determine the league’s representative in the NCAA Tournament.  After Princeton defeated Penn in overtime, 63-56, Carril shocked his team with a two-word message on the chalkboard, “I’m retiring”.  He then went to the post-game press conference and let the public know that he would be finishing his career after the upcoming tournament and that Bill Carmody was going to be the new coach.

In his first two seasons in charge of the Tigers, Carmody would lead the team to 51-6 overall record and a 28-0 mark in the Ancient Eight.  His 1997-98 team would enter the AP Top 25 poll at #25 in early December and finish the regular season as the #8 team in the country.  Princeton was named the #5 seed in the East Regional and went on to defeat #12 seed UNLV 69-57.  Two days later, the season would end with a 63-56 defeat to #4 seed Michigan State.

Over the next two seasons, Carmody’s Tigers had back-to-back 11-3 second-place records and NIT Tournament appearances.  The Orange & Black would make it to the quarterfinals in 1999, but only the first round in 2000.  Following the 1999-2000 season, Carmody left Princeton for Northwestern.

In 13 seasons in charge of the Wildcats, Carmody went 192-220 (.476) overall and 70-150 (.318) in the Big Ten.  Despite not finishing higher than fifth in the conference and failing to make it the NCAA Tournament, his teams posted four straight winning seasons and NIT appearances from 2008-12.  His 2009-10 and 2010-11 teams both recorded a then-school record 20 victories and he was named Big Ten Coach of the Year in 2003-04.

After being dismissed from Northwestern at the end of the 2012-13 season, Carmody returned to the hardwood in 2014-15 as a special assistant and advisor to former Tiger player Sydney Johnson, who was the head coach at Fairfield.  In the spring of 2015, Carmody was named the head coach at Holy Cross.

In his first year in charge of the Crusaders, the team went 0-9 in league road contests before reeling off four straight road wins in the Patriot League Tournament to win the conference’s automatic bid to the 2016 NCAA Tournament.  The Crusaders defeated Southern, 59-55, in the First Four before losing to #1 seed Oregon in the Round of 64.

Over his four years in Worcester, the Crusaders went 58-73 (.443) overall and 28-44 (.389).  According to Russell Vannozzi of Mid-Major Madness, the 67-year-old coach did not travel to select road games this season while his wife, Barbara, continued to battle cancer. Though he was available for all practices and home games, Holy Cross assistants were in charge for overnight road trips.

In addition to the 342 victories, two conference titles and nine postseason appearances, Carmody has a rather large Ivy coaching legacy.  While there is some overlap with Carril, Carmody was a significant mentor to John Thompson III (Princeton, Georgetown), Craig Robinson (Brown, Oregon State), Joe Scott (Princeton, Air Force, Denver) and Sydney Johnson (Princeton, Fairfield), and Tavaras Hardy, as well as present Ivy head coaches Mitch Henderson of Princeton and Brian Earl of Cornell.

“Bill is as great a person as he is a coach,” Henderson told IHO. “He taught so many of us how to think about the game, how to see things, and so much of who I am today comes from him.  He would never say it but he has influenced so many of us in such a positive way. He always does the right thing.  I am thankful that I was able to learn from him both as a player and as a coach.”

2 thoughts on “Former Princeton coach Bill Carmody announces his retirement”

  1. As great a coach as Pete Carril was, Bill Carmody was the skipper who led Princeton to its greatest heights in the past 25 years. The 1998 season in which Princeton finished #8 in the final regular season poll featured one of the greatest Ivy League teams in history. That was a Bill Carmody coached team. Congratulations to Coach Carmody on an exemplary coaching career.

  2. Absolutely loved watching a Bill Carmody team play. Terrific coach and great hoops mind. Wishing him and family all the best.

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