Ex-Tigers captain named to Princeton job

Updated: April 20, 2007, 7:05 PM ET
Associated Press

NEWARK, N.J. -- Georgetown assistant Sydney Johnson was hired to coach at Princeton on Friday, taking over a once-dominant program that finished last in the Ivy League for the first time.

The only three-time basketball captain at Princeton, the 32-year-old Johnson replaces Joe Scott, who resigned to take the head coaching job at the University of Denver shortly after the Tigers finished in last place.

Sydney Johnson
Jamie Squire/Getty ImagesThe only three-time captain in Princeton history, Johnson (in uniform) was a key player in the Tigers' first-round upset of heavily-favored UCLA in the 1996 NCAA Tournament.

"As a player at Princeton, Sydney Johnson was the embodiment of heart, passion, class and dignity," athletic director Gary Walters said in a statement. "We are delighted that he will bring those same qualities back to Princeton as our head men's basketball coach."

The university plans to introduce Johnson at a news conference on Monday.

Johnson has spent the past three seasons at Georgetown, helping the Hoyas reach the Final Four earlier this month.

"I had a lot of excitement and nervous energy when I accepted the position, but that has quickly turned into a feeling of relaxation of knowing that this is the right place to be," Johnson said. "It's great to be here, and the challenge now will be to move forward."

Current Georgetown coach John Thompson III also coached Princeton, his alma mater, before taking the top job with the Hoyas.

"Sydney is a star as a person and as a basketball coach," said Thompson, who was an assistant coach at Princeton during Johnson's junior and senior seasons.

Johnson takes over a team that went from one of the Ivy League's dominant programs to a last-place team, the first such placing for the Tigers since the Ivy League began play in 1956.

The Towson, Md. native will be the fourth coach to take over the Princeton program since Pete Carril left in 1996 after 27 seasons. He follows Bill Carmody, Thompson and Scott.

"Sydney was the best defensive player I ever coached at Princeton," said Northwestern coach Bill Carmody, who was an assistant coach at Princeton for 14 seasons and then Johnson's head coach in 1996-97. "He was a tremendous player and a great leader, and he worked as hard every day as any player I've been around."

A four-year starter, Johnson was twice selected to the All-Ivy first team. In 1997, he was the league's player of the year, and finished as the school's all-time steals leader.

During his four years as a starter, Princeton had a record of 80-29, and was 47-9 in the Ivy League.

In 1996, Johnson led the Tigers to an Ivy League championship and was a key part of Princeton's 43-41 upset win over defending national champion UCLA in the first round of the NCAA tournament.

After graduating from Princeton, Johnson played professionally in Italy and Spain for seven years, and won the Italian League championship with Siena in 2004.

"I always thought from the very beginning when I recruited him that he had excellent leadership qualities," said Carril, Johnson's coach for three seasons and a member of the committee that helped select him as coach. "As a coach, you apply all of those qualities and your experiences. He will do a fine job for Princeton."


Copyright 2007 by The Associated Press

ALSO SEE