On a good day Bill van Breda Kolff gets around the Springdale Golf Course in 75 shots or so. Then he walks over to Dillon Gym, changes into a warmup suit and goes to work. Work is coaching the Princeton basketball team, and work used to be play. But another Bill doesn't live here anymore, and now at Princeton work is work.
It is going on two years since Bill Bradley went to Portland and, in an otherwise meaningless consolation game against Wichita State, showed just how the game of basketball should be played. Though Coach van Breda Kolff's walk from golf course to gym seems a little longer now, and the maintenance men do not pull down sets of bleachers to accommodate the mobs for practice, and a few other changes are noticeable around Old Nassau—why, just a month ago a student committee voted on condemning the use of marijuana and marijuana lost; 6-4—it is still Bill Bradley's Princeton. The autographed picture is up in coffeehouses around town, everyone reads of his exploits in England and in Italy and speculates about whether the New York Knickerbockers will persuade him to come and save them. One senior—a senior, mind you—went into ecstasy when his date saw a picture of Bradley on the wall and cooed, "I didn't know you played basketball." All too often in games last year, members of the team would look for Bradley and, seeing one of their own instead, would say, "I didn't know you played basketball."
"That was the big problem in the close games," says van Breda Kolff. "For three years Bill gave us the clutch free throw, the big basket, the move that would save a game. Last year when a game got down to that pressure time, we had nobody to take over. We were lost." Gary Walters, the quick, 5-10 guard who directs the Princeton offense and could play with anyone, called the Tigers of last year "the only six-man team in history—five guys and a ghost." After staying in the Ivy race most of the year, the five guys and a ghost collapsed and finished fourth. One player admits the desire and dedication that Bradley had instilled were gone.
Now, the Tigers' period of adjustment may finally be over. With a nucleus of veterans and the addition of 6-9 Chris Thomforde, a blond, pink-skinned sophomore from Long Island, Princeton should again rise to the top of the Ivies. Van Breda Kolff is understandably worried about Columbia, which has 7-foot Dave Newmark and an outstanding 6-3 sophomore in Stan Walaszek. Cornell has two fine prospects, Hank South and Walt Esdaile. But defending champion Penn lost everybody, including the coach, and the only thing notable about the rest of the league is that this is Doggie Julian's swan song at Dartmouth.
With Walters, Princeton still has 6-9 Robby Brown and 6-6 Ed Hummer from the Bradley era. Brown, a starter for two years, will play behind Thomforde, who is faster and a better shot. Running them in alternately to press Newmark will give the Tigers an edge when they meet Columbia. Van Breda Kolff hopes that this is the year Hummer, who averaged 13 points and eight rebounds last season, reaches what has always seemed to be a brilliant potential. If he does, he is capable of tearing up the league. Princeton's best, however, may be Joe Heiser, a 6-2 swing man who was counted on heavily last year until he broke his wrist in a touch football game. Heiser missed half the season, then came on strong to lead the team in scoring in the last 10 games. John Haarlow, 6-6, the last and best of three brothers at Princeton, will be the fifth starter, and Dave Lawyer and Larry Lucchino will help.
"What we needed last season was more offense," says van Breda Kolff. "We were slow and just couldn't get the baskets. Now we're faster—Thomforde can run for a whole game—and we have better shooters and more depth." Princeton's defense has always been good. Now, if those five guys will stop believing in ghosts....