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Princeton Offense


Pau Gasol

Pau Gasol shows off his championship ring.

Kevork Djansezian/Getty Images
Definition: The Princeton Offense is a system of basketball plays that feature constant motion and crisp passing designed to create easy shots. It was perfected, appropriately enough, at Princeton University during the tenure of hall of fame coach Pete Carrill.

Most plays in a Princeton set begin with four players on the perimeter and one positioned at the top of the key. The players will execute a series of precision cuts and passes in the hopes of either creating a mismatch or an open shot. The signature move of a Princeton offense is the "back door" cut, a move in which a player will draw his defender as far out as possible and then quickly cut back towards the basket.

Carril's Tigers won 13 Ivy League titles and 11 NCAA Tournament bids running his trademark system, and pulled off one of the biggest upsets in tournament history - a 43-41 win over mighty UCLA - in 1996.

The Princeton Offense in the NBA

Carril's Tigers used their precision offense to counter teams that were bigger, stronger and more athletic. What happens when one of those big, strong, athletic teams uses the same principles? Many have tried - some to great success.

After his retirement from Princeton, Carril served as an assistant coach for the Sacramento Kings. The excellent Kings teams of the 90s featured Chris Webber, Vlade Divac, Peja Stojakovic and Mike Bibby running Princeton sets; Webber and Divac might have been the best passing big men of that generation.

Since then, several other teams have used some version of the Princeton offense, including the Wizards and Nets under coach Eddie Jordan and Rick Adelman's Rockets and Timberwolves. To take advantage of Steve Nash's arrival, the Lakers plan to add elements of the Princeton system and have added Jordan to coach Mike Brown's staff to implement.

The Princeton Offense in the NCAA

Several college teams also run their own versions of the Princeton offense. The most notable current example is Georgetown. The Hoyas are coached by John Thompson III, who attended and coached the Tigers before taking over the job that made his father famous.

Two other ex-Tiger coaches - Joe Scott and Bill Carmody - brought the system to Air Force and Northwestern, respectively.

Lakers forward Pau Gasol is an outstanding passer and should thrive in a Princeton-style offense this year.
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