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Column: Who will take the place of Ford Family Director of Athletics Gary Walters '67?

gary_CMYKThe tenure of Gary Walters ’67, the Ford Family Director of Athletics, is coming to an end. Once, in the annals of Princeton athletic legend, Walters played point guard alongside all-time great Bill Bradley ’65 on the Final Four-bound Tigers. As a point guard directs his teammates, Walters has directed one of the NCAA’s finest departments.

Senior writer Teddy Schleifer penned what should be considered a paradigm of college journalistic profiling in “How Gary Walters Won.” Schleifer detailed the accomplishments of a man who, through a blend of brilliance and doggedness, earned the highest levels of recognition available in his field.

As his final season progresses, we at The Daily Princetonian will be able to do little more than sing his praises one last time. Walters will leave the athletic department and the University much better than he found it. At the same time, being such a leader to so many, he will leave the Princeton community with a heavy heart. His shoes — most often Nike sneakers — will not be easy to fill.

Who will take his place?

Before that, what makes a candidate qualified to take the helm in Jadwin Gynmasium? To be clear, I will raise more questions than I will seek to answer. To be clearer, unless attributed, any conjecture below is nothing more than speculation.

Senior sports editor Stephen Wood, in his September 23, 2013 article on the formation of a University athletic director search committee, quoted Walters’ comments on challenges his successor will face. The statements were taken from an interview with the ‘Prince’ earlier that month.

“We are very thinly staffed, administratively, compared to some of our league competitors,” he said, “and I worry about the issue of burnout for the people who work for me.”

“There are no days off,” he added. “And we could definitely use more administrative support. Those’ll be [the] challenges for the next A.D.”

Beyond an experienced and refined administrative ability, the next athletic director at Princeton will almost certainly have a high profile and a noteworthy affiliation with the University. Many alums are prominent in the sports world. However, it is unclear for how many of them the post at Jadwin will be more attractive than their present occupation.

Before I wildly speculate on who could be our next athletic director, let’s consider who will decide from a range of accomplished prospects. The following information is taken from the Athletic Director Search website,

Vice President for Student Life Cynthia Cherrey chairs the 12-person search committee. Its decision will reportedly come this spring.

Chairperson Cherrey did not respond to request for comment. In fact, do not expect any committee member to offer information, as our school adheres to a policy of not commenting on ongoing affairs.

The dubious value of that particular procedure aside, the working group consists of well-respected members of the University community: two coaches, two student-athletes, two administrators, one staff member and three alumni. All committee members reached out to for statement on the search declined to comment.

With this media lockdown in place, it’s time to speculate. Word of caution: this list relies perhaps too heavily on celebrity.

Craig Robinson ’83: He is famous, to Princetonians at least, for wearing the orange and black scarf during President Barack Obama’s 2009 inauguration. Robinson is the older brother of First Lady Michelle Obama ’85. The colors he sported on national television were in fact a demonstration of Oregon State University pride. He is currently the head coach of men’s basketball at OSU, but his side bowed out of the College Basketball Invitational tournament in the first round. In fact, the Beavers have produced lackluster performances in recent years. Oregon news outlets picked up in January on a report that he might be interested in Princeton’s athletic directorship. He did not respond to requests for comment on his possible candidacy. (You can read associate sports editor emerita Vic Majchrzak’s June 2013 Q&A with Robinson here)

Steve Mills ’81: The recent hiring of the incomparable Phil Jackson by the New York Knicks appeared, according to a story filed to the New York Daily News, to put Mills’ position as the Knicks’ executive vice president and general manager in jeopardy. However, a recent release from the team suggests he will stick around in the Madison Square Garden front office. This Princeton alum played under Hall of Fame coach Pete Carril. His daughter Danielle is currently a sophomore. (You can read senior writer John Wolfe’s October 2013 profile of Mills here)

Bob Bradley ’80: This candidate coached one of Princeton’s best-ever soccer teams in the 1993 Final Four squad. His brother Scott currently skippers for the baseball team, and his son Michael distinguished himself as one of the few quality American footballers in Europe before transferring to Toronto FC this year. Bob has recently served as the head coach of the U.S. and Egyptian national teams. In 2014, Norway’s Stabæk Fotball, located in a suburb of Oslo, made him the first American to head a premier European team. Bradley has one win in one game.

Geoff Petrie ’70: A two-time NBA Executive of the Year, Petrie played basketball at Princeton under — you guessed it — Pete Carril. Apologies for the lack of originality. A well-rounded player for the Portland Trail Blazers, this former Sacramento Kings’ president was named an All-Star in 1971 and 1974. At this point in his professional life, retirement might be more appealing than the high-pressure employment as our director.

Jason Garrett ’89: This one’s kind of a joke. You may know him as the Dallas Cowboys head coach who endures perennial struggles. Garrett matriculated at Princeton to play quarterback before transferring to Columbia to play under his father Jim. Jason’s one season as a Lion saw one of the all-time least impressive Ivy League team performances: a 0-10 record, the head coach’s resignation and allegations of player abuse. Poor Jason returned to New Jersey for an impressive two years of quarterbacking. His abandonment of Dallas and return to Princeton would be bizarre, but awesome.

Correction: a previous version of this article incorrectly stated that Gary Walters ’67 played at Princeton under head coach Pete Carril during a Final Four run. The Tigers’ head coach at that time was Butch van Breda Kolff. The ‘Prince’ regrets the error.

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