Nick Guthe ’91, left, with Cleveland Cavaliers coach David Blatt ’81, one of several Princeton basketball alumni featured in The Billion Dollar Game. (Courtesy Nick Guthe)
Nick Guthe ’91, left, with Cleveland Cavaliers coach David Blatt ’81, one of several Princeton basketball alumni featured in The Billion Dollar Game. (Courtesy Nick Guthe)

With the cameras rolling at Jadwin Gym last May, Nick Guthe ’91 set to work solving a Princeton basketball mystery: In 1989, when the Tiger men were preparing for their showdown with top-seeded Georgetown, who came up with the plan to go the barbershop for Hoosiers-style buzzcuts?

“Whose idea was it?” Guthe asked, sounding faintly like Tom Cruise in A Few Good Men. “Whose idea was it?”

Under the bright lights, Jerry Doyle ’91, a starting guard for the ’89 team, grudgingly admitted the idea was his. When the crew paused to switch tapes, Doyle, a Duke Law grad, smiled and shook his head. “You should be a prosecutor,” he said.

Filmmaker suits Guthe just fine. A writer and director with a background in TV and movies, Guthe returned to Princeton to work on his first documentary, a short film titled The Billion Dollar Game, which premiered on ESPN’s Grantland.com today.

The film, which features Hall of Fame coach Pete Carril and several Princeton basketball alumni, explores Princeton’s thrilling NCAA Tournament loss to Georgetown and its effect on the sport’s future. The Tigers’ near miss helped to preserve automatic tournament bids for small-conference teams. It also proved compelling to executives at CBS, the network that subsequently paid $1 billion for the tournament’s exclusive broadcasting rights and expanded coverage to include all first-round games. “It really changed the way that people consume college basketball,” Guthe said.

As for the game itself, Guthe remembers it well. He had driven his girlfriend to Newark Airport for a spring-break flight, and after walking her to the gate, he spotted people crowded around a TV in the terminal. He left his car in the lot and stayed to watch as the Tigers fell one shot shy of knocking off the Hoyas. “It’s one of those days you never forget,” he said.