“In those tough times, you go back to your standards, you go back to values,” Surace says

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Bob Surace ’90 is heading into his 13th season as Princeton’s head football coach, but his history with the Tigers goes back much further. On the PAWcast, he spoke about his time as an All-Ivy center for Princeton and what experiences like coaching in the NFL taught him about the game and the players. He also gave his thoughts on two hot-button issues in college football today — the transfer portal and players’ newfound ability to sell their name, image, and likeness. 


Brett Tomlinson: I’m Brett Tomlinson from the Princeton Alumni Weekly, and this is the PAWcast, a monthly series in which we interview alumni, faculty, staff, and students about their work and issues that matter to the Princeton community. 

Our guest this time is Bob Surace, Class of 1990, who is heading into his 13th season as head coach of Princeton football, a run that includes four Ivy League championships and one undefeated season. Bob was a history major and an All-Ivy center at Princeton, and he was an assistant coach in the NFL before returning to his alma mater in December 2009. 

Bob, thank you for joining me. 

Bob Surace: I really appreciate it. Thanks, Brett.

BT: I said you’re heading into your 13th season, but it really feels like your 14th — there were no games in 2020, the first year of the COVID pandemic, but I think every coach, every instructor, every professor should get a full year of credit for that year and the challenges that that brought. But when you came back to Princeton, was this the goal, to be here for a decade or longer and to have a chance to really build a program?

BS: Yeah, I was a history major. My father was a high school football, baseball coach, administrator at my high school, and he was there as the head football coach for 25 years, baseball coach for 20 years. He was an administrator long after that. For me, there were certain goals that you have, when you go in, when the job came open, if I get this. 

Coaching’s a very transient business. I’m very fortunate. One of the people I work with, Steve Verbit, has been at Princeton for nearly 40 years. And many coaches — you raise a family and you might be at a place 15 years, eight different schools and everything else was that piece of stability and raising them in the Princeton area was really important to my wife and I. 

We both love Princeton. There hasn’t been a year where we haven’t been back on campus. So all the different places I went in my journey, we made it a mission that every summer or Reunions or at some point we were making it back to campus. And most years it was well more than one time that way. 

I got to know Coach Carril when I was here and, you know, Princeton football has had amazing football coaches, but if we could get this thing to the place where Coach Carril took basketball with, hopefully, stability, success, amazing people in our program and a sense of community, that’s something that — you know, Fred Samara just retired and I walk down the hall and whether it’s Carla Berube or Scott Bradley, but Fred Samara is right in the center there. And I just walked out with him, walked to the garage with him, and just so grateful that I’ve had these people in my life. 

Coach Carril, when I first got here, I had asked him to come to our practices and just get his view on things, because what he accomplished here and what’s taken place since he’s left, culminating in the amazing Sweet 16 run, is something that I hope that when time’s up here that it’s thought in a similar way. 

BT: What defines your version of Princeton football? What are you aiming for year after year as you recruit players, as you coach them, as you build a staff?

BS: It was one of the things my dad brought back that, each year you’re going to have a record. You’re defined in coaching a little bit more concrete on the outside, but it’s the people. Coaches tend to have a big influence on somebody’s life, right? You play a role in their life. You are somebody maybe they confide in. You mentor, and really you judge them. Because I know we do all these rankings, like Princeton’s the No. 1 college in the country, but who cares what happens on the beginning, right? You’re ranked on the kids coming in. It’s what they become. And to me, judging on that one year, right, that 10-0 season’s great. But as they come back to the golf outing and I’m seeing them have the success in life, that piece is so critical to me. 

BT: Being a football coach — even within the field of athletics, being a football coach is a big job. You’re talking about more than a hundred athletes, a big staff, support staff. How do you sort of build the personal relationships with all those people over the course of their time on campus? 

BS: People that know me [know] I’m very relationship driven, right? I hope. It’s hard — I know freshmen come in and the anxiety, if something goes wrong, to go into the head coach’s office. So I want to create an environment where we can talk, right? And that I do listen, right? And I’m not going to shy away for maybe a hard answer. We’ll have a real conversation. I’m not just going to tell recruits or current players or alumni what they want to hear, but I want to make sure I’m listening. 

I am very fortunate when you’re at a place like Princeton, you’re surrounded by people that are successful in so many different fields, and they’re leaders, and I can gain value from, from those pieces.

BT: Speaking of that, how are you different as a coach? What have you learned? How have you changed over the last 14 years?

BS: I was a head coach at the Division III level. It was a school called Western Connecticut, and it was a little bit different. And President Eisgruber has been amazing, we have more first-gen and more students, not just student-athletes, coming from different backgrounds. Well, that was a place where many of the kids, the majority of kids on our team, were first-gen. And, and so I was, you know, those guys laugh. I was such a disciplinarian and we had study halls. 

As I’ve adapted, and even when I first got here building the foundation — there was a table at the golf outing last night from the guys who played on the 2010, and a lot of them played on the 2011, teams that went 1-9, right? Some of the success we’ve had on the field recently, we look to, oh, it’s been that way. But it took time, and we built a foundation. And those guys are the reason that we are where we’ve been more recently because they helped us build, we took no shortcuts. They helped us build a foundation where it was very coach driven in terms of what we were trying to build. 

And you know, yesterday we had a lot of the guys as they finished their internships that are currently on the team, just pop in and say hello to the alums before they went on to dinner and everything else yesterday. And our leaders of the team, the Liam Johnsons and Blake Stenstroms and Jalen Travises, I’m conversing with them like, “Hey, what do you need? What do you see?” 

I’ve really followed — there’s a guy named Trevor Moawad; he passed away, in the past couple of years. His whole thing was “neutral thinking.” Football’s a very emotional sport, and I think the mistake sometimes that I make are when I’m over emotional. And by following a lot of these neutral thinking, it’s just attacking issues: What’s the problem? Like, hey, they’re going to change rules, in terms of NCAA things, officials’ rules. So instead of complaining or whatever, what do we do with this rule? How can we take advantage of the fact that the clock’s going to run after first downs?

BT: You mentioned those early years — you’ve had great success, but it wasn’t instant success. In some places, no matter what kind of foundation you’re building, if you don’t have the results in the first couple years, you don’t get a chance to keep building. What did it mean to you and to your staff that you had that kind of vote of confidence, after a couple of 1-9 seasons? 

BS: The first year we did not have a lot of depth and we had a lot of injuries. And you know, going into the job, I think there was probably a small advantage being an alum. I had better knowledge of what the situation was going into it in that, talking with the people on the interview, the search committee, that we’re going to need to take a little longer approach, right? That there were maybe shortcuts you could take but it wasn’t going to sustain. And we hadn’t — you know, we had won a title in 1995, won a title in 2006, but as the Academic Index era of the Ivy League happened, between 1995 and when I got the job, there’s only a couple of what you would say were successful seasons. So let’s not take the shortcut. Let’s figure out ways that may sustain. And to Gary Walters’ credit, he was really on board with that.

You have the weekly meetings with him in the first year. He saw positives out of how guys were just — we weren’t winning, but the attitudes were amazing. I was shocked how amazing our guys were and how hard they worked and how committed they were. And they weren’t looking at the score as opposed to the process was starting to turn. We got blown out a lot. The next year we go 1-9 and we lost a lot of close games. A lot of it was on me, some growth I needed to make in terms of strategy because some of those close games, I — you know, you live with your losses longer than you do the wins. And you go to bed after some of those losses and even the wins, you revisit everything you do.

I go in my phone and take notes. So if we had a road game, I’m on the bus. The first hour is just notes, immediately, things I think I could be better at. And a win, you move forward a little faster. A loss, you don’t sleep at night. And when we finished the year, Gary said, “Don’t change a thing. We are headed in the right direction.”

That takes a lot for an AD because every football loss, you know, there’s a lot of people booing you. Like, it’s hard for my wife being in the stands. She thinks the world of me, and my mom and dad and all those pieces. But to have an athletic director see that it was turning and to say, stay the course, make the small adjustments, this is going to turn, that meant a lot.

BT: You’ve alluded to some of the other great programs at Princeton, and overall Princeton athletics has been the envy of the Ivy League. In a lot of the sports, you can see how good Ivy League basketball is when they get to the tournament and show what they can do, or out of conference play, postseason play, all those things. Harder to tell with Ivy League football. So, how good is Ivy League football, in your mind?

BS: I go back to 1986, and I don’t say this to — we had tremendous teams, tremendous players. I played, on the offense I was on, five NFL players, guys that got to the league for at least a brief period. Ivy League football, from top to bottom, is at the highest quality it’s ever been. And I just feel like when I got to Princeton, teams could circle us as a win. And there’s a couple other teams, and there were a few teams at the top. If you do not play a great game, you don’t play near your best, you’re not going to win week in, week out.

And I think our teams have proven that in our nonconference play, that we can go head-to-head with just about anybody. The harder piece, as we’ve gotten better, it’s hard to get those teams on the schedule. Anthony Archibald does an amazing job as our executive athletic director, and we call teams and it’s like, they’re going play a Power Five opponent and they’re going to get paid for that game. They don’t want to play a 50-50 game. And so it’s been a little bit harder for us to schedule.

BT: I want to turn back the clock a little bit to your first encounter with Princeton. How did you first come in contact with Princeton and what were your impressions?

BS: Yeah, that was a long time ago, right? My players think I was in the dinosaur era. I played for my father. I played football and baseball. And I went through the recruiting process just like recruits I meet with currently, guys on our team, when I was recruiting them. 

Coach Rogerson took over the program in 1985. I guess in 1984, but his first season was in 1985. And he and his coaches started the recruiting process. And I went to — I thought my school was the greatest school of all time. And I know I’m going to get heat for this, but when I moved back here, if you move to a great area, the real estate agent wants to show you the public schools. And Princeton and the Princeton surrounding area are the best public schools in the state, right? They’re top 10 schools. You live anywhere within this region, it’s great, great, great schools. And my wife, she’s looking for Millville High School and it’s in the bottom 10 schools at the time, academically. And so I didn’t think I was going to fit in here. I think a lot of students maybe have that same feeling, that “I’m not going to fit.” And the guidance counselor — my dad’s a head coach, two sports, works with guidance counselors to help kids get to college — told him, if I don’t visit Princeton, she’ll never work with him again. It’s not a place they had sent kids to. And I went begrudgingly, I probably didn’t have the attitude I wish I had at the time.

And my mom — it’s the one school my mom asked, you know, what am I supposed to wear, right? Because the image of Princeton, we didn’t have internet and all these things. The image of Princeton, it was going to be all rich kids, all kids from private schools. It was going to be way different than the environment that we were used to. People smoking pipes and all those things. 

And I got up here and the students and the football players and the other students I met were amazing. They came from different backgrounds, but they were high achievers. They were easy to talk with, they were great people. You know, to this day there’s football players I roomed with that are my best friends. There’s non-football players that I roomed with. And I love that piece of it: The people I got to meet, the ways I had to grow. But the 16-, 17-year-old me, that was out of my comfort zone. 

I make the visit and [on] the ride home, [thought] this is the place for me. I had narrowed it down to some other schools that were good academic schools, both within the Ivy League, without, some service academies, and some scholarship schools. And there was zero doubt in my mind after that visit where I wanted to be.

BT: And when did you start thinking about coaching as a career?

BS: I saw the impact my dad had. So in our town, small town, there was a TV show that they did. And every Thursday night, there’d be a couple of my dad’s seniors, usually seniors, would come on the show and they’d talk about, you know, their backgrounds, their goals, their futures, all those things, their football playing. And they’d come to dinner before that show, at our house. And some of these kids came from some of the nicest houses in the area, some of these kids, they didn’t come from much. And all of them, my dad helped. And I saw the impact he made. I saw the impact sports could make. And I wasn’t sure what, what area of sports I wanted to be in, whether it was a coach or an administrator. 

My senior year I did my thesis on management’s role in the integration of baseball. The movie 42, on Jackie Robinson. If you went to the library and you looked at my thesis, you’d say there might have, you know, might have been an honor code violation. It wasn’t, but it was so close to their depiction of that movie, right? 

It was a passion. And I was going to be involved in sports and most likely football, a sport that does have a lot of diversity. And looking through the lens of Branch Rickey, you know, somebody who is white and working with people from the different backgrounds, right? That was really, really important to me. I loved it. I wrote a hundred-page paper and really, really enjoyed that piece of the process. 

I was able to go to a place called Springfield College that allowed me to coach and get my master’s degree in sports management. And you do football training camps before you do school. And I got to coach the running backs. And these guys, to this day, I just loved them. I loved the meetings, I loved working with them. 

And college is different than my experience in the NFL — the NFL it was grown men, they had kids the same time I had kids. It was a profession. You might not have the same impact on their out-of-sport life. You were there to coach them and impact their in-sport life. And, you know, you built friendships and relationships. It wasn’t the same. 

College, these are 18-to-22-year-olds. They are, as great as the guys I coach, they’re not perfect. They’re navigating challenges. You’re helping them through those. Most of our guys are coming from a distance. There’s things that they have to navigate. The coaches, myself, others at Princeton and the friendships I’ve made outside of football: professors, administrators, the athletics fellows program — you know, you become close with people — the career development office. These become your really close friends. 

I’ve been here 14 years and at a place like this, you make a direct impact. 

BT: And there’s a difference between just the familiarity that, you know, this is what I’ve known. I’ve been around sports, and then actually realizing that you have an aptitude for it. That this is something that I can make a difference. I can be that person that my dad was for all those kids.

BS: Yeah. And I think there’s growth, right? And times change, right? Coaching in 1980, teams weren’t running the complicated schemes. There’s technology nowadays, different ways to — you used to do three-a-day practices. We practice once a day. We were leaders in a lot of those areas that are player-safety involved. One of the things I’m most proud of, you know, before I got to Princeton, I believe our, our concussions were in a high number. And the way we practice, and the way we do things, we have significantly lowered that number, where most years it’s way less than one hand. 

I got to work for Marvin Lewis in the NFL. And if you ever watched Hard Knocks, 2001, the Baltimore Ravens didn’t tackle in practice. I loved his organization. So many things, he mentored me, I followed. And the way he built relationships, the way — Cincinnati, you could look at some things as challenges. We only had four scouts. So instead of like complaining about only having four scouts — who were all great, but there was only four of them. Most organizations had 30. The coaches had to play a role. So hire coaches who loved to evaluate, and you work together on this. And that’s where he got the program there back to respectability. 

Every coach can sit and complain. You could go outside here and talk to Power Five coaches, Division III coaches, football, squash, whatever. You can sit there and complain about challenges, or you can find ways to meet them. In our world, we try to do our best to stick to having a positive attitude and finding ways to do things better.

BT: In addition to being a coach, you’re also a parent, a parent of two student athletes, one in high school, one in college. What has that done for your coaching? The experience of being the dad in the stands. Does that help inform your coaching in any way?

BS: Yeah, I think not only coaching, but I think recruiting, right? Because I just went through [recruiting with] both of them, and different fits, different things that they wanted. They both wanted to go to the right place, places that met their needs academically, met their needs athletically. 

Every recruit that comes on campus, like if we do an official visit, I sit down and meet with them. And I hope in 2010, when I was first having those meetings in January, because there was a dead period when I got hired, I was respectful and listened and answered those questions, but the other thing that I was clear, because you can tell the difference. 

I went with my daughter, she was older, and some coaches I had to ask follow-up questions because maybe they weren’t clear. And a lot of parents are intimidated by that, maybe, with the head coach. I’m on the other end, I do this. So I just wanted to make sure that hopefully I’m being clear or I’m building an environment where families can ask questions, because these are really important decisions their kids are going to make, and that they feel comfortable doing that piece. 

I also think that, look, you’re going to win sometimes and the car ride home’s going to be great. Sometimes it doesn’t happen, sometimes other things get in the way. Maybe it’s the coach. But don’t be in an environment where you dwell on that. Figure out ways, just like I do — take notes — how you can be better. 

There’s games where my kids have been in prime positions to succeed or fail and they’ve done both. But I get to be a dad, right? And I get to, you know, just hug them. Part of the reason I wanted to be in one place was to be part of their lives, be part of [supporting] them in the school play. And when I go to their high school events, now college events, I don’t have to be the football coach. I can be the dad and sit with the other parents and just enjoy that piece.

BT: A couple things seem to come up over and over in college football. I wanted to ask you about them. I don’t know how much they affect your work, but two things: NIL. Transfer portal. Constantly mentioned whenever you read about college football. 

I’ll start with the transfer portal. It seems like there are pros and cons. You said they’re 18-to-22-year-old kids; if they’ve made a choice that really was not the right fit, the opportunity to go to another school and start over, you know, on the surface seems like a good thing. But also it affects the relationship between coach and player. It affects so many things about a program. What’s been your overall take on what the transfer portal has meant to college football?

BS: Yeah, and I think, you know, there’s always been a coaches’ portal, right? I’ve been here 14 years. You have opportunities to leave. There’s days where maybe there’s a challenge you get a little up upset about and you work with that, you work through that. But if the fit is so egregious, you know, in terms of that, it does give the players [the chance] to enter the portal. 

As a coach, I was at Western Connecticut for six years, and when I had an opportunity to go to the NFL, my AD told me he’d fire me if I didn’t take it. This was too big of an opportunity. When I was in Cincinnati, this was the one place my wife and I, as I turned down other things, that hey, if Princeton ever opens, this would be a place that we want to raise our kids. And when it did, it kind of caught me off guard. It was a Sunday. I was coaching a game against the Raiders. I called my wife. She was like, what do we need to do on this? I didn’t have a resume. Hey, can you type up a resume when I get back off the flight from Oakland? It was the Oakland Raiders then. It’s literally the only job I’ve applied for since the Bengals job. 

But there is a coaches’ portal and you see it. Look, you can’t have a coach at one Power Five school that’s a top-10 program leaving for another one and not [be] giving players similar opportunities. Like as a coach, it drives me nuts when we complain about that. 

I do think that most of the players, if you have good leadership, you have good culture, if you have good upperclassmen — every kid goes from being a star in high school to being at the bottom of the depth chart. And the beauty — like I’m at that golf outing and I’m there with Steve Carlson. Steve Carlson, I didn’t want to take him. Our wide receiver coach, Dennis Goldman, kept fighting for him. We had a spot come open in February of his senior year. That’s when we offered him. He ended up coming to Princeton. His first two years he really didn’t play. He ends up being All-Ivy as a junior, All-Ivy as a senior, goes to the NFL, he’s entering year five. You want to make sure the guys understand the development piece.

I think today, my dad didn’t have to explain the “why.” He said do something, you just did it. Now kids are, you know, their backgrounds, they’re more intelligent. You just have to be more open and explain the why. In some places, some cases I should say, a guy isn’t getting things that he needs. And maybe they want something different. And it’s open to them. But I think in most cases what we’re finding out is whether it’s a coach leaving, whether it’s a player leaving, they probably regret the decision. Most of the time. Sometimes the fit is egregious, they can’t work through the issues, and the other place is better. 

And I think there’s two portals. There’s the underclassmen portal where, I don’t know a freshman who hasn’t gone through a time where they thought the grass isn’t greener. And I don’t know a freshman that’s been here that didn’t leave as a senior — really in any sport, because I’ve gotten to know the other athletes — that didn’t love their experience. So there is that piece, but there’s also the grad transfer portal. And I think that piece is a little bit different. I’ve had guys get opportunities to start their doctorate degrees or law degrees or business degrees, and somebody’s maybe going to pay for that. And maybe that gives them a little bit extra incentive. I’ve also had guys stay here and have made life-changing decisions staying here. And we just communicate. We have nice talks when — because of COVID, every senior has had that opportunity. So I had 38 talks last year, or whatever it was. It was a lot of communication and guys made different decisions.

BT: OK, NIL — name, image, and likeness. We’re talking about players having the opportunity to make some money, sometimes a lot of money in the Power Five conferences. It may not seem like something that the Ivy League recruit is necessarily thinking about, but these are athletes that are very often being recruited by FBS schools as well. Does it come up when you’re talking with recruits, and how do you address it?

BS: Yeah, it’s obviously something that’s a part of college athletics right now. 

So a funny story. I was here my senior year, and I go to a place, I don’t know if you remember, H. Gross was on the corner of Palmer Square, and they sold Princeton [souvenirs]. And I loved Henry. He came to all of our practices. My parents spent thousands of dollars on Princeton stuff when he was there. And he opened a fish market. And I took my girlfriend, now my wife, to the fish market. And up in the fish market was the number 64. I was number 64. I was so fired up. I bring Lisa, my wife Lisa over to Henry, he happened to be there. And I’m like, this is so great. It’s always, you know, skill guys, you got an offensive lineman up here. I was so proud. And he goes, that’s to honor the 1964 undefeated team.

But you know, if you had number, whatever, Jason Garrett, number 17, you’re making money at the fish market off his jersey, right? And there’s something not right about that. So I think the theory of NIL is great and our players’ opportunities to run camps, to do community service — there’s so many positives. 

I think on the outside, all we see is maybe the Power Five schools. They’re paying guys because they’re good players, and we’re hearing the horror stories where they cut the check the second the guy doesn’t perform.

You can do this with values, I believe. I think the big thing for us is values drive behaviors, behaviors drive outcomes. I think with President Eisgruber, values are really important. If we’re going to engage in certain things — the law permits it — you don’t want your values to ever fail. 

And greed’s a hard thing. There’s so much passion for sports. I’m at the NCAA Tournament having a blast watching Mitch and his guys. It’s like Reunions, but smaller, in Sacramento, but all the alums are there dressed up. They look like they’re all wearing reunion outfits. And it was such a great thing.

When I look up in the stands and there’s 8,000, 10,000 [people], that’s the biggest group of Princeton, other than Reunions, that come back to campus. 

Sometimes that passion leads to lack of values, right? It leads to, maybe not at Princeton, maybe not at an Ivy League school, but maybe at a Power Five, “We’ve got to get this running back,” and they start doing things that aren’t maybe the right way. So I think we’ve got figure out ways to do this correctly. 

I also say this: Look, I love our guys are doing these camps and community service, but the biggest piece is relationships. When you’re 18 or 20 or 22, and you can converse with an adult, right? Who went to Princeton, who has that same passion for a football player, a tennis player or whatever, make the connections because those are so valuable, gaining that wisdom as you move forward in your life. 

We’re different. Our guys don’t take classes in the summer. Because of the structure and the beauty of Princeton and the way our academic program is run here, they can all do internships.

So we’ve been doing, in my world, NIL. It’s just a long-term version. We call it “the 40.” We’ve been getting our players to understand the value of working in these high-profile internships that’s going to help them for the next 40 years of their life. They’re building their resumes. We’ve had — Andrei Iosivas got drafted last year. It’s awesome when a guy goes to the NFL. Henry Byrd signed with the Broncos. I don’t care if I’m at Alabama, if I’m at Ohio State, if I’m at Western Connecticut: You have 30 seniors. Not all of them are going to the NFL. The ones that do, the average is about 3.5 years that they last. They’re going to work doing something else a lot longer than football. Now I want them — they have dreams to go do something like the NFL, I want to see them reach their dreams.

But every single guy on our team can be the No. 1 pick in the job draft. We haven’t had a No. 1 pick in the NFL draft. Every single one of our guys, every single one of our students, can be the No. 1 pick in the job draft. So the work — Kathleen Mannheimer has been a godsend with us in our program, and the students here at Princeton and the work we do with her to prepare our guys with resumes, interview skills, internships, has been amazing. And that NIL prepares them for the real money that they’re going to make; money, success, whatever. 

I mean, I don’t define success just by money. When I was here, the expectation was you go to finance, you go to Wall Street, and that’s great if you love that. But the quarterback who played for me behind me became a coach — NFL player, became a coach. His backup is the president of the Cleveland Guardians. My backup center is the president of the Toronto Blue Jays. We were four close friends. We didn’t decide to go the typical Wall Street route. That’s great if you want to do that. But I want our guys to find purpose. That when you’re doing these internships, find your purpose. 

I walk into the office, there’s that [sculpture] of Dick Kazmaier outside Jadwin Gym. I high-five Dick Kazmaier in his Heisman pose. How cool is that? 

I go to work just loving what I do, and I want to make sure our guys don’t just look at money. Money’s great. I don’t want them to not make money, but I want to make sure they’re finding purpose as well.

BT: One final question: Most people listening will know you and will know Princeton football from the 10 days each fall when you’re playing games. But if you set aside those 10 Saturdays (or Fridays, too), what are your favorite days at work?

BS: Oh God. Reunions? Well, I don’t even know if that’s work. Do you consider that work? I don’t know if you cover Reunions, but it’s not work. You know, we go there and have a blast. The alumni game we do there, we had 500 football players show up at some point. Guys I coached, guys that are family now, these great friends. I just love the engagement pieces. 

But I also love a Saturday recruiting official visit. We might have 10 families and these families — you know, nobody gets to Princeton by themselves. I say that to our guys. There’s a teacher, there’s a guidance counselor, there’s a coach, there’s family members. It really takes a lot of people in someone’s life to keep them going when they hit challenges. You don’t do the things our players do on the field, off the field, in the classroom, the community work they do — you don’t get to this point alone. 

So when I’m sitting at dinner with a family, it’s refreshing because everybody’s like, “the kids today, kids today,” it’s always negative, right? Kids today. And I’m like, I go to work — and kids aren’t perfect, everybody thinks our guys are perfect or our girls are perfect at Princeton. No, they’re learning, they’re growing, but they’re pretty doggone good. 

So I get to work with people that they’re going through those life pieces, and I really get to enjoy not only the good pieces when a guy, Jalen Travis, wins the Truman Award, but when maybe they’re struggling in a class and we got them with a residential college dean and these amazing advisers and people that help them get through an obstacle and see them succeed. That’s really fulfilling. And we don’t, as I said, we don’t win games just because we go out and lift weights — that helps. Because we practice well — that helps. But I think that in those tough times, you go back to your standards, you go back to values and go back to, they’ve all messed up at some point, right? And that people in their lives picked them up and helped them through that.

BT: Well, thank you again for joining me. This has been great.

BS: Thank you. Appreciate it.

BT: PAWcast is a monthly interview podcast produced by the Princeton Alumni Weekly. If you enjoyed this episode, please subscribe. You can find us on Apple Podcasts, Google Podcasts, Spotify, and SoundCloud. You can read transcripts of every episode on our website, paw.princeton.edu. Music for this podcast is licensed from Universal Production Music.