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(Photo by Bill Allen/NJ SportAction)

COMING HOME: Former Princeton University point guard and assistant basketball coach Joe Scott, shown here guiding Air Force in the NCAA men's basketball tournament last month, was named last week as the new head coach of Princeton's hoops program. The fiery Scott led the Falcons to program-record 22 wins in the 2003-04 season on the way to winning the Mountain West Conference and making it to the NCAA tourney for the first time in 42 years. He replaces John Thompson III, who accepted the head coaching job at Georgetown.
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Scott Thrilled To Come Home Again To Take Reins of Tiger Men's Hoops

By Bill Alden

More than 60 years ago, Thomas Wolfe famously wrote that one can't go home again. Don't tell that to Joe Scott.

Last Friday, Scott, a 1987 Princeton graduate and star point guard who served as an assistant coach for the Tigers from 1992-2000, was officially introduced as the new head coach of the men's basketball program in an atmosphere approaching a lovefest.

Striding into the media conference, which was held in a room adjacent to the press box in Princeton Stadium, a grinning Scott was greeted with applause and shook many hands as he made his way to the side of the podium.

The smile stayed plastered on Scott's face as Princeton Athletic Director Gary Walters lauded the new coach in his introductory remarks.

Noting that Scott is a valued member of the extended Princeton basketball family, Walters said it was now the 39-year-old's turn "to produce the next generation of basketball here at Princeton University."

In handing the reins of the tradition-rich program to Scott, Walters pointed to his new hire's remarkable head coaching job at Air Force, which saw the Falcons win a program-record 22 games in the 2003-04 season on the way to winning the Mountain West Conference and making it to the NCAA tourney for the first time in 42 years.

"His team played with intelligence, courage, tenacity, and incredible energy, probably reflecting in many ways the qualities of its coach," added Walters, who went out of his way to praise the job done by John Thompson III, whose move to Georgetown opened the Princeton post for Scott. "The fact that Joe is an alum enables him to understand the balance we seek in student-athletes at Princeton. Most importantly, we wanted Joe and he wanted us."

Scott made it crystal clear that he wanted Princeton. "Driving in here last night down Washington Road and seeing Jadwin Gym, I knew right then ... that I was 100 percent certain that this is the right place for me," asserted Scott, a Pelican Island, N.J. native who joked that he was looking forward to eating a slice at Conte's that night and hitting the Jersey shore this summer.

"The decision came down to this place and more importantly the people in this room. I've known these people for the greater part of my life and it's great to see the smiles on their faces. I'm smiling inside today to be able to stand here as the head coach of Princeton basketball."

But Scott, known for exuding the same kind of fire as his mentor, Princeton's Hall of Fame coach Pete Carril, made it clear that he will push his new players to maximize their potential. "I already talked to the team and I got a good feeling from those guys," said Scott, who inherits a veteran-laden team that went 20-8 last season as it won the Ivy League crown.

"Every program in the country can improve with the exception of one. I think that's the way this group of guys and the coaching staff is going to approach things. If you're not constantly trying to get better, that's when you're not as good as you were. I stressed that to the team."

Junior center Mike Stephens said that the team got that message loud and clear. "After meeting him, we all feel that he's going to demand a lot from us but that it will only make us better," said Stephens, who added that while the veterans will miss the departed Thompson, they were comforted by the fact that the unique Princeton system will remain intact.

"When he was talking to us, he was really direct. He said I'm not going to hide anything from you guys, I'm going to tell you what I want from you. He wants us to get on each other to push each other. We've got to be ready to work hard."

Scott made it clear that he is ready to work hard to continue the program's record of success which has seen the Tigers reach the NCAA tournament 23 times in their storied history.

"That's usually how you get things in life, by keeping your nose to the grindstone and plugging away," added Scott, whose wife Leah, a 1992 Princeton alum was a record-setting point guard in her college career. "If you do that, things seem to work out in the end."

From Scott's perspective, things couldn't have worked out any better than coming home to get the chance to coach his alma mater.

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