Town Topics — Princeton's Weekly Community Newspaper Since 1946.
Vol. LXIV, No. 35
Wednesday, September 1, 2010
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COACH ON THE FLOOR: Ali Prichard passes the ball during her career with the Princeton University women’s basketball team. Prichard, a 2008 PU graduate who is the program’s co-leader in games played (109) and tenth in three-pointers (93), was recently named as an assistant coach of the North Dakota State University women’s basketball team. Prichard’s desire to become a coach was solidified by research she did on her senior thesis for the psychology department in which she spoke to 17 head coaches at Princeton regarding their behavior and philosophies.

Applying Lessons Learned From Senior Thesis, PU Alum Prichard Moves Up Coaching Ladder

Bill Alden

Ali Prichard picked the brains of coaches across the Princeton University campus in putting together her senior thesis.

The 2008 PU grad and former co-captain of the Tiger women’s basketball team spoke to 17 head coaches on their behavior and philosophies in producing her thesis for the psychology department.

In reflecting on the work, Prichard gained one overriding lesson from those interviews.

“One of the things that I learned was that coaching had less to do with the quantitative than the qualitative; a coaching style can’t be based on an equation,” said Prichard. “It has to come from a feel and a sense of what works best for the particular person.”

Prichard’s research solidified her desire to become a basketball coach and she got her foot in the door by landing a job as the Director of Operations for the North Dakota State University women’s hoops program after graduating from Princeton.

In that role, Prichard handled travel, lodging and restaurant arrangements for road trips, assisted with summer camps, wrote a newsletter for parents and alums, and helped head coach Carol DeHoff with game notes.

“I did the things that no one wants to do; I tried to do it with a smile on my face,” said Prichard, a native of Apple Valley, Minn who was not allowed to instruct players or prepare game plans under NCAA regulations.

“Game day was the fun part; being on the bench during games. Carol listened to me as much as she could.”

Now, Prichard will get to spend more time on the fun stuff as she has been promoted to an assistant coach at NDSU for the upcoming season.

It was a talk with Prichard’s Princeton head coach, Courtney Banghart, that helped her make that step.

“It got really complicated, the Princeton Director of Operations job opened up before I knew about the coaching opportunity at NDSU,” said Prichard, a 5’11 forward who tied the program record for games played at Princeton with 109 and is 10th all-time for the Tigers in three-pointers with 93.

“Courtney called me and talked about bringing me home. I love the Princeton community and I love the Ivy League. Coach Banghart sat down with me at the interview and said ‘you are ready to be an assistant coach.’ I hadn’t heard that and once she said it, I realized it was true.”

Acting on that advice, Prichard started pursuing a move up the coaching ladder.

“I looked for other opportunities and then the job opened up at NDSU,” said Prichard.

“I interviewed at Colgate and Yale; I wanted to know what was out there so I could say this is what I really wanted.”

Displaying her customary upbeat attitude, Prichard believes that NDSU is the right place for her.

“I am so excited to be here,” said Prichard. “It is a program with a great coach and a great chance to win a championship. We have great student-athletes. The administration is so supportive; that helps you be able to win.”

Prichard is ready to help those student-athletes maximize their potential. “I am looking forward to instructing,” said Prichard. “I love coaching people; it is a great profession to be in.”

One of Prichard’s primary responsibilities will be to attract more great people to the program.

“I will be the recruiting coordinator,” said Prichard. “Carol realized that I have strengths at evaluating talent and working with people. I feel confident in recruiting; it comes down to presenting what you have to offer in a positive way. It is something I am good at.”

Having been true to herself and her goals, Prichard is living out the lessons she learned from the coaches at Princeton.

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