Town Topics — Princeton's Weekly Community Newspaper Since 1946.
Vol. LXII, No. 30
Wednesday, July 23, 2008
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CREATIVE ENERGY: Doug Snyder yells out instructions as his William Allen High (Pa.) boys’ basketball team topped Princeton High 49-31 last Saturday as part of the 20th anniversary celebration of the Princeton Recreation Department Men’s Summer Basketball League. Snyder, the former boys’ hoops head coach at PHS, was the driving force in the founding of the league in 1989. His special homecoming Saturday culminated when he was inducted along with 10 others into the first class of the summer league’s Hall of Fame.

Former PHS Boys’ Basketball Coach Snyder Comes Home for Summer Hoops Celebration

Bill Alden

Doug Snyder dispensed with the usual post-game handshake with the opposing coach after his William Allen High (Pa.) boys’ basketball team topped Princeton High last Saturday as part of the 20th anniversary celebration of the Princeton Recreation Department Men’s Summer Basketball League.

Instead, Snyder, the ex-PHS head coach, hugged his counterpart, Jason Carter, grinning broadly as he clasped his former player.

That was just one of the many touching moments Snyder enjoyed as he returned to Princeton to take part in the anniversary festivities and get inducted into the first class of the Summer League’s Hall of Fame.

Snyder, a Princeton University alum and Tiger hoops player, helped get the Summer League off the ground in 1989 and ran it until he moved to Pennsylvania in 1997.

Snyder’s special homecoming last Saturday began with a pilgrimage to his alma mater with his current team.

“It’s just a great day; we came down a little early and I took them over to Jadwin where I played my college basketball,” said Snyder, a 1978 PU alum who coached at PHS from 1986-1997.

“I think my guys’ eyes popped open as we walked around the complex and Jadwin’s main court. It was good for my kids from Allentown to just be on campus and see the facilities like the arena, the football stadium, and the track.”

For Snyder, coaching against PHS at the Community Park complex in the presence of many of his former players was special.

“I was glad I could have my team accompany me,” said Snyder, who spent much of the day in animated discussions with former players and longtime Princeton friends.

“It was kind of like my old teams from PHS are here; some watching, some even playing. At this stage of my career, with the number of years I have in, to have one of my former players coach PHS after I spent so much time there is a wonderful thing. I couldn’t care less whether we won or lost.”

It was good that Snyder cared enough when some former players came to him in the late 1980s suggesting that there was a need for a summer men’s basketball league in Princeton.

“Those guys approached me 20 years ago looking for something outside Trenton,” recalled Snyder.

“The Cadwalader Park League was very strong but there wasn’t anything outside the city. I was the high school head coach and I’ve got to work with my kids. I thought maybe I can combine the two ideas; I could run an adult league that my high school team could always be a part of.”

Once the league started in 1989, it didn’t take long for Snyder to see the benefits his kids were getting from competing with the adults.

“I was coaching my high school kids but I think they were being coached, tutored, and mentored by the older players who had come through,” said Snyder, who got a lot of help in starting the league from Sheryl Perez, a former Recreation Department official.

“I think the interaction between the former grads of PHS and the current kids is wonderful for both parties.”

He is particularly proud to see how two of his former charges, Ben Stentz and Evan Moorhead, have helped the summer league prosper.

“It started blowing up a little bit before I left,” said Snyder, noting that the league had just three teams in its early years compared to the 12 it has this summer.

“But under the leadership of Ben and Evan, I knew that this thing was not only in good hands but that it was going to be improved. Those guys have a lot of fresh ideas, creativity, and a work ethic; I knew that because I coached them.”

The work of Stentz and Moorhead has helped transform Community Park into a summer hoops mecca.

“It went from a real localized thing to a thing where people from the whole area wanted to come out and be part of this league as opposed to going somewhere else,” said Snyder.

“It became a magnet; the league has had some of the better college players in this region for years. I never thought it was going to get like that. I thought it was going to be guys who were kind of done playing and wanted a little recreation plus the high school teams. It really turned out to be a highly competitive situation.”

In view of the high level of competition seen in the league over the years, the creation of a Hall of Fame made sense.

“It’s a wonderful thing; I wouldn’t have even thought there would be one, or that the league would evolve the way it did to have something like the Hall of Fame,” said Snyder. “Again, that’s a testament to Ben’s and Evan’s thinking and their ideas.”

The league’s evolution has made it into a community fixture in Princeton.

“I think geographically the location helps; people from the neighborhood and a lot of the players can literally walk right down,” said Snyder.

“I tell you we would get Friday night crowds; it was a draw in the town. It became a community event. We started announcing the games with the microphone. It goes beyond basketball; it’s entertainment.”

And because Snyder went beyond the call of duty 20 years ago, Princeton has been blessed with a brand of entertainment that has made the Community Park courts the place to be on summer nights.

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