Town Topics — Princeton's Weekly Community Newspaper Since 1946.
Vol. LXI, No. 23
Wednesday, June 6, 2007
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(Photo courtesy of Princeton's Athletic Communications)
HOLDING COURT: Courtney Banghart is all smiles as she looks forward to starting her tenure as the head coach of the Princeton University women's basketball program. Banghart was a star point guard for Dartmouth in the late 1990s and has spent the last four years as an assistant coach at her alma mater. During her playing career, she led the Big Green to Ivy League titles in 1998-99 and 1999-00 seasons. As a coach, she has helped the Big Green go 70-44 the last four seasons, including a 41-15 record in Ivy games and two league titles. Banghart replaces Richard Barron, who recently headed to Baylor to be the associate head coach there.

Banghart Named to Lead PU Women's Hoops; Aims to Apply Lessons Learned at Dartmouth

Bill Alden

Courtney Banghart knows a little something about beating up on the Princeton University women's basketball team.

As a star point guard for the Dartmouth women's team in the late 1990s, Banghart led the Big Green to Ivy League titles in 1998-99 and 1999-00 seasons. She returned to her alma mater in 2003 as an assistant coach and helped the Big Green go 70-44 the last four seasons, including a 41-15 record in Ivy games and two league titles.

All in all, Banghart has enjoyed a 12-6 record in games against Princeton as a player and a coach.

Now, Banghart will try to help the Tigers turn the tables on the Big Green after having been named Princeton's new women's head coach last week.

In her introductory press conference last Thursday in the Zanfrini Room in Jadwin Gym, the 29-year-old Banghart displayed a refreshing enthusiasm as she reflected on taking the reins of her longtime rival.

"Princeton speaks for itself; it's a place that strives for excellence in both the classroom and athletic arena," said Banghart, the replacement for Richard Barron, who recently headed to Baylor to be the associate head coach there.

"To get an opportunity to be part of a program like that is a dream come true. I'm looking forward to getting the opportunity to work with the student athletes. To be at Princeton, a student athlete had to have dared and dreamt big. They had to have been committed and worked hard. Those things are the foundation upon which our program will be based and built."

Banghart's foundation as a player and coach came in her eight years at Dartmouth. "I'd like to thank my former boss, coach, mentor, and friend, Chris Wielgus," said Banghart, who is currently the third youngest head coach in Division I women's basketball, one month older than Northwestern State's Jennifer Graf and two years older than Missouri-Kansas City's Candace White-Whitaker.

"I was given a lot of opportunity and a lot of responsibility, part of that is that I played for Chris as a point guard. She gave me that opportunity when I was 18. I was given another opportunity when I was 25; it was a little easier to do a second time. She has given me a lot of freedom. I think that has prepared me well for this position."

Princeton Director of Athletics Gary Walters believes that Banghart is impeccably prepared for her new role. "We had a very strong field of candidates for the job as you would expect with the fact that it is Princeton University," said Walters, noting that he had received an e-mail earlier in the day from a Dartmouth dean extolling Banghart's strengths as a player, coach, and person. "Courtney emerged as the leader of the pack."

Banghart thinks that Princeton has the talent on hand to rise to the top of the Ivy pack in the wake of a 2006-07 season which saw the Tigers go 13-15 overall and 7-7 in league play.

"I see as our strength Meg Cowher in the interior," said Banghart, who is the third youngest head coach in Division I women's basketball. "She is very mobile inside and is versatile in the post. We can do a lot with her offensively. I think offensively they have a lot of weapons at different positions."

Banghart plans to scrap the offense used last year by Princeton, which was modeled after the up-tempo Phoenix Suns.

"My offensive style will be a more free-form offense in a motion framework," explained Banghart, a two-time All-Ivy performer who still holds the Dartmouth records for three-pointers in a game (eight), season (97), and career (273), the latter being the most in Ivy history. "It's going to work off our players' strengths which is what a motion offense allows you to do. People are going to have to be able to catch, shoot, and pass at every single position."

The Tiger players will also have to pick up their defensive intensity. "I don't think their defense has been where it needs to be," asserted Banghart.

"We'll definitely have a priority on the defensive end. Whether that's extending the court, whether that's manipulating half-court sets, the game comes down to stopping people to make less pressure on your offense."

The new head coach knows that she has to hit the ground running as she looks to recruit the right people for the program.

"Recruiting in the Ivy League is its own animal," said Banghart. "I think my four years experience of doing it as well as being recruited by the Ivy League will be helpful. Recruiting has really changed over the years. At present, there are major events at major sites. There are more minor events and I think Princeton has the ability to be at those events. I think there are a couple of routes that will be automatic."

In the meantime, Banghart was looking forward to connecting with her current players, starting with a meeting after the press conference.

"My message to them will be that this is a team game; I'm honored to be their mentor but this is going to be a collective effort," asserted Banghart. "We always have to get better, whether it's a basketball team, leading an athletic department, or coaching 18-year-old boys. Whatever it is you are doing, you have to get better."

Based on her track record as a player and coach at Dartmouth, Banghart certainly seems to have what it takes to make Princeton better.

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