By Danielle Quezada
San Bernardino, CA
In the final ten seconds of the Princeton-Notre Dame basketball game, time seemed to stand still. Princeton was in possession of the ball, and optimism filled Tigers fans. With five seconds remaining, Princeton’s Devin Cannady tried for a three-pointer to win the game. As the ball arced toward the net, the crowd rose with excitement — but the ball bounced from the rim onto the backboard and into the hands of Notre Dame. Seconds later, the team and the crowd wore dejected faces and bowed heads. The scoreboard read: 59-58, Notre Dame.
The loss knocked Princeton, last year’s Ivy League champ, out of the NCAA Division I tournament.
“It’s hard. You wanna go back,” said Skye Ettin, Princeton’s assistant coach, with nervous laughter. “It’s grueling for the guys and for us, but we put it all in perspective.”
The end of Princeton’s run in March Madness also marked the end of Ettin’s first year of coaching at Princeton. Since the end of the season, Ettin has had the opportunity to ruminate not only on his performance as a coach, but also on the intangible virtues of basketball that inspired him to become one.
“I thought, ‘Where can I make a difference in kids, teens, their lives, make relationships?’ With basketball, of course, you get to experience a bit of everything,” Ettin recalled.
Ettin grew up playing basketball. He recalled seeing how much his father gave back to the community as a coach, something that Ettin has aspired to emulate in his own work. His players work with the YMCA and read to elementary school kids.
Most significantly, Ettin offers “guidance for anything.” His priority is assisting his players transition from “young adults to adults,” a subject on which he’s an authority; he’s in his early 20s.
“Since I’m on the younger side, I can relate to the guys just getting out college, [teaching] them to manage time, care for [themselves], transition from high school to college to [a] job.
I do have to earn my stripes and respect, [but] it’s not necessarily a disadvantage,” he said.
Ettin’s favorite part of his job is getting to watch his players grow: “Watching them develop into those leaders and better themselves is special, [a] great benefit during the job.”
Under Ettin, players try to be more than hardy men sprinting around a court, a clammy ball traveling back and forth between their sweaty hands.
“Basketball pushes people out of adversity, out of their comfort zones, keeping them in motion, in check. Those guys develop as players and people. Everything comes down to [being] the best version of yourself.”