Basketball coach Skye Ettin reflects on his coaching career

By Diana Gonzalez-Castillo
Littlerock, CA

It’s not easy for an Ivy League school to make the NCAA tournament. So when Skye Ettin, an assistant head coach of Princeton’s men’s basketball team, led his players onto the NCAA tournament stage this past March, it was a big deal.

This was his first season as a coach and, at only 25, Ettin is still learning “how to run a program,” he said. But he also considers his age to be a positive.

“Since I’m on the younger side,” he said, “it helps, because I can relate to the guys.”

Playing basketball at Princeton requires hard work both on the court and in the classroom, and Ettin says he loves the opportunity to work with “true student-athletes.” Like other Ivy League schools, Princeton does not award athletic scholarships.

Historically, Ivy League basketball teams have not been very competitive. Dartmouth has not secured a spot in the NCAA tournament in 58 years; before 2012, Harvard had not made a NCAA appearance for 66 years. Ivy League teams that do reach the Big Dance rarely last much longer than the opening round.

In addition, Princeton’s student population, like many Ivy League schools, pay more attention to their academic performances than the performances of their college athletic teams. In the past year, the average Division I men’s basketball game attracted 4,700 attendees, while the average Ivy League men’s basketball game attracted 1,700, according to ‘The Daily Princetonian.’

The Princeton Tigers don’t seem to mind. Athletes continue to achieve success in both fronts, academic and athletics, regardless of the lack of attention they garner. In the recent years, the Princeton Tigers have shown their victories on both fronts. Their March Madness droughts have been shorter, with recent appearances in 2001, 2004, 2011, and last spring. With a 16-0 championship in the Ivy League tournament, Princeton’s men’s basketball team also had a great year.

In spite of their unexpected winning streak, the team ended the season at a disappointing halt. With the possibility of an upset win against Notre Dame  within reach, the Tigers lost 58-60. Ettin was crushed. “You want to see it come to fruition,” he said, “It was hard to watch that game at first … We didn’t shoot the ball great.”

But Ettin’s disappointment was short-lived. “You have to manage your highs and lows,” he said. A major part of Ettin’s job involves ensuring that his players achieve what he calls “the best balance” of athletics and academics, while also maintaining “high expectations” for the team. In addition to the emotional conditioning he provided to his players this past season, his time was also spent attending practices and studying videos of college basketball games.   

Currently, Ettin looks forward to coaching “a younger team” this upcoming season and is also in the process of recruiting players for his 2018-2019 team. He has found his coaching job highly rewarding. “Once you are a part of Princeton, it’s life,” he said.


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