Carla Berube is the head coach of the Princeton women’s basketball team, which went 25-5 overall – including posting an unbeaten 14-0 record in the Ivy League – in its final season . The team competed in the first two rounds of the NCAA March Madness Tournament before fall in Indiana in a nailbiter.
Berube and his wife, Megan, have two sons, Parker and Caden, and a daughter, Brogan. She played college basketball at the University of Connecticut under legendary coach Geno Auriemma and played for the New England Blizzard in the now defunct American Basketball League before becoming an assistant coach at Providence College. She was the head coach of the Tufts University women’s basketball team from 2002 to 2019 and has since served as head coach at Princeton.
The interview has been lightly edited for clarity and conciseness.
The Daily Princetonian: How would you describe your coaching style?
Carla Berube: I’m competitive and demanding, but I also think I’m an educator. My coaching is a lot of teaching the game. I hope I’m a good motivator and I want to see all of my players be the best versions of themselves and make them feel really confident and strong as competitors, but also as individuals off the pitch. So I think I’m kind of a coach of players where yeah I coach basketball but also I hope I’m someone they can come to and talk to about everything that’s going on in their roles off the pitch, as well as on.
PD: What kind of environment do you want to foster among your players?
CC: Just an inclusive environment where everyone has a voice and the ability to be who they are. It is important for us to recognize, support and celebrate everyone, regardless of their origins or how they identify. I hope to foster and cultivate a truly open team, where everyone can be themselves and feel like we’re all in this together.
PD: What was the most difficult aspect of coaching?
CC: As a coach, you’re so invested in each individual, and when you see them going through tough times, you want to be there for them as much as they want. Throughout my career, there have been difficult times, but I wouldn’t trade this job for anything in the world. I think one of the best parts is that you can impact 18-22 year olds every year. And it’s a cycle; you get them for four years and then you see them move on, but you don’t lose that touch. It’s quite a rewarding profession to watch them grow, spread their wings and fly. There are a lot of tough times, but all the good times certainly outweigh the tough ones.
PD: What was your proudest moment as a coach?
CC: I’ve had quite a few proud moments here at Princeton already. I was also at Tufts University for 17 years. I think one of the things I’m most proud of is that players, when they leave, whether it’s Tufts or Princeton, always feel very connected to their experience here and to their teammates. It’s really important that my players have a great experience while they’re in my programs and when they leave college they don’t leave the family they’ve created.
Also, I was really proud that my team went to the [NCAA Tournament] Round of 16 and how resilient they were. It was certainly tough at the start of the year when we hadn’t played together for 18 months, but every day we moved forward and grew closer, improved and continued to build throughout. the season. It just seemed like everyone was together, whether they played a lot on the pitch or were on the bench during games. Those bench players were so essential during practices to get us ready, and it seemed like a really cohesive unit. It made the race so much fun and I was really proud of everyone.
PD: How did it feel to win the Ivy League and qualify for the Round of 16 in March Madness?
CC: It’s just been a really fun and amazing journey for this team. Every season is different because there are different players and different managers, but I just thought this group really came together and developed the chemistry that successful teams need. Watching that grow throughout the year, in the Ivy League tournament and those two NCAA tournament games, has been phenomenal. It was a great race, and I’ve had a few weeks now to reflect on what a great race it was.
PD: What impact, if any, would you say your identity has had on shaping your career?
CC: Admittedly, when I was a player in the mid-90s, my lifestyle and the way I identified with myself were much more secretive. It was difficult at the time to be who I was. I think during my training time at Tufts, I really felt more comfortable and shared who I was. Then when I met my wife, it made sense to open that door to my personal life with my team. And certainly when I had kids, I wanted my family at Tufts to know my family, outside of my profession. To connect with my players, I need to know them personally, and if I’m not open to them, they won’t be open to me. So I just opened the door, and I felt really comfortable being who I was.
PD: Has your personal identity influenced your view of your coaching role?
CC: I hope my players felt they could be who they are if I did the same. I put it in my bio so rookies know this is who I am, and I certainly talk a lot about my family, wife and three kids.
I think becoming a mother has definitely changed me as a coach. I think I just became a bit calmer and that puts a lot more into perspective. You know, I coach people’s daughters, so you think about it in a different way, and that made me a better coach, having my own kids.
So, I’m not sure exactly how being outdoors and open has affected everyone, but I hope it makes my potential players and student-athletes feel comfortable here.
PD: Are there specific people who have helped you feel empowered and comfortable with your identity?
CC: In the beginning, I had co-workers at Tufts who made everything feel really comfortable and OK and open. It’s been maybe 13 years since I put it in my bio, and I never felt like it was a mistake or received negative feedback about it. I don’t know if there was anyone in particular who encouraged me to do this but I just thought it was time to be who I am and maybe it could have a positive impact on others to feel comfortable being who they are.
Alison Araten is a news writer for the “Prince”. She can be reached at [email protected] and @alisonaraten on Instagram.