OK. Let me put this out there right now. After this post, I’m transitioning in to football season. Candidly, I’m burned out of the basketball program talk. Plus, now that the decision has been made by Jim Phillips and Northwestern to continue with Coach Carmody, beating this horse any more is going to be counter-productive to the program. I firmly believe it is appropriate for fans, blogs and anyone that follows and loves NU Athletics to openly question things. I believe that’s exactly what Jim Phillips did when, as he stated, he administered a thorough, objective and comprehensive evaluation of Coach Carmody as he does for each of the 19 sports at NU.
Let’s break down some of the Q&A highlights that occurred on the call.
Things I Liked:
The line in the sand that Jim has drawn publicly about doing things the right way. Specifically he said “we want to win badly at Northwestern, but we’re not going to win at all costs.” Apparently that was in response to the age-old NU question, this time from David Haugh, about the challenges and sacrifices of competing at an elite level in the B1G. My personal opinion is that I want to win, but do it the right way as well. A growing sentiment in recent weeks has addressed the academic restrictions and I’m for keeping them high. Welcome to the ultimate challenge of NU trying to play large on the athletic scene while not succumbing to the pressures of the cesspool factor of big time college sports. I believe they are not mutually exclusive.
We can argue until the cows come home about the big picture of the merits of change vs continuing with Bill Carmody. I suspect we will at a later date. However, the actual on-court coaching at the end of games was a sore spot with me regarding his performance. It had nothing to do with facilities, admissions etc…It was pure coaching. If you take the late game possessions under the microscope and look at the combination of plays designed (or not) (see: Purdue, Illinois, Michigan), strategies implemented (see Ohio State final :07) and lack of execution (see: B1G Tourney), there was simply poor coaching in key moments. This is specifically a performance-related issue. Dave Revsine reportedly asked about the late game coaching and I applaud Bill acknowledging what was referenced above. Carmody admitted he did a poor job in end of game situations this year.
I really liked the attitude of Carmody that “there are no barriers here”. He addressed the facilities, admissions and history all at once saying that there are plenty of players out there at the top level that he believes we can get and that the goal is to compete for Big Ten titles. This is what you want to hear, but you more importantly want to see. He stated he expects to sign new recruits within a month as well. He also has high hopes for TCU big man transfer Nikola Cerina whom he says is the best athlete on the team. The focus on local players caught my eye as well as Carmody said:
“We’re going to sign some players over next month and I like the players we are coming back. We are recruiting a lot of local kids.”
I also really liked the comment by Bill that things used to be measured against internal and now it’s external. Specifically, he said ” We’re no longer comparing ourselves to ourselves, which is what we’ve done in the past. We’ve reached a point where we’re not satisfied. We compare ourselves externally to competition in the rest of the Big Ten and the rest of the country.” Obviously, the flip side of that is that if that is indeed true than consistently finishing in the bottom half of the B1G, which we’ve done even in nearly every one of his 12 seasons, it doesn’t mean you lose your job if you don’t get to average in the conference.
Tavaras Staying. This is the #1 thing to me. Carmody stated that Tavaras will be back in Evanston next year. Phew.
Things That Frustrated Me:
The Contract Talk. Both Jim and Bill acknowledged the public sentiment and the fan discourse going on regarding his future was a primary reason for this teleconference and announcement. However, they both stated the “inaccuarcies” of the terms of his contract, which has been reported on by both Teddy Greenstein and LTP over the past two years as having been extended through 2012-2013 (at the start of last season). Carmody admitted to having more than one season on his contract, but wouldn’t elaborate and instead told reporters that he will tell recruits and their parents and that he feels confident in telling him he plans to be here for a long time. OK, this doesn’t really say much. Also, I’d love to know specifically what the inaccuracy was regarding the contract and I’m going to reach out to Teddy to clarify. The vague terms of where the contract sits now, as we don’t know the terms, will only fuel speculation moving forward. Is there a “NCAA or bust” agreement in place? Simply put, I think if the team achieves NIT or below status next season, I think that fans will be repeating this same cycle all over again.
Simply put when Bill Carmody says there are things that are printed that are “all wrong” but he doesn’t want to refute them, I’d love to give him the forum to do just that. Perhaps a roundtable with Teddy to clear the air. I really want to know. This one quote in particular is the one that I’m talking about – “I didn’t have time to respond to a lot of these things and lot of inaccuracies in the paper. One person writes something and then gets repeated and repeated and repeated. It’s all wrong, but it’s tough to refute these things.”
Self-Indictment Of Depth – Carmody deflected any talk of the weight of history and also attributed late game close losses, in part, to lack of depth. I don’t think any of us will argue on this one, but aside from the obvious injuries to JerShon Cobb and Tre Demps, there are several other players in uniform that he elected not to use. Additionally, we had scholarship room to give and these all go back to recruiting and ultimately the coach is responsible for depth. It’s too easy to point to Demps and Cobb injuries as the reason.
Rebounding doesn’t equal size. Bill acknowledged that rebounding was a major issue this season, but, he suggested that the size we have next year with Olah, Cerina, and Turner will go a long way towards addressing that. I don’t buy it. Our problem with rebounding isn’t size, it is philosophy, lack of technique and discipline among all five guys on the court and a style of play. I can’t watch NU on defense without focusing on at least three guys on every shot turning and going to the basket instead of putting a body on their man.
You think I’m the boy who cried wolf on this, but Jim suggested he would be able to go public with plans this summer of fall. The want for a timeline on knowing what the plan was has now been mentioned. Additionally, Jim stated to some degree the timing is out of his hands and in the hands of the NU Board of Trustees and president Schapiro as they are the ones that are running the much larger university-wide campaign that is coming down the pike. Man, I cannot wait for this to finally be on the board. At that point, this blog will turn in to a YMCA-like fundraising thermometer stick as we’ll be obsessing over every new facility upgrade.
On a lighter note, I got a great laugh when Bill addressed the pounding sound in the background of the call (there was hammering going on) as his head pounding against the wall.
So, there you go. I’m officially putting down my pen on this one and moving on to football. Feel free to continue to debate, but I highly recommend if you are either satisfied or disappointed to email Jim Phillips and share your support or concerns. Talking about it in the comments is likely not going to lead to anything at this point. I do think that you as members of the NU and specifically LTP community did have a voice and it was heard leading up to this decision. It is clear that Jim and Bill were aware of the discourse, obviously along with the coverage in the Trib, ESPN, Twitter, SippinOnPurple and other outlets. That’s a good thing. It shows that we as a fan base do care, are passionate and most importantly have expectations. As Carmody stated, the measuring stick is no longer against internal benchmarks, but external success metrics.