Repeat after me. This is not a knee-jerk reaction post to yesterday’s embarassing home loss to Illinois. It is not a call for Carmody’s whistle. Read that again, please.
Let’s face it. The ‘Cats were downright brutal yesterday in a runaway train wreck of a game that saw a 19-15 game escalate in to a blowout that felt like multiple losses in one game. Today, isn’t about yesterday’s 62-41 (possibly most misleading score of the year along with Ohio State loss) “L”. No, I’d like to spend some time focusing on the bigger of what it is going to take to change things for Northwestern to get to the next level, which let’s say for the sake of argument is a of .500 conference record team. Simply put, what does the program need to do to become a NCAA Tourney level team year in and year out?
Teddy Greenstein used the Sunday Chicago Tribune sports section as a platform to ask this question in the context of Bill Carmody’s future at Northwestern. While each of the quotes Teddy secured from B1G coaches (or B1G coaches thoughts as told to BTN/WGN analyst Tim Doyle)like Michigan State’s Tom Izzo and the Illini’s John Groce fall under the guise of “fans wanting change have no clue how hard it is at Northwestern”, I’d like to focus on some of that part. I’d love to see Teddy expand upon his parenthetical, which was mentioned as part of the description in disparity between NU competition specifically around facilities:
Welsh-Ryan Arena last was renovated in 1983, creating a gap in facilities between Northwestern and the schools it recruits against (Wisconsin, Butler) that’s like comparing the Bellagio to a Motel 6. (The scoreboard, the concessions, the bench seating, the poorly-paved parking lot …)” – Teddy Greenstein, Chicago Tribune – February 17, 2013
Facilities is indeed a major piece of the equation. But, it’s not the only one. Teddy and I exchanged tweets yesterday on this article as I don’t put too much stock in opposing coaches publicly praising another coach to stay put. There are so many side angles to that it will take up a full other post. The public posturing by Northwestern opponents feels borderline patronizing and slightly embarassing. I trust Teddy. He’s a solid reporter and a straight-forward guy. When he tells me this sentiment is authentic, I believe him. However, instead of John Groce getting so frustrated about the question (he was the one who said “People have no idea” and then walked away according to the article), I want to invite him to a roundtable discussion.
Jim Phillips and the Northwestern administration may very well have a plan in place to address the facilities. However, with the full court press on finding donors for the $225 Million Ryan Fieldhouse lakeside project, mum is the word on when and what as it relates to the Atari-era arena that I love. Let’s acknowledge that a facilities overhaul is a giant box to be checked. But, what else?
I happen to have several friends in the college basketball community. As you can imagine, I am often able to steer the conversation to get Northwestern basketball in to the mix. Inevitably the perception of the job is one of the greatest barriers in their minds. Yes, facilities, but also leniency in academics and the cold, hard truth about the way things work in major college basketball. Newsflash, it gets dirty. Any Northwestern fan trying to glaze over these topics seems like an apologist (“I’d rather do things the right way and lose, then the wrong way and win”). When a future coach-to-be comes for an interview, you can bet the list of demands will rival Santa Claus’ naughty/nice scroll.
What would a task force combining the likes of Tom Izzo, Jim Boeheim, Coach K, Brad Stevens, Shaka Smart and insert your favorite up and coming assistant coaches look like if the subject matter was a seminar on “Making Northwestern A Perennial NCAA Tourney Team”? You’d be naive to think that Jim Phillips hasn’t had these very same conversations with the movers and shakers in the industry. Wouldn’t you love to see a transparent conversation about this? A truly honest assessment of the program and an open-minded fixer-upper collaboration? Obviously, any B1G coach has nothing to gain by helping Northwestern as it only can come back to hurt them. However, this sentiment of sympathy from other coaches is what rubs me the wrong way the most. I’m tired of sympathy. Let’s talk about solutions. Let’s talk about what you and I can do to help. Let’s talk about it honestly.
Women’s Hoops Gets “W”
Congratulations to the Northwestern women’s hoops team for their 70-63 win at Minnesota yesterday. The women’s record (12-13,4-8) is nearly identical to the men’s at this point, a major disappointment in my book. However, the ‘Cats have been playing their best basketball of the season in recent weeks.
Purple Mafia Tidbits From NBA All-Star Weekend
Thanks to Willie W. for passing along these links. Northwestern alum and TNT sideline reporter, Craig Sager, earned the ribbing of Celtic’s star Kevin Garnett for his “Christmas ornament” suit this weekend. Also, Wildcat alum and Houston Rockets GM, Daryl Morey, will be getting a contract extension. Daryl, you are due for the Purple Mafia treatment! Morey has the rebuilding Rockets currently in the final playoff spot in the Western Conference should the season end today.