The season is over. The questions about the future of the program are sure to be raised now with Jim Phillips completing his annual evaluation of Bill Carmody’s performance and announcing that NU’s head coach of 13 years will not return. The decision on where the basketball program heads next is all in his hands now.
And so all the arguments, debates and hand-wringing over the future of Northwestern basketball sits on Jim Phillips’ desk and with his decision-making process. Patience is the key now. That is something fan bases are not exactly good at.
Unlike last year, Northwestern moved quickly to make a decision and did not leave the entire program in limbo. Uncertainty is a bad thing. The hope is that Jim Phillips will move with speed, but due diligence in hiring Northwestern’s next coach.
The world of Northwestern basketball is revolving around this decision and is frozen as its eyes train on what Phillips will do. That decision transfixes everything, freezing everything in time.
It has the eyes of Northwestern’s top recruit for next season, New Jersey point guard Jaren Sina. The rumors of Carmody’s upcoming dismissal sent ripples out to the four-star point guard.
Sina’s father, Mergin, seemed to lay down a gauntlet for Northwestern as the program makes its decision. Mergin told Neil Hayes of the Chicago Sun-Times his son may not attend Northwestern if Carmody is no longer the coach:
I’m a coach as well, and when you look at Northwestern’s program it’s not an easy place to get kids in,” he said. “The academic standards are very high and you’re going to lose highly-rated recruits. Watching the way he coaches and what he gets out of those kids, as a coach, I’m impressed to a point where I can’t figure out why there’s even a discussion here. He runs a nice system, he doesn’t have the talent he needs but that’s why you bring a kid like Jaren in. I’m just trying to figure out where the school is going with this.
That is all a fair assessment. And, as we have noted here, there are arguments to keep and to fire Carmody that are both perfectly valid. The decision clearly did not take into account the wishes of an 18-year-old high school student. Nor should it have.
No player at the college level should have that kind of power. Even if Sina is a four-star prospect, there is no guarantee he will be as good as the scouting sites say.
What the real threat — if you want to call it that — from Sina’s father was the threat of closing the door to a potential pipeline from New Jersey. Sina has a close relationship with assistant coach Fred Hill and he was the main contact in Northwestern’s recruiting of Sina. Mergin, who coaches a U16 AAU team, told Hayes he wants to help Hill any way he can. It is still uncertain what will happen to Carmody’s staff.
According to Scout, Northwestern is currently not targeting any players from New Jersey for 2014. Of course, the basketball recruiting calendar really picks up in the summer with the various camps and AAU tournaments that take place.
Delivering on that pipeline would be a pretty big thing. Ten players ranked in the top 30 in their position by Scout are from New Jersey for 2013. There are currently three in 2014 according to Scout. Of course, no one can ever guarantee what an 18-year-old high school senior is going to do three years down the road, let alone two. So the promise of a pipeline might be a pipe dream.
It certainly was not enough to influence the decision about Carmody.
Others too are eagerly awaiting what comes next.
Scott Powers of ESPN Chicago spoke to Mike Mullins, the AAU coach for Dave Sobolewski and Nate Taphorn, and Mullins said Sobolewski enjoyed playing for Carmody and Taphorn looked forward to doing so. He said both are going to wait and see what happens with the new coach but could weigh their options. Taphorn told Nicholas Medline of Scout on Saturday that he still plans to attend Northwestern but Medline noted that Taphorn did not seem happy about Carmody’s dismissal.
Everyone is in a wait and see mode as Phillips begins the coaching search.