Keeping Bill Carmody
LTP made the case in a post earlier this week why it is time for a change and time to move on from Bill Carmody. Many of you have made your case in the comments that came attached to that post. And there is a lot of merit in those arguments.
Despite all the successes in his tenure — and I will not rehash those since I made them a few weeks ago in this post — we all want more and we all want to see the Wildcats break through. This year it seems like the team is farther away than ever. That might be because of the injuries.
There are a lot of reasons against Bill Carmody.
He has had 13 years to get Northwestern to a level of consistent winning and has failed to do so. His offensive and defensive schemes have both enabled some of his lesser talented teams to compete with many of the Big Ten’s best, but has also held it back when the team has more talent than its opponents. It has stifled the development of a “star” willing to improvise and break through.
The recruiting has been lacking.
The Wildcats have never been able to bring in a center with the skill set — the ability to hit 3-pointers and pass the ball while remaining a presence defensively — needed to run the Princeton Offense. He has never been able to recruit well enough to develop a deep team that could keep the key players from playing less than 35-38 minutes per game. No image might have displayed this need more than that of Michael Thompson and John Shurna struggling to finish an NIT quarterfinal game at Washington State after playing pretty much the entire game.
These are big shortcomings for Northwestern. These are things that have held the program back. These are things that stop at the top with Bill Carmody. Ultimately the shortcomings for this program have to fall at his feet. He is the boss.
However, zooming the camera out, you have to realize how far Carmody has built the program. Telling a Northwestern fan back in 2001 that NU fans would complain about missing the NIT for the first time in five years 13 years later might get some eye rolls. Tell them it is the same coach and the frustration might begin to fester some.
That is where we were at. If Northwestern had fired Carmody back in 2008, the new coach would get the leeway after this season (even if he had a healthy team) if NU missed the NIT. It is the fact that Carmody has had 13 years that frustration and a sense that “it is time” is growing among the Northwestern fan base. I get the sense that the fan base appreciates everything Carmody has done to get the program where it is.
Things though since that disastrous season have consistently improved.
Northwestern’s recruiting has gotten better. John Shurna, Luka Mirkovic and Davide Curletti came in the next year (along with Kyle Rowley and Nick Fruendt who did not quite pan out and develop). All three were key contributors throughout their careers at Northwestern and all three did not experience a season without a postseason appearance. Again, an incredible accomplishment.
That was followed by the recruiting of Drew Crawford. Then Dave Sobolewski and JerShon Cobb. The next big recruit is Jaren Sina, a four-star point guard from New Jersey who many see as the kind of gamechanger we all thought Ifeadi Odenigbo might be in football. Except of course, in basketball one player can make a much bigger impact.
Even though several recruits did not pan out — Kale Abrahamson has been up and down this year, Tre Demps is a good shooter but lacks consistency, Michael Turner has looked overwhelmed despite a redshirt year and we all remember how Mike Capocci, Nick Fruendt and Kyle Rowley turned out — there is no doubt that the quality of recruits coming in are as good as they have ever been.
Again, it feels like Northwestern is trending in a positive direction if you consider this as Year 5 of a second Bill Carmody tenure. That may not be the reality of things but that is one way to view things. I would still argue that overall things are trending positively.
This year was an outlier. It may not have been a tournament team, but it was still a team capable of winning games. Injuries completely decimated the squad.
JerShon Cobb was suspended so he could focus on his academics at the beginning of the season. That was a key loss as he seemed poised to break out with a big roll on the team. Drew Crawford was playing with a torn labrum all year before he finally decided to shut his season down while he could still apply for a medical hardship. Sanjay Lumpkin, whom Bill Carmody said was the most ready to contribute of Northwestern’s hyped freshman class, missed the entire season with various injuries and mononucleosis at the beginning of the season.
There are reinforcements coming and the promise of a strong season in 2014 is there.
Then there is Jaren Sina and the sentimentality Carmody has with many of his players. Except for a few instances, you will be hard pressed to find Northwestern players who will say a bad thing about Carmody (especially if they stuck it out all four years, there are of course the outliers like Kevin Coble and T.J. Parker) but when you hear players and former players talk about Carmody you can feel the sort of reverence and respect they have for them.
That does not equate to wins. Not by any stretch. But as we have seen since Jared Swopshire went out with his injury against Ohio State twice and at Michigan State, this is a team that will still play hard for their coach and will still compete to the fullest extent they can.
Carmody is playing without a full deck this season. And that is completely not his fault.
Sina, that celebrated recruit coming in to “save” Northwestern next year with Crawford and Cobb’s return as well, has been glowing about his relationship with Carmody before he even stepped on campus. In several interviews he has mentioned how excited he is to play for Carmody.
If you are to believe Sina’s father in an interview with Neil Hayes of the Chicago Sun-Times (an article I am sure LTP and I will share more thoughts on in the near future), Carmody could be the key to his son even stepping foot on campus. Is Carmody really getting the keys to a New Jersey pipeline with Sina should he stay? Would Sina really go through with this veiled threat should Northwestern fire Carmody?
Again, questions for a different post. But suffice it to say, Northwestern is not the type of school to let a high school recruit hold it hostage. The decision about Carmody will not be dependent upon this one aspect. Much like the result of Thursday’s game against Iowa will not be the determinative factor pushing Jim Phillips one way or the other.
What it does say is that Carmody’s message is beginning to get through on a consistent basis. Yes, it might have taken far too long, but undoubtedly Northwestern’s program is improving and has a bright 2014 ahead of it.
With just one more year left on his contract, doesn’t Carmody deserve the chance to see it through?
Yes, there are problems with the offense and the defense. It has frustrated Northwestern followers for a long time. But in many ways, it still gives NU the best chance to win.
Yes, it should not have taken 13 years for recruiting to reach this point.
But undeniably, Northwestern has positive momentum to build from. This is an unprecedented time of success for the Wildcats.
The fear with the Wildcats is falling back too far and not taking advantage of the opportunities still in front of this team. And there is still opportunity. Lots of it.
Northwestern has the talent next year to take advantage of it. Make next year the “Tournament or bust” season, if you want. With perhaps Northwestern’s most talented roster in Carmody’s tenure and Carmody coaching on a contract year, if he cannot do it then he will not be able to.