The pros and cons of Northwestern firing Bill Carmody
BY NEIL HAYES firstname.lastname@example.org March 16, 2013 12:56AM
Updated: March 24, 2013 6:12PM
Rarely does the future of a coach of a low-profile basketball program spark such debate, but whenever somebody makes a point for or against Northwestern keeping Bill Carmody, somebody else makes an equally valid counterpoint.
Iowa eliminated NU from the Big Ten Tournament on Thursday night at the United Center. There wasn’t a dry eye in the locker room when reporters entered after Carmody finished praising seniors Alex Marcotullio, Reggie Hearn and Jared Swopshire.
Hearn admitted the uncertainty swirling around Carmody added to the emotionally charged atmosphere.
Don’t envy athletic director Jim Phillips, who must decide soon whether Carmody returns for a 14th season. While Phillips contemplates Carmody’s fate, we decided to match the pros of firing Carmody against the cons in a game of three-on-three.
◆ Sometimes a program needs change for the sake of change — someone who can bring a newfound energy and gets fans and boosters fired up about Northwestern hoops again.
This is especially important for an athletics department as marketing- and branding-conscious as Northwestern. Carmody is a great guy and refreshingly honest, but he might not be the dynamic, face-of-a-program type the university is looking for.
◆ Phillips might have that one-in-a-million candidate in mind who could do for the basketball program what Pat Fitzgerald has done for the football program. It’s a long shot. Expect improvement to be incremental regardless of whether Carmody leaves or stays, but the possibility of a home run exists.
◆ Phillips isn’t the only one making this decision, even if he wants you to believe he is. There are powers-that-be, not to mention donors writing checks for tens of millions of dollars to fund a new athletic facility, who may have thoughts on the matter. If nothing else, a change could unite the pro-Carmody and anti-Carmody factions that have fractured the fan base.
◆ Who would be better? Duke associate coach Chris Collins is intriguing, but with the obvious exception of Mike Brey, Mike Krzyzewski’s assistants haven’t fared well as head coaches. Hiring a young coach and expecting him to learn on the job could lead to disaster against elite coaches in the Big Ten.
‘‘Think about the coaches we have in this league and their résumés,’’ Big Ten Network analyst Jim Jackson said Tuesday. ‘‘From a talent perspective, we might not have game-changing first-round draft picks like we have had in the past. More so, we have great teams coached by great coaches.’’
◆ The Wildcats were 4-6 in the Big Ten with wins over Minnesota and Illinois when Swopshire injured his knee against Iowa. Is it fair to blame Carmody for injuries he can’t control?
Phillips decided to give Carmody another year after last season. What changed? With perhaps his best team returning, it’s only fair that he coaches the final year of his contract.
◆ The administration wants more victories, but little has been done to upgrade facilities that are more inadequate now than when Carmody was hired 13 games ago. Why should such a prestigious business school expect a return on no investment?
‘‘The administration knows this, but we have to sort of move ahead facilities-wise,’’ Carmody said after Thursday night’s game.
Former NU player and athletics department employee and current BTN analyst Shon Morris was more frank.
‘‘The best way to put it is, if facilities are an arms race, Northwestern basketball right now is fighting a nuclear war with a cap gun,’’ he said.