This was originally going to be a big thing. I was going to do a bunch of posts. One was going to be "Will Northwestern Fire Bill Carmody?", and then I realized I could do that in one sentence. Here it is.
Will Northwestern Fire Bill Carmody?
By Rodger Sherman
I mean, probably not, considering.
I also figured I'd wait a while, since this is a long offseason, and it's only been two days, but, in reality, the time is now. If Northwestern were to act, you'd presume it would happen sometime in the next few days, before potential head coaching candidates at other disappointed schools started getting snatched up.
Well, I have an opinion on the matter, and here's where I tell it to you.
I think firing a head coach requires you to ask yourself two meaningful questions: "Is the coach in question performing up to standards?" and "Would any realistic incoming coach be an improvement on the current one?"
The first question is an enigma. No, by the definition of "we need to make the tournament", but, yes, by the standards of "he's consistently gotten Northwestern closer than anybody else". When it comes down to it, I lean towards "no".
The second one is even harder to answer. Sure, we like to think that firing Bill Carmody would immediately lead to a savior figure sprinting through that door, but the truth is, a Carmody replacement could leave Northwestern rebuilding and retooling and eventually still coming up short of the dance. While Carmody has left NU perpetually poised to dance, a replacement could put that goal five years down the line, fail, and then leave us writing this same post in 2017. Again, when it comes down to it, I'm completely unsure, but have this to say: Carmody is a good coach, but he isn't the only good coach in the world, and it certainly is possible that there are better people for the job out there willing to take it, but firing him could backfire.
So, having said nothing meaningful, my thoughts:
I think Bill Carmody is quite a good coach. He has his flaws, sure - piddly recruiting and some occasional extremely confusing in-game rotational and situational issues - but, well, remember that one basketball coach who didn't have any major notable flaws in his coaching persona and strategy? The one who won all those championships for Never Existed Tech? For the most part, I find him a good basketball mind whose system keeps Northwestern in games they often don't have any business being in, and with some solid recruiters on staff, that issue has lessened in the past few years.
There's also no doubt in my mind, or really anybody's, that the past four years of Northwestern basketball have been the most successful in program history. It took Carmody the better part of a decade - any reasonable boss would have fired Carmody after an eighth season led to a 1-17 season, the worst of his tenure - but he eventually achieved the pinnacle of Northwestern basketball success.
But 12 years into his job, with the most talented team he's ever put together, with the most talented player he's ever coached in his final season, Northwestern did not make the NCAA Tournament. This year was an ultimatum, and Carmody did not answer. I believe he should not be the coach at Northwestern next year not because he's a bad coach, but because I can't think of a worse message to send to fans, recruits, and the college basketball world in general then "yeah, we came close again for the fourth consecutive time, and we're ready to do it again next year!" Saying you're tired of being close won't necessarily get you closer, but it at least tells everybody that close isn't enough, and a) it isn't and b) Northwestern needs people, i.e. recruits and fans and all those other people I mentioned, to know it isn't okay with being close. I might have made exceptions for a major NIT run, but, here we are.
In this, his 12th year, Carmody led his team closer than ever before to the brink of tourneydom. Northwestern lost three overtime games, two to ranked teams, one in a pivotal Big Ten Tourney game, and three more games decided by an additional five points, one of which was against a ranked Ohio State team. I think any one of those six instances being in Northwestern's favor could have pushed NU into the dance.
Yes, it's extremely unfair to tell someone that because by chance, six times a relatively globular ball bounced in slightly the wrong way when any one could have changed everything, they don't deserve to have a job anymore. But this is the nature of being a coach in a sport based on the bounces of a regularly globular ball. Perhaps Meyers Leonard doesn't block that shot, or Drew Crawford gets a look in OT at Michigan, or Robbie Hummel misses that runner, or Jared Sullinger misses that bank shot, or Jershon Cobb's ugly three against Michigan goes, or Dave Sobolewski's look prevents OT in Indianapolis, and Northwestern made the tournament and Bill Carmody is a hero and we're not talking about firing him.
But Northwestern's basketball existence comes down to a single embarrassing fact. Every year that fact continues to be a fact is a failure. Yes, Bill Carmody has been closer than any of his predecessors. But a 64 is still an F. We're tired as hell of being close, and while it sucks, Carmody has exhausted his grey area.
Maybe Northwestern keeps Carmody and we dance next year and we come back and read this and laugh at me. Maybe we fire him and we immediately regress. But if I were in charge, I'd tell Coach Carmody that with all due respect, there's no way you can employ someone whose best opportunity for success resulted in more of the same, no matter how close to breaking the mold it was, and that out of principle, he has to go. I hate saying it, but that's how I've felt all season long, and here we are at the end of the season, and I'm forced to say what I've been saying all along.
But I'm sure you have opinions, too.