After 13 years and no NCAA Tournament appearances, Bill Carmody is out as Northwestern's head basketball coach.
Just filed to ESPN: Sources: Northwestern has fired Bill Carmody. AD Jim Phillips meeting with the players at 11 a.m. CST.— Andy Katz (@ESPNAndyKatz) March 16, 2013
The team confirmed:
Bill Carmody will not return as the head coach of @numensbball.— Northwestern Sports (@NU_Sports) March 16, 2013
The writing was on the wall here for the last few days, but it was still an interesting wait to see if AD Jim Phillips would pull the trigger. Carmody had survived a long, long time: eight seasons with no postseason bids whatsoever, then four straight years in which seasons ended in NIT bids - not a bad stretch for Northwestern, but short in the promised land. And when this season was derailed due to injuries to leading scorer Drew Crawford and leading rebounder Jared Swopshire, many figured Carmody would earn an extra year in charge instead of being given the axe for the play of a team whose problems weren't his fault. But it's official, and the search for Northwestern's new coach can begin.
The search is intriguing. Northwestern hasn't fired a revenue sports coach since Ricky Byrdsong in 1997. Football coach Gary Barnett left for Colorado, and his successor Randy Walker died in 2006, leading to the spur-of-the-moment hiring of Pat Fitzgerald, who has been in charge ever since. Carmody's predecessor Kevin O'Neill left NU to take a job with the New York Knicks in 2000, and the Wildcats have stuck with Carmody through thick and thin until now.
Carmody came to Northwestern from Princeton in 2000, where he had made the NCAA Tournament twice in four years after taking over from Pete Carril. Although there were some sparks early - the team had a winning record his second year, and in 2003-2004, went 8-8 in conference play, which earned him Big Ten Coach of the Year honors - it was clear from right off the bat that he struggled with recruiting. His teams were simply not talented enough to survive in the Big Ten. In 2007-2008, his team went 1-17 in conference play, and how he wasn't fired after that, we don't know.
But it's good that he wasn't. With an improved recruiting staff behind him able to bring in talent like Juice Thompson, John Shurna - who turned out to be the top scorer and shotblocker in program history - and Drew Crawford, the next four years turned out to be the strongest in program history. After going to the NIT three times in the program's entire existence, Carmody was able to get Northwestern into the NCAA's consolation tournament in four straight seasons from 2009-2012. In 2009, the program was ranked in the top 25 for the first time ever, although that only lasted a week. And in 2011, the team reached the NIT quarterfinals, its best ever performance in a postseason tournament. His Princeton Offense and 1-3-1 defense were perpetually tough for other teams to prepare for, providing a system that gave Northwestern the constant ability to give much more talented teams runs for their money.
But for those successes, there were just as many moments that made you question Carmody's continued job security. He mismanaged an injury to star Kevin Coble, who eventually quit the team after a dispute with the coach rather than play his senior season - something that might have killed NU's hopes as they fell just short of making the 2011 NCAA Tournament. Although he has the second-most wins in program history - 191, behind Dutch Lonberg, who coached NU for 23 years in the first half of the 20th century - he still has a losing record, 191-205. And of course, in his 13 years, he hasn't made the NCAA Tournament. Not even once.
Goodbye, Bill Carmody. You did an amazing job, and did things no Northwestern coach has done before. Unfortunately, it wasn't good enough.