Northwestern's season ended last night with a loss in the Big Ten Tournament to Iowa. In Bill Carmody's 13th season at Northwestern, his team went 13-19, 4-14 in Big Ten play, with 12 of those losses by 10 points or more. And for a 13th consecutive season, his team did not make the NCAA Tournament.
The question on my mind right now is not whether it's right or wrong to fire Bill Carmody. This is Northwestern basketball. It's an uphill battle whoever is in charge. I think we can all agree that Bill Carmody has done a very strong job the last few seasons, bringing the program to unprecedented heights - four straight NIT appearances, more than doubling the amount of postseason appearances in school history, several years where the team was one win away from its first NCAA Tournament. He's a talented coach and all things considered, a good fit for Northwestern. And surely, it would be unfair if Carmody's last season featured a injury-depleted squad that didn't have a chance and lost its final nine games.
I think we can also all agree it hasn't been good enough. Still, no tourney trips. My point is, both firing and not firing Bill Carmody are both decisions laden with lots of implications, and neither is crazy. We could argue this all day, and solve little besides calling each other names.
So the question I'm curious about is: will Northwestern fire Bill Carmody? After 13 seasons, all of which had more or less the same outcome, will the Northwestern administration finally push the button?
Right now, the answer appears to be yes.
The vultures are really circling after the loss last night. Carmody's press conference after the loss was downright macabre, focusing less on the details of the loss - hey, how come your team gave up 11 straight points to start the game, why couldn't you grab a rebound - and more on his job status. And that gave way to some articles, many written as if Carmody is done. From USA Today's Mike Lopresti:
He had just endured the post-loss press conference, with all the is-your-goose-cooked questions. Inquiries reserved each spring for the coaching condemned. He had politely answered them all in a soft voice, but it had to hurt. After that, there was nothing to do but go home. The season was over.
"I don't want to say it's part of the business, but I understand that was going to happen,'' he said in the hallway. "Not much you can do about it.''
Northwestern, the Charlie Brown of Big Ten basketball, ended its season Thursday night in the Big Ten tournament with a 73-59 loss. Carmody will almost surely be fired after a particularly miserable season.
If he's not, it'll be a shock. You can't find a person who believes he will be back for the final year of his contract. Carmody wouldn't directly address it Thursday after the loss, but he knows there's no Princeton defense for this situation.
Loretta8 and I had a chat about this last night, and here's what we had to say, if you're interested in reading what too people who care way, way too much about this team think.
Loretta8: I'd be very surprised if they keep himdidn't they come close to firing him last year?11:21 PM me: The word is Jim Phillips spent a while thinking about it. A few days.11:22 PM Loretta8: in a semi-related notethose quotes Jaren Sina's fatherbizarre11:25 PM me: I think Jim Phillips would be pretty silly if he leveraged the future of the team in any way over a modestly well-regarded high school basketball playerLoretta8: yeah11:26 PM also there's some speculation about crawford potentially leaving under the graduate transfer ruleme: nah.don't see it.Loretta8: i think if it does happenwould be a pretty huge strike against whomever they hirebecause if he can't sell a guy who seems to like northwestern a lot on staying11:27 PM hes probably not gonna sell many good recruits on comingme: I think that's a worst-case scenarioLoretta8: yeah then we're in a penn state like rebuilding project11:28 PM me: Firing Carmody gives you the potential for stuff like that happening. The bottom line is definitely lower.11:32 PM Loretta8: thing about firing carmodyis you probably shouldn't do itunless you have a decent idea of who to hire insteadbut its kinda hard to find out if such candidates are interested in the jobwithout that potentially leakingand then you basically have to fire him11:33 PM although i guess the northwestern media doesnt scrutinize these things that closely11:35 PM me: so you'd be surprised if Carmody comes back. So do you think there's nothing to the argument with regards to injuries making this excusable in the eyes of the administration?11:36 PM Loretta8: i kinda think they're looking for a reasonable excuse to fire himi base that on very little11:37 PM but its hard to fire a coach after a season thats among the best in school historyno matter how bad that history isand even though they are obviously much better with an average number of injuriesthe record is terribleits enough of an excuse11:38 PM me: You also wrote a while back about coaching decisions and bad luck a few weeks back... when you look at the margins of defeat, this team was worse than the record11:39 PM Northwestern really only lost two "close" games this year. vs. UIC and Stanford.11:41 PM So you took away the team's best player - which had happened, by the way, before - and this team was average. I think before Swop drops, this team was on track to win 7, maybe 8 gamesSwop disappears, that's a team that looked like it could've gone 0-18.11:42 PM Loretta8: amazing in retrospect how important he was11:43 PM me: So why no "one more year", you think?Loretta8: "one more year" is such a copoutme: It seems like it's been one more year, for, like three years.This year was the one more year, right?Loretta8: yeahbut i think this was the first one11:44 PM there wasn't much talk about firing him after the first NIT appearancethen after the 2nd one, they were getting coble back and losing just jeremy nashso not much firing talkthen in the middle of the next season they gave him a 2 year extension11:45 PM so i think this was the one more yearand it didnt happenme: not. even. close.Loretta8: you could make a case to give him a mulligan based on the injuriesbut even with zero injuries11:46 PM this team was an underdog to make the tournamentme: And I think it's tough to act like firing Carmody makes next year easier. It will almost definitely make it worse11:47 PM Bring in a guy with a new system, maybe lose a recruit. But if you're firing Carmody you're acknowledging that things aren't going right and something needs to be different, which could help things go right in the futureLoretta8: yeah11:48 PM i just hope if they do decide to move onphillips knows what he's doing with the hiring process11:52 PM me: Maybe it's just me, but it seems like whatever happens has, like, an 80 percent chance of going wrong11:53 PM Loretta8: whos the worst coach they could conceivably hire instead?thats actually a dumb question since it would be someone none of us have heard of11:54 PM me: Kevin O'Neill's twin brother, WaKevin O'NeillLoretta8: hahahahahame: I could see Northwestern making a "good" hire and it not working out, though.11:55 PM If you think about it, Bill Carmody wasn't that great a hire way back when. It just so happened they managed to keep him around long enough he got some recruiters around himLoretta8: yeah11:56 PM i cant tell you how excited i was about the carmody hirehis princeton teams were dominantseemed like a perfect fitteam made huge improvements the first two years11:57 PM me: Do you think this team can make the tourney next year? Carmody or not?I think the argument next year is his "best team ever" is a little, uh, strongLoretta8: yeah sina would have to be the next trey burkefor it to be his best team everthat being said11:58 PM theres quite a bit of variance in these thingsdoesnt have to be his best team to sneak out some close wins11:59 PM but no, i certainly wouldn't bet on next year's roster making the tournamentme: That doesn't necessarily make firing Carmody "right"12:00 AM Loretta8: agreed12:04 AM me: Now's not an awful time to start rebuilding, though. Crawford is NU's only senior next year, and although he's great, there's more youth than experience12:08 AM Loretta8: indeed
And now? We sit and wait, as Jim Phillips and Bill Carmody come to their decision.