Bill Carmody should be fired if only as a message that Northwestern cares about basketball.
For starters … Bill Who?
That’s the problem. Carmody’s profile is so low that he might as well be the White Sox’ ticket manager, the Bears’ director of concessions or the Blackhawks’ Zamboni driver.
Carmody is Northwestern’s head basketball coach, which, come to think of it, traditionally is the collegiate athletics equivalent of being Benny the Bull.
I don’t mean to demean Carmody, who has coached Northwestern for 13 seasons and will again Thursday night against Iowa in the Big Ten tournament.
Carmody’s relative anonymity is the direct opposite of what Northwestern basketball needs. The Wildcats’ situation begs for someone who forces you to notice him, his players and his program.
You know, maybe like another Kevin O’Neill but with more sanity and a better record.
Carmody came to Evanston from Princeton and projects a dignified, professional, Ivy League reserve. To his credit, it’s difficult to imagine him making a fool of himself like Indiana coach Tom Crean did moments after clinching the Big Ten’s regular-season championship Sunday.
Even considering all that, Carmody’s time is up after 13 failed attempts to coach the Wildcats into the NCAA Tournament.
Northwestern is a tough place to win in basketball. The ‘Cats have excuses for never qualifying for the NCAA Tournament — among them strict academic requirements, antiquated facilities and a lack of basketball tradition. Respectability might be their upside.
So you’re wondering why Northwestern can do better in football, which needs scores of legitimate players, than in basketball, which needs only a few.
My theory is that a football team can win by plugging decent athletes into a system like the triple-option or spread offense. Carmody employs mostly the quirky Princeton offense, but a basketball team requires better athletes to crack at least the top half of the Big Ten.
Unless NU administrators want to come out and proclaim, “We can’t do any better than we have the past 13 to 70 years,” they have to try something different.
The predicament is age-old in Evanston, not much different from, say, when Rich Falk was fired back in the mid-1980s.
Carmody’s won-loss record is better than Falk’s was, which might be why excuses keep being made for the current coach. One is that key Wildcats were injured this season.
The problem with that argument is this isn’t a one-year slump. It has been going on not only for 13 years but decade after decade.
NU has tried different styles of coaching — like going from the maniacal O’Neill to the cerebral Carmody — without getting into the NCAA Tournament.
Retaining Carmody now would be like surrendering, like saying he is what he is and Wildcats basketball is what he is.
Better that Northwestern tries someone more dynamic to provide more of a presence in the gym, in recruiting and on the Chicago sports scene.
Maybe no coach available to accept this challenge is capable of turning NU’s disadvantages into advantages the way Pat Fitzgerald has in football, but Northwestern has to believe someone can.
So the school should thank Bill Carmody for working withing the school’s academic and ethical parameters, then welcome a new coach who might be able to prove that those high standards and qualifying for the NCAA Tournament don’t have to be exclusive of each other.
If NU’s administration doesn’t care enough to try something new, why should anyone else care about Wildcats basketball?
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