Dienhart: Bill Carmody firing 'correct decision'

Bill Carmody hasn’t gotten Northwestern to the NCAA tournament in 13 seasons on the job. And, he won’t get a 14th try. Today, the school announced Carmody won’t be back. I’m sure it was a difficult decision. But, it was the correct decision.

Carmody had more than enough time to figure it out in Evanston. So, when NU announced that Carmody was out, it was no shocker.

[ VIDEO: See the live press conference from Northwestern at 6:30 p.m. ET. ]

I know all about the tough hand Carmody was dealt this season, with key injuries to Drew Crawford and Jared Swopshire and the suspension of JerShon Cobb. But at some point, the excuses have to stop. Being a nice guy gets a fella only so far. At some point, results are required. And they just weren’t there for Carmody along the lakefront.

[VIDEO: Watch Bill Carmody’s last press conference as Wildcats coach from Thursday. ]

Carmody arrived in Evanston amid much promise with his famous “Princeton” system. Well, it worked—sometimes. But, not nearly enough.

Bill CarmodyHe built the Northwestern program into respectability, walking the Wildcats to the threshold of the NCAA tournament. But he never was able to cross it in 13 seasons in Evanston.

So, Carmody is out after a year that dawned with promise but ended in a 13-19 heap that looked frightening similar to the horrific seasons Northwestern fans came to expect from coaches like Rich Falk, Bill Foster, Ricky Byrdsong and Kevin O’Neill. NU finished 10th in the Big Ten with a 4-14 Big Ten record, losing to Iowa in the first round of the Big Ten tourney to extend the Wildcats’ season-ending losing skein to nine games.

Carmody took Northwestern to four NITs in succession (2009-12), leading the program to two 20-win seasons and notching eight Big Ten victories in a season on three occasions. His 2003-04 team went 8-8 in conference play, the only non-losing Big Ten record of the Carmody era. Not bad. But, not good enough.

The dubious NCAA tourney-less streak is especially vexing when you consider similar schools like Stanford, Vanderbilt and Duke all have had big success at various times in the past 25 years. Duke is a gold-standard program nationally, Stanford has reached the Final Four and Vanderbilt has reached myriad NCAA tourneys and even ranked No. 1 in the nation at one point in the 1990s.

But Northwestern? It watches, waits and wonders if it ever will break through to the Big Dance.

[NUSports.com: Read the official release. ]

Making the riddle of NU hoops more vexing is NU football, which has enjoyed much more success in a sport that is much more difficult to build and sustain. Nonetheless, the Wildcats continue to prosper and flourish under the stewardship of Pat Fitzgerald. NU has been to five bowls in a row and is coming off its first bowl win since the 1948 season.

Meanwhile, the Northwestern hoop team has its face pressed against the glass, peering into the NCAA tourney.

No doubt, the next Northwestern coach will be expected to deliver that elusive NCAA bid. Many names are being mentioned. The favorite could be Chris Collins, a Duke assistant since 2000. The former Blue Devil player is the son of Philadelphia 76ers coach Doug. And Chris Collins is a native of Northbrook, Ill., a Chicago suburb—for what that’s worth. Hey, Fitzgerald is a local kid.

Whoever takes over Northwestern will inherit a roster loaded with veteran talent. Crawford (shoulder injury) and Cobb (academics) will be back as the centerpieces. Also back will be point guard Dave Sobolewski, center Alex Olah, forward Kale Abrahamson, guard Tre Demps, among others.

There will be much to build on next season and beyond, thanks to the foundation laid by Carmody. Until then, Wildcats basketball remains nothing more than hope and promise.

About Tom Dienhart BTN.com senior writer Tom Dienhart is a veteran sports journalist who covers Big Ten football and men’s basketball for BTN.com and BTN TV. Find him on Twitter and Facebook, read all of his work at btn.com/tomdienhart, and subscribe to his posts via RSS. Also, send questions to his weekly mailbag using the form below and read all of his previous answers in his reader mailbag section.

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8 Comments

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Show Comments (8 Comments)
Rich on 3/16/2013 @ 3:29pm EST Said:

Sorry, but everyone misses the key points about why Fitz succeeds and then draws false comparisons to the basketball program. Fitz was arguably the best football player to play at NU. He played on a Rose Bowl team. So he started with tremendous credibility. He also apprenticed under Randy Walker, a guy who was inches away from making the turn with NU. Success breeds success. What did Carmody get when he came in? No facilities, very little give on academic standards and extremely low expectations. Getting to the NIT so many times is a great success and i have a hard time thinking that anyone short of Mike Krzyzewski could do better. Carmody is not a ball of fire, but Byrdsong was. It didn’t do him any good. Foster led Duke to the NCAA final before he arrived here to sink into oblivion. Collins would be a mistake. Now that we’ve done this, buy Stanford’s coach that turned them around. The poor facility and the lack of positive history can onbly be changed by someone who has already done it.

Wildcat in State College on 3/17/2013 @ 1:52pm EST Said:

I disagree. Living in Penn State basketball land, I recognize how very difficult it is to build a program from shambles. The most important thing that Bill Carmody accomplished was finding a way to recruit competitive players who would not be challenged by the academic standards of Northwestern. Whoever follows him will have nothing to build upon and instead of being competitive, the Wildcats will probably sink even lower in the conference.

HudiBlitz on 3/17/2013 @ 4:32pm EST Said:

Completely agree, Wildcat. This is a major, major misstep by Phillips. I hope the upcoming hire proves me wrong, but I sincerely doubt it will.

As a side note, this column is typical BTN dreck. All it lacks is a Jim Delany quotation offering gratuitous praise of Nebraska, Michigan, or Ohio State.

Patrick J. Tarrant on 3/17/2013 @ 5:17pm EST Said:

Carmody did a helluva job in one of the toughest situations. Just another example of how the values of an athletic program and director, are totally out of step with the academic institution. A totally clueless, offensive article, written by someone who wouldn’t know what a basketball was if it fell out of a tree and hit him in the head.

Dazzle on 3/18/2013 @ 5:39pm EST Said:

If you don’t have a winning tradition, you have a hard time recruiting the types of players that can provide a championship team. End of story. What could revitalize their program. Oh, I don’t know. Maybe if Dean Smith decided to coach or, heaven forbid, Bobby Knight decided to coach again. It would have to be something that could actually make players want to come there because it would fulfill their dream of attaining ultimate success (i.e., Big Ten championship and a national championship).

Don Cronin on 3/18/2013 @ 5:56pm EST Said:

I agree with everything posted above. If Chris Collins is the next coach, then this program is going to go back to the the dark days of Bill Foster and Ricky Birdsong. The Big 10 is not the place to learn to be a head coach. Carmody’s teams were competitive and could play with most of the teams in conference. The Princeton system help offset the talent gap. And Tom Dienhart and the rest of the media need to stop with the Stanford and Duke comparisons. There is a kid at Villanova that committed to NU that was then denied admission even though he had a 4.0 GPA at the same school Alex Olah came from. The issue was around his international transcripts, but come on, 4.0 at a very good high school here in the states should get the kid in. Duke would take him, Villanova is a good school and they did. The issues are bigger than the coach and Carmody did more than anyone else has in Evanston. I flip flopped every game if he should stay or go, I get it wasn’t an easy decision, but please NO Chris Collins. For what it’s worth Bob McKillop at Davidson would be a great choice but I’d doubt he’d leave.

ryan eaton on 3/19/2013 @ 4:59pm EST Said:

was not surpised at all when i heard the news.

HudiBlitz on 3/20/2013 @ 10:58am EST Said:

“And Tom Dienhart and the rest of the media need to stop with the Stanford and Duke comparisons.” Amen.

First of all, Stanford is a special case. It’s the easiest of the “power six” conference schools to sell to the small pool of smart-kid recruits. It has good weather, a tradition of lavish support for athletics, and is the only power six school with a legitimate argument that it’s on the Harvard-Yale-Princeton level academically.

Second of all, Duke employs a win-at-virtually-any-cost model for its basketball program. Recruits need only meet the NCAA’s minimum academic standards. Sean Dockery and his 15 on the ACT are proof of this. It’s absolutely disgusting how the media give Duke a free pass on the academic aspect of its basketball program. (Then again, the national media continue to give the late John Wooden a free pass on Sam Gilbert’s paying his players, so should I really expect anything other than its praise of Mike Krzyzewski?)