Should Northwestern Head Coach Bill Carmody Be on the Hot Seat?Posted by WCarey on December 22nd, 2012
Walker Carey is an RTC correspondent. He filed this report after Friday evening’s game between Stanford and Northwestern.
Eleven of the current Big Ten schools have appeared in the NCAA Tournament. The only school from the conference that has not appeared in the Big Dance is Northwestern. The history of Wildcats basketball is marred with futility. The team has not won a Big Ten title since 1933 and has consistently finished in the bottom half of the league ever since – the Wildcats have not finished higher than fourth place since 1968. In its home at Welsh-Ryan Arena in Evanston, Illinois, Northwestern has a lone banner honoring its seven National Invitational Tournament appearances amidst many other banners honoring NCAA Tournament appearances in other sports.
In an attempt to change the course of its basketball history, Northwestern hired Bill Carmody in April 2000 to replace Kevin O’Neill. Carmody came to the Wildcats following a highly successful four-year stint as the head coach at Princeton. While at Princeton, Carmody led the Tigers to NCAA Tournament appearances during his first two seasons and NIT appearances in his third and fourth seasons. Since arriving in Evanston, Carmody has found out that winning consistently in the Big Ten is much harder than it was in the Ivy League. Now in his 13th season, Carmody’s overall record with the Wildcats is just 187-192, while his Big Ten mark is a lackluster 66-136. The best Carmody has ever finished in the Big Ten was in a fifth-place tie in the 2003-04 season – a season where the Wildcats still finished 14-15 overall and out of the postseason.
Despite the lack of success overall and obvious missteps in Big Ten play, Carmody’s squads have accounted for four of the program’s seven NIT appearances – those four appearances have come in the last four seasons. In late 2009, the Wildcats appeared at No. 25 in the Associated Press poll marking the first time the school had been ranked since 1969. Carmody has also had much more success than any of his predecessors recruiting in the state of Illinois. Over the past several years, the veteran coach has secured the services of Illinois natives and future Wildcat standouts Michael Thompson, John Shurna, Drew Crawford and Dave Sobolewski.
Despite all of the good things Carmody has brought to Northwestern basketball, pundits have been questioning his job status for several seasons now. A vast majority of these arguments revolve around the fact that Northwestern still has never appeared in an NCAA Tournament. Prior to the start of this season, questions regarding Carmody’s status on the hot seat became more prevalent than ever. Many believed that if Northwestern did not make the field of 68 this season then it would be time for the administration to take action and make a coaching change.
However, what the Bill Carmody hot seat advocates failed to consider was just how stacked the Big Ten is this season. Entering this week, the conference had four teams in the top 10 and six in the top 25. At full strength, Northwestern will need a great deal of fortune to compile a winning record in that gauntlet of a conference. Yet, Northwestern is nowhere near that, as senior standout guard Drew Crawford was lost for the season last week after undergoing surgery to repair a torn labrum in his right shoulder. So what was an already daunting Big Ten schedule became even more challenging. It is safe to assume that it would take something very unexpected for the Wildcats to come out of Big Ten play with the NCAA Tournament in their sights.
The whispers regarding Bill Carmody’s job status will undoubtedly continue until he finally leads Northwestern to the NCAA Tournament. While it is unknown whether that day will ever come, it would be wise to consider just how much Carmody has done for the program and how he has led it to plateaus that were previously unreachable. Coaching changes are often understandable, but in the case of Carmody, a change could underscore all that the man has accomplished for an otherwise dormant program.