WNUR Sports Director Jim Sannes (@JimSannes) explains why the Northwestern Wildcats should not fire head basketball coach Bill Carmody after a disappointing season.Dr. Jim Phillips, if you are reading this, a) why? b) I love you c) don’t fire Bill Carmody. This comes after a recent Sippin’ on Purple poll in which 56% of fans said they believe Carmody should be fired. I am not one of them. When we had a similar discussion last year about this same topic, I was very wish-washy about my stance. However, with the mind-numbingly atrocious luck Northwestern has had this year and the talent they have lined up for next year, it is in the team’s best interest to bring him back. Carmody is not the man to blame for six straight losses and eight of the last nine. Here’s why Phillips needs to bring the tieless wonder back.
87.1 minutes, 32.9 points, 13.1 rebounds, 3.34 steals: The combined per-game production of Drew Crawford, JerShon Cobb and Jared Swopshire.
As a note, these are the stats for Crawford and Cobb last year and Swopshire this year. Cobb’s numbers assuredly would have increased as he dealt with injuries nearly all of last year and came off the bench for 13 of the 21 games he played. This number does not include the loss of Sanjay Lumpkin who is redshirting this year after various injuries and mono. It would have been hard enough to contend this year after losing a great like John Shurna, but when you add together these additional losses, it’s impossible.
You could argue that the ‘Cats were sunk even when they had Swopshire, but they were still a competitive team with him on the court. At the time of Swop’s injury, the ‘Cats were 13-10 (4-5 in conference) and trailed Iowa 39-35. They would go on to lose that game 71-57. Since Swopshire’s injury (including the final 13 minutes of that Iowa game), the ‘Cats have been outscored 369-259. This was one game after Carmody’s squad pummeled Purdue 75-60 and just over two weeks after they took down No. 12/14 Minnesota 55-48. The hopes were extremely slim, but they were there. No amount of coaching can overcome those big losses.
Reggie Hearn and Dave Sobolewski have both increased their scoring outputs from last year (Hearn by 85% and Sobolewski by 23%), so they have done their part in this category. However, the next highest active scorer is Tre Demps at 7.7 points per game. He is followed by Alex Olah (5.8) and Kale Abrahamson (4.7). When three of your five highest scorers are freshmen, making the NCAA tournament is probably the least of your worries in the present. As for the rebounding, Hearn is the only one averaging more than four rebounds per game. It’s hard out here for a ‘Cat.
Next year is a different story. The roster will regain Crawford and Cobb and then add recruits Jaren Sina and Nate Taphorn. Then give an extra off-season of work for Sobolewski and the younger players. Although they’ll be losing Hearn (my personal favorite player) and Alex Marcotullio, this team should be set up for another run at the tourney. Carmody assembled this team. Give the man a shot to take this team where it has never been before.
2: If Northwestern loses out and wins 13 games this season, that will be more games than they won in all but two of the 16 seasons prior to Carmody’s arrival.
In those 16 seasons, Northwestern won double-digit games three times (15 in 1993-94, 10 in 1997-98, 15 in 1998-99). In Carmody’s 13 seasons here, he has done that 12 times. He has taken a program that was about as lowly as possible and made it a team that is consistently in the discussion for the NCAA tournament.
Many say that the argument for getting rid of Carmody is that they are tired of “settling for mediocrity.” If the last three years are mediocre, then what were the years before he got here?
Another argument is that the program has plateaued under Carmody. In the history of Northwestern basketball, the team has won 19 or more games three times. Those were the three seasons prior to this one. Five of the six winningest seasons in program history have come under Carmody’s watch. If your plateau as a coach takes a team to its highest heights since the 1930’s, you do not deserve to lose your job because your entire roster gets injured or suspended.
In order for me to think that Carmody deserves the boot, it would need to be obvious that players had given up on him. That is not the case at all. While the results may not be encouraging, the way the ‘Cats played in both Ohio State games shows that they still care and want to win. This team has not given up on Carmody; neither should we.