Do I need to remind you of the current Northwestern starting lineup? Here is each player, with a brief progress report.
G- Dave Sobolewski: Improved game to start the season. Struggling, frustrated because he’s playing with an immature and unprepared group.
G- Tre Demps: Shows flashes. Can be a major offensive threat, but also seems isolated in the offense. Not sure whether he’ll ever be a fit.
G- Reggie Hearn: Former walk-on thrown into the starting role. Exceeded expectations and emerged as the leading scorer. Still not an elite player, but he’s the best on the team.
F- Kale Abrahamson: There was a chance of him redshirting before the season. He’s not ready to compete in the Big Ten.
C- Alex Olah: Scoring output 38 percent lower in conference play. Raw game and minimal stamina.
For most players listed above, the description will improve over time. But this is the current state of Northwestern basketball: there’s no one left to play. Reggie Hearn, being completely earnest, said before the Ohio State game on Feb. 14 that the team didn’t know who could suit up.
For some reason, we’re back to discussing embattled coach Bill Carmody. Many are speculating that he could lose his job. It appeared safe after the home win against Minnesota. With six straight losses, though, the “Fire Carmody” conversation is returning to the forefront of NU basketball. Neil Hayes of the Chicago Sun-Times reported earlier that athletic director Jim Phillips plans to meet with Carmody after the season. It happens every year, but we’re never sure when Carmody – in his 13th year – will leave the office for good.
Firing Carmody at this point would be a lot of things: unjust, silly, detrimental. The list goes on.
It’s fair to point out that I was seven years old when the Carmody era began. Thirteen years and no tournament appearances. I can’t imagine the pent-up frustration, and sympathize with message board users and fans who will yell at me because they’re tired of losing. They are finished with the Carmody era, and eager to move forward.
So what do I mean by unjust? Carmody sat down with Phillips last season, and was judged on the results of last season. It would be ridiculous to throw him back over the fire for past shortcomings. Phillips kept him around, hoping that this year would lead to the tournament run. Injuries prevented this from happening, but next year he can make the push.
Carmody cannot win with this team. No one can. The three recent games were disappointing. The Wildcats played horrible basketball, and showed little energy and willingness to revive this season.
Carmody had found some success with Swopshire. Once he too went down, the team could no longer keep up. I don’t blame them and I don’t blame Carmody. Injuries happen, but they shouldn’t doom the coach.
I’m not one to read into recent comments from recruits. Incoming point guard Jaren Sina told Teddy Greenstein of the Chicago Tribune that he’d be “devastated” if Carmody were fired. This is no Hoosiers-like situation, where Jimmy Chitwood promises to play if Hickory High retains coach Norman Dale. Northwestern boasts the academic reputation and promise of playing time that few Big Ten schools do. If Sina de-committed – especially given his close connection to assistant Fred Hill – I’d be shocked.
The conversation shouldn’t center on the ability to keep players. It should center on what Carmody brings to the table that no other coach does.
He inherits a motivated team familiar with the Princeton offense. Olah will have settled into the rotation. Drew Crawford could be first-team All-Big Ten. They are familiar with the system, and it would be a struggle to adjust. And they need to make the tournament. Anything less, and I’ll stop my defense of Carmody.
I almost laugh at how frequent these Chris Collins suggestions are plugged into entirely unoriginal articles. Sure, the Duke associate coach seems like a solid fit. He’s also never been a head coach. It’s your standard “grass is greener…” situation. Phillips cannot jeopardize next season by changing his coach. Now – with all of the hope – is the worst possible time.
Don’t judge Carmody based on this season or the previous twelve. Judge him on the next, when real expectations set in.
And have a heart. It's been a tough season for Carmody in all of the unexpected ways. With the reputation of his career resting on that long-awaited tournament appearance, let's give him one more chance.
Follow on Twitter: @NicholasMedline