After a promising start to the season with many deeming this ‘the year' for the ‘Cats, things have fallen apart quickly. Northwestern is now 14-10, and 4-9 in Big Ten play. To add to that pain, the Wildcats were so close in a few of those games, for example, Michigan State (twice), Ohio State, and Purdue.
Facing a long-shot scenario of winning the Big Ten tournament or gaining an NIT berth, Wildcat faithful are calling for head coach Bill Carmody to be fired.
Is there any chance of that happening this season? No.
On January 11th, Carmody was given a multi-year extension. Since that extension, the ‘Cats are 4-6.
Now in his 11th season with the Wildcats, Carmody is the second-longest tenured head coach in the Big Ten, standing only behind Wisconsin's Bo Ryan. The first eight seasons of the Carmody era went off with a tumultuous start, with a 103-135 record, including 1-17 in the Big Ten during the 2007-08 season. In his career at Northwestern, Carmody owns a 154-173 record.
However, if you're going to judge Carmody by his record, it's unfair to look past the steady improvements the program has seen.
The Wildcats are 51-38 since the start of the 2008 season, which has been the beginning of a new era for Northwestern basketball. The program has seen two-consecutive postseason appearances, with a third appearance likely after this season. More importantly for the program's future, Carmody is learning how to recruit to Northwestern.
That started with a player like Michael Thompson for the start of the 2007 season, a player who has solidified his spot in Northwestern basketball history. The following season saw the start of John Shurna at Northwestern, a player who is likely to break many records when his time in Evanston is complete.
More recently, Carmody has been able to bring in some very talented players like Jershon Cobb, who has shown his potential as a freshman, starting at guard for the entire season. The ‘Cats are prepared to bring in three more talented prospects, including Benet Academy standout point guard Dave Sobolewski.
The reality is, recruiting to an institution with great academic prestige like Northwestern is a great challenge, but Carmody is the right guy to do it. Prior to his time at Northwestern, Carmody led Ivy League Princeton to four-consecutive postseason appearances, including two NCAA tournament appearances.
The program is heading in the right direction under Bill Carmody's leadership. The Wildcats have seen some tough breaks during this season. Junior forward John Shurna was on pace to be the Big Ten's leading scorer during non-conference play, when an ankle injury, concussion, and a re-aggravation of that ankle injury derailed any hopes of that happening.
Moral victories mean nothing, but the reality is the Wildcats were so close to a completely different season.
The blame has to come down on someone for not getting the job done during those close games, and that blame will naturally fall on the head coach. That simply comes with the territory of being a head coach in a major college basketball program.
However, it's unfair to judge Bill Carmody's tenure at Northwestern by just this season, or even by his whole career with the ‘Cats. Carmody was kept as the head coach after some struggles during his first eight seasons, because the university had faith in him. Whether that was a good decision or not doesn't matter now, because that's in the past.
Northwestern has solidified Bill Carmody as their head coach, because they believe that he has the program heading in the right direction. While this season's record may not support that, Wildcat fans have seen how good their basketball program can be.
This season may not end with an NCAA tournament appearance as it easily could've but it was a microcosm that this program is on the right path for the future. In the 2011-12 season, Northwestern will return a talented group, led by a healthy John Shurna. In addition, the ‘Cats will welcome three recruits with great potential, Dave Sobolewski (Lisle, IL), Mike Turner (Chicago, IL), and Tre Demps (San Antonio, TX).
The future is bright for the Northwestern Wildcats.
While you judge Bill Carmody for his disappoint results this season and poor overall record, remind yourself how far this program has come. Bill Carmody has Northwestern on track.