Phillips confident in NU basketball's future

Northwestern athletic director Jim Phillips feels confident in the NU basketball program's future, but is working hard to ensure the team will continue to be competitive in the coming seasons.

Northwestern's season ended in disappointment, an unfulfilling exit in the NIT, rather than a historic first NCAA tournament berth. The weeks following the season were filled with uncertainty as Bill Carmody's job was put in question.

After numerous meetings and discussions, Carmody was given a backing from athletic director Jim Phillips, despite ire from fans. Nearly two months later, Phillips stands behind his decision.

"I didn't do it in a vacuum," Phillips said. "If I was guilty of anything in the public (opinion), I was guilty of taking too long. There was a method and certainly a strategy to it, and I wanted to get to the right place."

Since retaining Carmody, Northwestern has added incoming freshman center Alex Olah and Louisville transfer Jared Swopshire. NU also holds the verbal commitment of three-star guard Mislav Brzoja, though he still needs to be admitted.

Northwestern returns four starters to a team loaded with potential. Phillips is optimistic for what the Wildcats can accomplish this season.

"I feel really, really good about the direction," said Phillips. "I'm excited about the upcoming season, I really am. I'm excited about how the season has come together."

After Northwestern's tournament miss last season, Phillips has done his part to beef up the program's nonconference schedule. NU's 2012-13 slate includes a tough road game at Baylor, home games with Stanford and ACC/Big Ten Challenge opponent Maryland, plus an appearance in the South Padre Island Invitational.

Going forward, Phillips hopes for Northwestern to participate in off-campus games. He mentioned the United Center and Sears Centre as possibilities.

"You have to look at those areas," Phillips said. "You have to look at what we did a couple years ago, playing in Madison Square Garden in New York. Are there other opportunities to play in venues that aren't your home site but lend to that bowl atmosphere, that tournament atmosphere, postseason play atmosphere? That's what a lot of the venues do."

This year's Wildcat squad should look a bit different, featuring seven (eight if Brzoja is admitted) players eligible for their first playing time in NU purple. Phillips is eager to see the newcomers join the team, and believes a successful season is in store.

"So far so good," he said. "I want to get (the newcomers) here this sumer and allow them to get intigrated to the returning guys."

Chris Emma has covered college athletics and professional baseball for FOX Sports since 2009. He covered the Nebraska Cornhuskers for Big Red Report, and currently covers the Northwestern Wildcats and Chicago Cubs.
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