Bill Carmody: Classy to the end

Former Purple Wildcats publisher Chris Emma writes a guest column remembers the Bill Carmody era fondly.

Each March, the debate began. The Bill Carmody conundrum became a regular topic of conversation.

In his first years, we wondered if Carmody would lead Northwestern from its difficult past. At the end of his 13-year run, we questioned whether he could climb the program's highest mountain.

The discussion and deliberation ended on Saturday. Bill Carmody is out as Northwestern's coach.

Opinions on Carmody's coaching career vary. That is what's expected from more than a decade of mixed results. He led Northwestern from the abyss to the brink. Yet, in the end, he became a victim of the very expectations he built.

The coaching hot boards are out and the list of candidates have been formed — some, unfairly, released with Carmody still serving as head coach. Names such as Chris Collins, Dave Paulsen and Bryce Drew have been mentioned, and any of those could turn out to be excellent hires. But this column is about reflecting on the past.

Many Wildcat fans clamor for a figure like Pat Fitzgerald or Kelly Amonte Hiller. Each has set the standard for excellence in Evanston, while serving as the iconic leaders for their respective programs. Yet, Carmody resembled what Northwestern wants its basketball program to be.

There are many harsh realities to Carmody's job. He lacked resources and faced recruiting restrictions. His teams faced hard luck and unfortunate injuries. Yet, he never stopped fighting and neither did his teams. He fought through the adversity with hopes of reaching the lofty goals.

Carmody was a class act from the start. With each triumphant victory, he kept a level head and focused on the greater goal. With the heartbreaking losses—and there were many—he never made excuses. His final season, more so than ever before, he could have complained. His veteran-laden roster was ravaged by misfortune, and those pieces remaining were inexperienced and overmatched. Still, he never was going to give up.

The debate of Carmody's career is sensible. His many successes don't add up to the failures. But there is no disputing the impact of Bill Carmody, the person.

Following a flight home after a difficult loss to Penn State, Carmody spotted a student reporter walking home in the cold winter night. He pulled to the roadside and offered a ride home. When Northwestern hosted the NIT at Welsh-Ryan Arena, he bought tickets for the entire student section. It was the little things, the ones that often go unnoticed, which made Carmody a beloved figure.

He wasn't a decorated All-American and rarely if ever muttered "Go Cats!" to the public, but Bill Carmody didn't need to be anyone else.

Carmody's Northwestern career was filled with great accomplishments and many falters. That's how most will remember him. Other will remember those little gifts of kindness.

For 13 years, Bill Carmody served as a perfect ambassador for Northwestern, and did so with the utmost class.

Chris Emma has covered recruiting, college athletics and professional baseball for FOX Sports Next since 2009. Emma covered the Nebraska Cornhuskers and Northwestern Wildcats, and currently covers the Purdue Boilermakers. A Chicago native, he resides in West Lafayette.
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