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BTN's Doyle: Don't pull plug on Carmody

Northwestern WildcatsCollege SportsCollege BasketballBig TenPurdue BoilermakersMichigan WolverinesBasketball

Northwestern athletic director Jim Phillips has declined to return text messages. And a team spokesman said coach Bill Carmody is “unavailable” for interviews Monday. It certainly makes you wonder whether Carmody is being told that his time at Northwestern is coming to an end.

Most fans would not protest, given an unscientific LakeThePosts.com poll of 367 voters that has 63 percent hoping he’ll be replaced, 20 percent advocating one more year and 17 percent in favor of several more years.

But BTN analyst Tim Doyle believes Northwestern would make a huge mistake if it pulls the plug on Carmody.

“When I talk to other coaches in the business, they laugh at the thought of him even being on the hot seat,” Doyle said. “Nobody can watch a game and say: Northwestern lost to Minnesota even though (the Wildcats) have more talent. It’s not an even playing field in terms of the athletes Northwestern can recruit.”

Northwestern has the highest admissions standards, worst facilities, least amount of tradition and smallest home crowds (5,884 per game this season) in the Big Ten.

But fans are fed up with NU’s late-game struggles this season and the big picture – Carmody is 0-for-12 in reaching the NCAA tournament.

Doyle, who played under Carmody but does his best to remain neutral on the program, said late-game situations are when NU’s lack of talent and athleticism is most apparent. John Shurna led the Big Ten in scoring and Drew Crawford finished fifth but neither player creates his own shot. Crawford got blocked on last-second attempts against Illinois and at Michigan.

“Look at Kansas-Purdue yesterday,” Doyle said. “Purdue does everything right and then couldn’t make a play at the end.”

Purdue led 60-59 with 30 seconds to play. Then Lewis Jackson turned it over to Kansas’ Elijah Johnson, who flew in for a lay-up. Robbie Hummel missed a 3-pointer, and Tyshawn Taylor raced upcourt for a dunk.

“At the end of games,” Doyle said, “most coaches tell their best player: ‘Here’s a ball screen, go make a play. Find somebody or score a bucket.’ Northwestern doesn’t have players with the talent of someone like (Michigan point guard) Trey Burke.”

Northwestern finished 19-14 with an overtime loss to Minnesota in the Big Ten tournament and a dismantling by Washington in the second round of the NIT. The Wildcats have made four straight NITs after decades of futility.

Doyle also believes NCAA tournament results reflect the quality of NU’s season, given that four Big Ten teams are in the Sweet 16. The Wildcats went 8-11 (including the Big Ten tournament) with three overtime losses and three more by a combined five points.

Carmody’s detractors believe a replacement could bring in the talent to put Northwestern over the top.

If Carmody goes, his potential replacements include VCU coach Shaka Smart, Duke associate head coach Chris Collins and Oregon State coach Craig Robinson. All have Chicago ties.

Smart’s wife received a graduate degree from NU’s journalism school; Collins is a Glenbrook North alum who helped lure Jon Scheyer to Duke; and Robinson is a former assistant under Carmody whose brother-in-law is President Obama.

Potential mid-major targets could include Ohio’s John Groce, Northern Iowa’s Ben Jacobson and Valparaiso’s Bryce Drew and Bucknell’s Dave Paulsen. Paulsen won a Division III national title at Williams College under president Morton Schapiro, now NU’s president. Paulsen, a Phi Beta Kappa scholar from Williams, served as a graduate assistant at Michigan under Steve Fisher in 1989-90.

Considering football brings in the lion’s share of revenues, Northwestern does not plan to offer its new coach a salary exceeding that of Pat Fitzgerald’s approximate $1.8 million.

tgreenstein@tribune.com
Twitter @TeddyGreenstein

Copyright © 2014, The Baltimore Sun
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