Wednesday, January 28, 2009

Two Straight Posts with Maryland in the Title

Among people I know, I’m usually the last person to say that a coach should leave a team. I thought people who wanted to see Bruce Weber fired after last season were crazy, and while Billy Gillispie has certainly earned himself less lee-way at Kentucky with some bad losses over the last few years, he certainly deserves a few more seasons to see what he can do. Those cases aren’t really close. But by far the most fascinating case is Maryland’s Gary Williams. I highly recommend this article discussing the good, bad, and ugly that Gary Williams has brought to Maryland. I think the 60-20 deficit was the tipping point for me.

And once I lose faith in a head coach, it is pretty much over. There was really no joy in Dan Monson taking the Gophers to the NCAA tournament late in his tenure, because I had already given up on him as a coach. Similarly, while part of me wants to get excited about this year’s Northwestern team that beat Michigan St., Florida St., Minnesota, and DePaul, the reality is that I’ve already given up on Bill Carmody. You can’t win a TOTAL of 3 Big Ten games over two seasons with a team comprised of all players you recruited; you can’t have 8 non-NCAA tournament seasons in a BCS league; you can’t do that and still keep my respect.

That’s why, despite Northwestern having the best chance to beat Indiana in decades, despite Indiana having nothing to play for, I can’t in good conscience root for the Wildcats tonight.

My Dream for Northwestern

Even if Carmody was providing no benefit in Evanston, at one time you could argue that he was providing a benefit to the rest of the Big Ten. Not only was Northwestern good for an easy victory, the modified Princeton offense was unique enough that it provided good practice for other Big Ten teams that might face Herb Sendek or John Beilein in the NCAA tournament.

But now that John Beilein is coaching in the Big Ten, there seems to be a lot less value in playing a Bill Carmody led team. The Princeton offense is not unique, the occasional 1-3-1 zone defense is not unique, and the depressingly slow tempo is certainly not unique. Basically, I see no real advantage to either Northwestern or the rest of the Big Ten for Northwestern to keep Carmody as head coach.

I say this realizing all the inherent disadvantages in coaching at Northwestern. The team has a terrible stadium, Chicago is easy for outside coaches to steal recruits from, and most importantly, the Wildcats have never reached the NCAA tournament. So believe me, I gave Bill Carmody the benefit of the doubt. But at a certain point, even if the Northwestern job is the kiss-of-death, I believe you need to take a chance and try someone new.

My recommendation would be for Northwestern to hire a Seven Seconds or Less (SSOL) coach willing to risk losing a few years at high octane in order to build something. I’m not sure who the best fit would be. Would Mike D’Antoni assistant Phil Weber or VMI head coach Duggar Baucom be appropriate? The consistently slow-paced Big Ten could really use a fast paced team willing to shoot quickly, regardless of the consequences.

Right now the Big Ten has a few coaches, (Tom Izzo, Thad Matta, Tubby Smith) who would play at a faster tempo, but they teach their teams to play smart basketball and only push it when appropriate. But how fun would it be to see a Big Ten team just decide to go crazy regardless of the consequences?

Part 2 of my plan would be for Northwestern to find a way to play their home games at the United Center. Yes, the attendance would be terrible at first, but the team could always bus the students down to the United Center. And like many Big East teams using a similar strategy, the United Center would definitely be a marketing tool for recruits. More importantly, walk-up traffic of people coming in to see the SSOL offense would definitely drive enthusiasm for the team.

I have to believe that some combination of the SSOL and the United Center would create buzz for Northwestern, and maybe, just maybe, the BCS team that has never made the NCAA tournament could break through.