Sunday, March 24, 2013

Northwestern Basketball Coaching Search

They're all gathered from 'round the globe, in their purple regalia and their academic hats and their business-casual khakis.  The Northwestern faithful are huddled together at the Rebeca Crown Center waiting for the signs of a decision: black smoke means no decision has been made, purple smoke means a new coach, red smoke means they've found an occasion to use that smoke machine that the University Police seized from the raid on an off-campus Dillo Day party, and white smoke indicates an overextended, overwrought, and clumsy comparison between hiring a new basketball coach and picking a pope.
In my defense, how often do you get to make topical Pope Smoke 
references?  Unless we can convince Hollywood to get a lot more 
secretive and ostentatious about how they choose the new host of 
Family Feud.

Bill Carmody, who served for thirteen years as the head coach of Northwestern, was fired after a depleted, injury-riddled squad did what every single Northwestern did in the history of the program and missed the NCAA tournament.  For thirteen years, Carmody's teams have tormented Big Ten opponents with barrages of three pointers, backdoor layups, and relentless Balkan trashtalk.  Now, the 'Cats will have to find a new identity that will hopefully lead them to the promised land, when the name "Northwestern" appears on Selection Sunday without that ugly, disappointing State appendage-- I'm convinced that Northwestern State University is a guy with a telephone in an empty office in Natchitoches, Louisiana that finds a dozen dudes to put into the tournament as an ongoing prank on Northwestern's futile morass of basketball ineptitude.


It has been so long between BYCTOM posts that there is an unpublished draft pondering whether or not to fire Carmody.  And I had come down on it as a mistake.  This has nothing to do with basketball and everything to do with a concern about unbalancing the humors in Northwestern's coaching.  Bill Carmody served as a crucial balance to Pat Fitzgerald.  Carmody complemented Fitz's square-jawed,  crew-cut, fist-pump enthusiasm with his dour, sarcastic, miserablist sideline demeanor.  Fitz coaches the football team like it's a violent Boy Scout jamboree; Carmody comported himself like the basketball version of Sisyphus, forever trying to push a rock from the former Yugoslavia up the hill of the Big Ten basketball juggernaut.  What would happen if Northwestern hires another young, enthusiastic coach?  I don't want to alarm anyone, but I've done the research and it's entirely possible that the entire campus can be seized by a rash of spontaneous butt bumps, inability to function at any rate other than one game at a time, and the fist pumps, I can't even imagine the fist pumps.
A thoroughly scientific rendering of the Fitz/Carmody dynamic, 
which now may be seriously compromised

As much as Bill Carmody's teams have frustrated NU fans, they also reached unprecedented heights.  Even in dismal years, they provided memorable moments with his motley crew of overlooked locals and international findings.  Who can forget when Northwestern downed Iowa 40-39 in what was later prosecuted in the International Basketball Court as a crime against the sport, or that time the Wildcats trampled upon the hopes and dreams of Rick Rickert in the Big Ten Tournament, which sort of seemed like a big deal at the time for some reason?  Carmody led the 'Cats to numerous wins in dubious preseason tournaments held in unused Kumite arenas and three NITs, the only tournament that pauses for media timeouts and to allow shattered NCAA Tournament bubble teams to weep in the arms  of loved ones.  
A college basketball coach accepts an NIT bid

That progress was the essential Bill Carmody conundrum.  Fans braying for his head on a stick could seem unreasonably impatient with a historically woeful program, but it was also possible to wonder whether Carmody could ever get the 'Cats over the hump.  There is no sense in belaboring the debate.  Northwestern's administration has made its decision.  A new coach gets to stride into Welsh-Ryan arena and announce that he will be the one to break through the Tourney barrier, to compete in the Big Ten, and to be astonished that yes, that is actually where Northwestern plays its college basketball games.


On a less depressing note, the 2013 Gator Bowl Champion Northwestern Wildcats return to the field to prepare for a season with dreams of Indianapolis in their eyes.  They'll be playing in the newly-named "West" division with all of the LEGENDS as well as Tim Beckman's Northwestern-hating Illinois team and one of Indiana or Purdue.  While many people are dancing upon the noble graves of the LEGENDS and LEADERS division names and the return to sane, cardinal direction-based titles, I'm extremely concerned.  Jim Delany has been defeated, which portends a new round of megalomaniacal pronouncements.  I expect that a cape-wearing Delany will mandate that Big Ten coaches stalk the sideline in full academic regalia in order to emphasize the conference's academic credentials, he will start replacing all positive adjectives in official press conferences with the words "legendary" or "leaderous," and he will purchase hour-long blocks of late-night programming on rival conferences' television networks that consist of him cackling on a golden throne and end with ominous threats of Big Ten expansion.
Scene from"You're Next, Missouri," set to air from 2-3 
AM on the SEC Network

Northwestern has struck a deal to make a return to Wrigley Field after the Cubs finish renovations.  The future Wrigley games will utterly fail if the renovations allow the full use of all available endzones.  I refuse to count any touchdown that is scored in the designated "bad endzone," and any player who breaks the plane should be followed around by a group of robed malcontents who will pester him constantly with spooky endzone chants for the duration of the season.  I've made my feelings clear to Northwestern and Cubs management by sending a literary letter that metaphorically describes the forbidden endzone as the former Soviet Union and scoring in it as taking my brain waves and using them to power a 30-foot mechanized Bukharin, so I'm sure they are taking the suggestions very seriously.


As the nation full of college sports fans watch the empty, hollow, spectacle of March Madness, I'll be defiantly watching my reel-to-reel tapes of Tavaras Hardy, Jitim Young, Vedran Vukusic, Mohammed Hachad, Juice Thompson, John Shurna, and all of the rest of the Carmody-era Wildcats and pondering the future.  Unfortunately, the athletic department has refused to issue vague riddles and rhymes that will gradually reveal the identity of the new basketball coach, so there's nothing to do but sit tight and wait.  I look forward to cheering for Carmody wherever he ends up next, although I'd prefer not to see Northwestern victimized by backdoor cuts and the 1-3-1 zone defense anytime soon.  More importantly, I look forward to a basketball season less marred by suspensions and injuries that will see Northwestern return to the postseason, even if its not the glory of the Dance.  Perhaps we'll all meet back here next march, filled with insincere NIT braggadocio, ill thoughts about the Tulsa Golden Hurricane, and a new coach ready to launch Northwestern to the stratosphere of being the 68th-best basketball team in the nation.   


Anonymous said...

I notice you don't mention Kevin Coble in your Carmody-era round-up. Grudge?

BYCTOM said...

Nope, that was an accidental omission. I don't have anything against the player I spent several years attempting to refer to as The Mantis with zero success.

PFOS said...

That is a wonderful essay. Forgive me for having taken six weeks to get around to reading it, but I have been on a prolonged emotional roller coaster ride in the aftermath of Bill Carmody's termination and the hiring of...the other guy, and the great victory of the football spring game and the crushing WLax defeat to Florida and now the resurgence and capture of the whatever WLax conference title. When does the new football stadium open?

BYCTOM said...