By Dave Wischnowsky –
(CBS) Jim Phillips expected more from Northwestern this season.
I’m not sure why. But he did.
“The program is going to be better. Bill has assured me of that,” NU’s athletic director vowed last spring while announcing head basketball coach Bill Carmody would return for a 13th season despite his Wildcats having missed the NCAA Tournament yet again.
No matter Carmody’s assurances, things aren’t better in Evanston with the team 13-15 overall and caught up in an ugly five-game losing streak. In fact, they’re worse. And as a result, it’s high time for Phillips to assure Northwestern’s fan base that he actually cares about winning.
He needs to cut the cord with Bill Carmody. Then, if NU’s AD is as smart as NU’s student body, he’ll make every effort to replace him with Duke associate head coach Chris Collins, a prodigal North Shore son who would fit Evanston like a winter glove.
During his lengthy tenure at NU, Carmody has compiled a meager overall record of 191-201 (.487 winning percentage) and a Big Ten record that’s even worse at 69-145 (.322). He has led NU to four consecutive NIT appearances, admirably lifting the Wildcats from abysmal to mediocre. But he also has zero NCAA Tourney appearances, proving he’s not the guy to take Northwestern to the next level.
After all, if Carmody was, he surely would have done it by now.
To be fair, it’s been an unlucky 13th season in Evanston for Carmody. First, he lost guard Drew Crawford to a season-ending shoulder injury. And then he lost forward Jared Swopshire to a season-ending knee injury. But now, in a fierce Big Ten, he’s lost his entire team with NU falling by an average of 20.8 points per game during this current five-game skid.
The Wildcats are dead men hooping and in desperate need of new blood to get their heart pumping. If Phillips doesn’t try to infuse the 36-year-old Collins into his moribund program, I’ll never understand why.
Last year, after NU fell short of reaching the Big Dance yet again despite the talents of the school’s all-time leading scorer John Shurna, I honestly thought that Phillips would fire Carmody and pursue Collins. It only made sense. In fact, Collins reportedly wanted the job.
Collins is a North Shore native (he won Mr. Basketball at Glenbrook North in 1993). He’s a proven recruiter (he lured Jon Scheyer, another Glenbrook North star, to Duke.) He boasts a glowing basketball lineage (his dad is NBA coach Doug Collins; his longtime mentor is Mike Krzyzewski). He has vast experience operating in a rigorous academic environment (having both played and coached at Duke). And he has that Tobacco Road cachet (no small thing in hoops circles).
In sum, he appeared to be the perfect candidate to elevate Northwestern basketball but Phillips stuck with Carmody. A year later, nothing has changed.
Philadelphia 76ers head coach Doug Collins, the father of Chris and winner of more than 800 games as an NBA head coach, told the Duke Chronicle this month that, “Chris is a better coach than me.” And If that’s true, then Northwestern should fire Carmody today and offer Chris a job. If it does, the Wildcats might even end up with a notable assistant coach someday.
“I think my dream would be for Chris to become a head coach,” Doug Collins also told the Duke Chronicle. “And I don’t know if it could ever happen, because it might be too much pressure, but I would love to be his assistant.”
With both Chris and Doug Collins, Northwestern might actually make an NCAA Tournament for the first time in school history. Phillips should give it a shot. Because, after 13 years, he knows that NU isn’t ever going to make one with Carmody.
Now, he just needs to admit it.
If nothing else, Dave Wischnowsky is an Illinois boy. Raised in Bourbonnais, educated at the University of Illinois and bred on sports in the Land of Lincoln, he now resides on Chicago’s North Side, just blocks from Wrigley Field. Formerly a reporter and blogger for the Chicago Tribune, Dave currently writes a syndicated column, The Wisch List, which you can check out via his blog at http://www.wischlist.com. Follow him on Twitter @wischlist and read more of his CBS Chicago blog entries here.