EVANSTON, Ill. — Bill Carmody will not return as Northwestern’s coach next season, ending a 13-year run in which the Wildcats raised expectations but failed to reach their first NCAA tournament.
The school announced the move on Saturday.
Carmody ranks among the most successful coaches at Northwestern with a 192-210 record. With their Princeton offense and 1-3-1 zone defense, the Wildcats usually were able to hang with more talented teams even if they came up short. But the lack of an NCAA berth ultimately did him in.
The change comes on the heels of a particularly difficult season in which the Wildcats lost their final nine games to finish 13-19 and missed the postseason after four straight NIT appearances, an unprecedented run for Northwestern.
Athletic director Jim Phillips is scheduled to address the move at a news conference Saturday evening.
Whoever replaces Carmody faces some big hurdles, between the high academic standards and facilities that lag behind the rest of the Big Ten, not to mention one big albatross.
That would be the lack of an NCAA tournament appearance for the school that hosted the first Final Four. The Wildcats came close under Carmody but just couldn’t get over that hump.
“Everyone’s goal is to get in the NCAA tournament,” Carmody said after the loss to Iowa in the first round of the Big Ten tournament. “So we haven’t been able to accomplish that. But in a hundred years we haven’t been able to accomplish that. And there’s not that much different now about what Northwestern offers than it was when Kevin O’Neill was here and (Ricky) Byrdsong and Bill Foster and all those. So everyone knows, people have talked about it, it’s sort of like an arms race. So the gap might be widening that way. But I feel like we have done a pretty good job of bringing in some pretty good players and getting better.”
Northwestern unveiled plans last fall for a complex that includes new lakefront facilities for the football team, a multipurpose indoor facility that seats 2,500, a diving well adjacent to the existing swimming pool and an outdoor practice field for varsity and club sports along with intramurals. New locker rooms, weight rooms, sports medicine facilities, meeting rooms and offices are also part of the plan, along with a new parking structure.
But there are no concrete plans to renovate or rebuild Welsh-Ryan Arena.
“It’s sort of like an arms race,” Carmody said after the season-ending loss. “So the gap might be widening that way. But I feel like we have done a pretty good job of bringing in some pretty good players and getting better.”
Northwestern posted its two winningest seasons under Carmody, going 20-14 in 2009-10 and 2010-11, and earned their first national ranking in 41 years when they cracked the AP poll at No. 25 in December 2009.
There was heavy speculation that Carmody would be fired a year ago, but athletic director Jim Phillips decided not to make a change. He finally pulled the trigger after a season in which the Wildcats were short-handed the entire way.
Guard JerShon Cobb was suspended for his junior season for violating team policy, a major blow considering he started 33 games his first two years, and the big hits kept coming.
Forward Drew Crawford had season-ending surgery in December to repair a torn labrum in his right shoulder, leaving the Wildcats without their second-leading scorer. The Wildcats saw another key player go down when Jared Swopshire (9.7 points per game) suffered a season-ending injury to his right knee in a loss at Iowa on Feb. 9 that started their losing streak.
“The talent level is measurably better,” Carmody said. “I thought it was going along pretty nicely and then just this year it’s sort of, when a couple players went down it changed everything, basically playing with all guards and freshmen. So it got harder for our guys.”