It's been a full 15 hours since our collective hearts were broken in the worst way in Indianapolis, and there's been a lot of sadness/anger/depression/weeping into shoulders while hugging it out/drinking going on in that time. Understandably, almost immediately we launched into a "should Carmody stay or should he go" debate, and even though this is essentially the same debate that's been going on for the past, oh, three or so years, I feel like we now have enough information to make a judgement on what his future with the program should be. We know enough about the direction of the program, the past results, and the future potential to make a reasoned decision about Carmody.
He should stay.
Let me start by saying that two years ago I thought giving Carmody a two year extension was a dumb decision. The man had a decade to get NU hoops off the ground and the only thing that he'd managed to do was produce a halfway decent Craig Moore and Kevin Coble tag team. At the end of last year I thought again that Carmody should have been fired. We'd just had our most competent team ever (John Shurna emerging, Drew Crawford flashing greatness, Coble doing his Coble thing, Luka not looking abhorrent, and Juice Thompson being amazing. God that was a great team) and he'd only managed to squeak us into the NIT, which he did in prior years so bully for that I guess. And then there was the Coble Fiasco. Carmody hadn't done anything to warrant continuing with the program, from my perspective.
I'm glad to say that I was wrong, though. Carmody took a team that everybody predicted would be weaker and gave us two all-conference players, an all-freshmen... freshman, a surprise star walk-on, and an even better team on the whole. The fact of the matter is, if you take the last 3 years the team has been measurably better. It's not worth looking at the entirety of his 12 year tenure because frankly, Northwestern basketball was so bad for so long that it might have taken that long just to get people to not laugh when he called them. The image of NU hoops right now is not one of abject futility, but rather one of an still meh but growing program, and this can be directly attributed to Carmody.
That said, while I think he should stay, he does need to be on a leash. You can't ignore his apathetic views on recruiting. You can't ignore his inability to get production out of the 5 spot. You can't ignore 12 years of sub-.500 ball in conference completely. This year could have been the year that streak broke had a couple things fallen differently, but it wasn't so there's no use arguing about that.What's not quite so well defined is why some of those games broke the way they did. Was it pure coaching? Was it inexperience at key positions? Was it a short bench and tired players? Was the short bench and tired players a result of coaching? These are not easily answered questions. Thankfully, we don't have to answer them. The fact of the matter is each of them will be resolved with the addition of another year.
Think on this: Our key players will have a year of experience under their belts. Hearn (basically a freshman, for all intents and purposes), Sobolewski, and Cobb could all be very good and now they know the system and what it's like to play a full year. Crawford will be a senior and hopefully one of the best players in the conference. Yes we'll lose Shurna but I believe that the others can each pick up about 4-7 points per game to make up for it. In addition to that, our bench will be longer with the addition of a pretty large and theoretically talented recruiting class. All the pieces are in place for next years team to be better...
... with good coaching. That's what it all comes down to. Next year is the year where, should everyone stay healthy, coaching is really the only variable in play. Inexperience is mostly a non-factor. Bench depth and fatigue is mostly a non-factor. With the addition of Olah, hopefully, lack of size would be a non-factor. Lack of production will come from a failure on the coach's end. Which makes the metric simple on how to decide whether or not to keep Carmody. NCAA or you're fired.
This year we were impossibly close to the tournament (still could make it, depending on who you listen to, but I doubt it). I firmly believe that even nominal improvement will turn a couple of those 2-4 point loses into wins. Those wins will get us to the NCAA. If you can't make it with next year's team then you have plateaued and should be fired. If you can, you've ended an 80 year drought and should be kept on. It's that simple.
We are tantalizingly close to our goal of making the NCAA tournament, and I think next year is the year. If we don't he's out, but this year has earned him one more chance.