Jim Phillips spoke Saturday evening about his decision to fire Bill Carmody, and it was clear he did so with a heavy heart.
Normally, Phillips is a firey, excited guy about Northwestern and what it can do as a program. He still had that passion, speaking about how he expects better from NU and thinks there are better things for the program, but the excitability wasn't there on what's clearly been an emotional day for the athletic director making his first major firing. Phillips has tons of respect for Carmody, and that was clear from what he had to say and his tone, but he repeated over and over again that Carmody's time has come.
Quotes and highlights from the presser:
Phillips: "Northwestern will always be grateful to Bill and his family… but the time has come for a change."— Inside Northwestern (@insidenu) March 16, 2013
- "We needed a different voice, a new leader, a change in order to ultimately accomplish our goals"
"Bill has elevated our program from where he came to where it has been now. But there is a better place for this program. I believe that intellectually and emotionally"
- The biggest thing we've heard on the rationale for firing Carmody: he had one year left on his contract. Felt he didn't merit an extension, and felt a coach with one year left on his contract was a sitting duck. Thus, the axe.
- Phillips repeatedly emphasized that this decision wasn't based on the past year, but was a decision based on Carmody's entire 13-year tenure. He did factor in the major injuries this season when making the decision.
- He feels the facilities talk is overplayed - thinks NU has a lot of benefits, location, academics, etc. that should make it a destination for a coach. This is... worrisome, since many coaches will feel the opposite.
- He somewhat emphatically said that "athletic success has to matter," which is an awesome quote. He said he wants the team to compete for Big Ten titles and national titles like in every other sport. He didn't mention the NCAA Tournament drought, that I remember.
- On Drew Crawford, a somewhat harrowing statement: "I hope he'll be a catalyst of keeping this group together. I think the world of Drew. But at the end I want to do whatever is best for Drew. I hope that's remaining at Northwestern, but that's something that him and his family will decided." That's... that's not particularly optimistic for him coming back.
- Talked to the players: " It was an emotional meeting. I don't just say this, but I love those kids. I think they recognize what is right in college basketball, what are they supposed to do, how are they supposed to process that. I took them through the process, the rationale, and I want them to be involved. We'll meet again tomorrow morning and we'll have a chance to talk about all of that."
- On future recruits: He's made contact them, and will talk to them tonight. He said he hopes they chose NU for a variety of reasons.
- Phillips said there's no predetermined timeline for the search, and mentioned that the NCAA Tournament will be a factor. "I won't show up Monday with a coach."
- He's hired the Parker Executive Search firm, which has already dealt with hiring Illinois, Iowa and Nebraska's coaches. He feels they have a handle on B1G coaching, and thinks they'll take into account Northwestern and the fit they need.
- He compared the "fit" issue to recruiting: guys will need to understand the program's rigorous standards, emphasis on compliance, etc. "We need to get to the right pool that will fit us." He said nobody, including the current staff, has been ruled out.
- The decision was made yesterday, although "the review didn't start yesterday" or after the BTT loss. He met with Carmody this morning after sleeping on it. He reacted "with class, like he always did. He listened. I tried to take him through a few things, how thankful I was and for what he did to Northwestern, how appreciative we all are and for his dedication over 13 years, and his rationale for the change and he deserved that, and that I would do anything for him as he transitioned to othe next chapter in his life, and I mean that, and we shook hands and he departed as he always did."
"In the end, it is about hope, it is about working better towards a better destination."
"It was a tough decision... Bill's a terrific person, and he did a terrific job here. But there's a better destination (for Northwestern). Certainly there's some inherent risk in that, but it was time for a change."
- "In the end, it is about hope, it is about working better towards a better destination. Why does the past have to dictate our future? Certainly you want to learn from what's occurred, but we have a opportunity for someone. This is a great place, but it's got to be the right fit, and we're going to do our best to hire the very best fit for Northwestern basketball at this time.
I'm cautiously optimistic right now. Phillips seems to really understand the gravity of the move he made, and seems genuinely hopeful - yet not unrealistic - about the future of the program, and there being something better there.