Friday, November 28, 2008

The Butler Blame Game

After few days of thought and turkey I’ve decided to devote this post to addressing the aftermath of the loss to Butler. I was pretty down about how the 'Cats lost and was upset at Bill Carmody and several veteran players who I thought played extremely soft. Reading the message boards at and speaking with others I sensed I wasn’t the only one feeling this frustration. The question, though, was who to blame. Most angry ‘Cat backers focused their wrath on Bill Carmody, who as head coach is ultimately responsible for what happened on Wednesday night. A smaller minority of the NU faithful argued that Bill Carmody didn’t force NU to commit 17 turnovers and miss at least four easy second half layups. Below, I offer two arguments. The first blames Carmody for the loss. The second absolves him. Which is right? I’ll let you make the decision.

The Loss is Carmody’s Fault

As the head coach Bill Carmody is responsible for the wins and losses of the Northwestern Men’s Basketball Program, more than that, though, his coaching on Wednesday night was abysmal. I’ve seen lot of bad coaching out of Carmody, but this was some of the worst. With a chance to pull of a great road win that could eventually translate directly into a post-season berth, Carmody seemed to panic. All season Carmody has flawlessly managed to rotate 9 or 10 players and kept his starters fresh. In the past, Carmody only played 5 or 6 guys and his team’s collapsed at the end of the game. This was exactly what we saw Wednesday night. Where was Jeff Ryan in the second half? Where was Kyle Rowley? Shurna? Capocci? Sterling Williams? He could have helped when Thompson went turnover crazy at the end of the game. Someone could have at least spelled the exhausted trio of Ivan Peljusic, Craig Moore, and Kevin Coble. Sure, those guys were playing well, but they didn’t play well at the end of the game. Probably because they were wiped. Peljusic especially looked bad. Matt Howard completely overpowered him for every key rebound down the stretch. Also, how about an adjustment? Butler clearly changed their defensive strategy. Northwestern did not seem to change their offensive strategy. Sadly, we’ve seen this many times before. For a guy regarded as the one of the top 5 offensive coaches in the country Carmody’s teams sure struggle to score as soon as the other team makes a change to their game plan. Kind of reminds of another so-called genius coach, the guy coaching football at Notre Dame.

The Loss is Not Carmody’s Fault

How can you blame this loss on Carmody? He didn’t turn the ball over or miss a shot. His players were incredibly soft and that’s not Carmody’s fault. He clearly wanted them to be intense, he was visibly yelling at Coble after one of Kevin’s many poor defensive efforts. If Coble isn’t tough and Michael Thompson can’t make a simple pass without getting it picked off that’s not on the coach. Also, as far as adjustments Carmody stated on WGN’s post game that he gave Thompson specific instructions on how to beat Butler’s pressure. I seriously doubt he was lying. The fact is the player didn’t do what he was coached to do. Sadly, sometimes 20-year old kids don’t follow instructions. This is an issue which will get resolved in practice I’m sure, but there isn’t a lot the coach can do during the game except sit the player down. Now, that would be fine, but really do you want Sterling Williams on the court during the clutch? Not if you saw end of the Ohio State game in 2006 or the Big Ten Tournament last year. You can also argue Carmody should have subbed for Coble, but Shurna was terrible when he played and Kyle Rowley would have had serious trouble guarding Butler’s athletes on the perimeter. Bottom line, Carmody put trust in two veteran players who didn’t perform. That’s not his fault. Those players were given instructions which would have allowed them to win if they executed those instructions correctly. Next time I’m sure they will and everybody will call Carmody a genius. That’s the bottom line of coaching—you’re well liked if you win. If the ‘Cats win three in a row this week all the people blaming Carmody for Wednesday’s loss will be heaping praise on him.

The Question: So what do you think? Is Carmody to blame for the loss? Post a comment and let your opinion be heard.

Bottom Line: While as fans we can have this type of discussion, I hope the team moves past this game quickly. It was one game that should not make or break the season. I hope the team had a good day off yesterday and is now getting ready for UC-Riverside and Florida State.

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