The Wildcats will soon be on their way to Italy, but last week’s biggest story wasn’t NU preparing for the trip. It was an article in the Chicago Tribune which hinted that Wildcat point guard Michael “Juice” Thompson wanted to ask his former teammate Kevin Coble to return to the team, but hadn’t discussed the issue with his coach, Bill Carmody. This of course got a lot of attention from fans who seemed to decide that Carmody hadn’t addressed Coble’s departure with the team and needed to do so quickly. I disagree.
All Carmody would accomplish by addressing Coble’s departure would be to force his team to dwell on what they don’t have. The fact is Coble isn’t coming back no matter what Thompson might hope. NU needs to focus on the players they have and not a player they do not.
I agree that a healthy Kevin Coble would help Northwestern win, but it seemed pretty clear from Coble’s press release he was done. We don’t know the exact reason, but it seems to be a situation where Coble’s injury rehab hasn’t been as quick as hoped. It is entirely possible he might not even have been healthy for the season. That’s frustrating for Kevin, his teammates, his coaches, and fans. But Northwestern basketball has to start to focus elsewhere. Let’s remember Northwestern won 20 games last season without Coble. While NU probably should have won more than those 20 games, they didn’t lose many games because of Coble’s absence. They lost because they couldn’t play defense. Now, I have to say Coble might have made up for some defensive lapses by providing more points than Jeremy Nash. Still, I don’t think anyone is going to say that Coble would have been any better than Nash and the rest of last year’s team at fighting through screens when playing switching man-to-man.
So we can all agree Coble’s offensive talent will be missed, but what would Carmody talk about in addressing Coble’s departure? What would he say? I assume the players are all well aware that they’re losing an All-Big Ten player, but I don’t think having their coach remind them of that fact would be smart. If Carmody discusses how awful it is they don’t have Coble he basically tells the rest of the team they aren’t good enough to win without Coble. He also is telling at least one starter the only reason he’s a starter is because Coble left (even if that’s true it’s not a smart move for the player’s psychology). If he tells the team they don’t need Coble to win and that Coble’s a quitter that’s very disrespectful and will offend Coble’s friends on the team (yes, despite the fact Coble was something of a loner he did/does have friends on the team). Basically, the only smart move for Carmody is to address the team he has in the gym to practice and do his best to make them better. If Thompson talks to Coble and Coble gets healthy and returns, Carmody isn’t going to object, but as the coach Carmody has to deal in reality and build up the players he has.