This post doesn’t isn’t meant to imply I’m writing off this season or Bill Carmody’s tenure as head coach just yet, but if I were Northwestern’s athletic director, I would make list of potential head coaching candidates and keep it in my desk drawer in case I needed it at the end of the year (or next year which is more likely because next year HAS to be NCAAs or bust for Carmody with no excuses about injuries or Kevin Coble caring more about himself than his team or whatever). Some have suggested NU make an in-season change now, but I’m not a fan of those moves because I think they put the interim coach and potentially the school in a no win situation. Plus, I could still see Carmody getting this mess back on track for an 8-10 finish and I'd give him a big thumbs up for that. But the fact is that Northwestern has only one game left on their schedule I’d say they should win. That’s Thursday at home against Iowa. After Sunday’s game at Penn State, I’m not even confident in winning that contest. It would take multiple upsets for NU to match last year’s 7-11 Big Ten record and most likely NU will be 5-13 or 6-12. Those records likely put NU in 10th place. If that happens it'll be a tough sell to keep Carmody around.
Here’s what I would consider a somewhat realistic list of potential candidates. Some of these are reaches, but others are not. My number one criterion is previous heading coaching experience. I’d also prefer someone people have heard of before because at this point I think interest in NU basketball is so low that if Bill Carmody were replaced by some faceless assistant it would be a stretch to expect more than 2,000 at Welsh-Ryan next year for non-conferences games. I guess I should also mention that these are, obviously, guys that I like and aren’t necessarily going to be huge names or names that most people would want.
1) Kevin Stallings – Current Head Coach at Vanderbilt – It would take a huge investment of money to get Stallings to leave Vandy. I’d guess in the neighborhood of $2 million a year. Realistically, that’s probably not money Northwestern would be willing to spend on men’s basketball, but if NU wants to win basketball games I think Stallings is the first (and maybe last) name that should be on the list. He’s won at Vandy by recruiting not only all over the U.S., but all over the world (he’s current best player is English and one past star was Australian) and he’s got Big Ten roots with Gene Keady at Purdue as well as in-state experience as the head coach at Illinois State.
2) Brad Soderberg – Former Wisconsin and St. Louis U. Head Coach – Soderberg is currently coaching at the NAIA level after the odd end to his career to SLU. He has posted 20 win seasons at the NAIA, Division III, Division II, and Division I levels. His career record coming into this year was 234-157. I like him not only because he’s always won and he’d be a cheap hire (still working on the NU budget), but because he was taught by one of my coaching heroes, former Wisconsin coach Dick Bennett. If I thought Bennett would come out of retirement he’d top this list, but right now I’d settle for a guy who played for him and coached under him. Bennett (with Soderberg) took a team with Kirk Penny, Mark Vershaw, and Mike Kelly as his best players to the Final Four. That’s amazing, but he did it be stressing defense, rebounding, and hustle plays. After what we’ve seen of Northwestern this past year, wouldn’t seeing that be refreshing. Plus, I’m pretty sure next year’s Northwestern team isn’t that much less talented than that 2000 Wisconsin team.
3) Ben Jacobson – Current Head Coach Northern Iowa – NIU got Jacobson to stick around after their great run in the NCAAs last season and now that NIU has stepped back a bit he’s no longer a “hot” name in coaching. However, he’s still a darn good coach and might be an easier hire now that he isn’t coming off a remarkable run. He’s known as an “offensive genius” which might not thrill some people who have heard this one too many times about Carmody, but the difference is with Jacobson it’s because of the fact his teams have an insane number of plays they can call at any time instead of an offense which forces decisions to be made on the fly based on reads and such. That might help a young point guard
4) Lon Kruger – Current Head Coach UNLV – This's another one that might take some money, especially because Kruger said he wanted to end his career at UNLV a couple year back. Now, though, some of the heavy Rebel donors are upset at the team’s recent struggles and Kruger’s rugged style of play. In other words, Kruger still has his teams playing Big Ten type basketball in a city that wants the Runnin’ Rebs of old to show up. At Illinois Kruger won with less talent than Bill Self or Bruce Weber and that speaks well of him.
5) Jeff Jones – Current Head Coach American U. – We saw Coach Jones in Evanston earlier this year with his American Eagles team. Jones was also once the head coaching at the University of Virginia for eight years. That means he’s got high level experience and while UVA isn’t Northwestern, it’s not exactly Memphis when it comes to admission standards. I also like the fact that Jones is 306-245 as a head coach with seven league regular season or tournament titles.
6) Bobby Knight – Former Indiana and Texas Tech Head Coach – Okay, this name is on the list mostly because I found the picture at the top of this post and wanted an excuse to use it, but I have to admit I’d probably not get upset if NU hired Coach Knight. Truthfully, I think Bobby Knight is enjoying retirement and his work at ESPN and doubt he’d want to coach again at 70 years old. It might be interesting though for him to come in and mentor a young coach such as Tavaras Hardy for a couple years. I mean Coach Knight did win more than 800 games and virtually all of his assistants who became head coaches have been successful which means he knows how to mentor young guys. I guess that means more realistically, I wouldn’t mind someone from the Bob Knight coaching tree such as his son Pat Knight or former Indiana Interim Head Coach Dan Dakich.