19 March 2013

On Jim Phillips



I was wrong.

This time last year I wrote Jim Phillips showed “his chops” when he ignored the squeaky wheels for change and retained Bill Carmody for the 2012-13 season.  No.  In retrospect I can now see that I was beguiled by a man who is more interested in furthering his own future than in doing what he believes is in the best interest of Northwestern athletics.

Before all you Jim Phillips acolytes fire up the venomous emails about shooting messengers with grinding axes and what not please re-read the previous sentence for two keys words.  I even italicized them for you overzealous vigilantes who may be lacking in the reading comprehension department.

He believes.  On March 16, 2013 Jim Phillips fired Coach Carmody.  Why?  Some have suggested ulterior motives, but we are not cynical enough to think the decision was anything other than because he believes he can hire a better man for the job. 

This isn’t about whether he is right or wrong in that opinion.  My hubris would need to be at least the size of Jim Phillips’ to say the dude is flat out wrong for firing Carmody.  I am a big enough person to admit that there is a chance--as small as it may be--that Phillips is right in his judgment.

To get back on track the point of this blog post is to point out what these events say about the makeup of one Dr Phillips.  To me I can’t help but conclude that Dr Jim Phillips is a charlatan who has beguiled me and most NU alums into thinking he’s after their school’s best interests when it is first and foremost about Jim Phillips and his career and, oh yeah, he’ll try to do what's good for his employer when the situation allows.  Hell he has even hoodwinked his peers since I saw today that he is among five finalists for AD of the year.  With that kind of success we can only expect more of the same from Dr Jim until there are enough people paying attention to him and his history.

Am I crazy?  Am I really just bitter about the reality that there will never be a Carmody Court and lashing out at the beloved Great Wizard, Dr Jim Phillips, who strangely has operated behind the men’s basketball scenes for the entirety of his tenure while closely and visibly tending most other NU sports?  Or maybe we’re just na├»ve in our expectations that an AD should do his job no matter what.  Read on for yourself and draw your own conclusions:

Dr J: As I said during my press conference, in the end my decision to fire Bill Carmody wasn’t about this particular season.  It was about the last 13 years.

CC:  At this time last year weren’t the last 12 years good enough to keep Bill on the payroll?

Dr J: At the conclusion of every season and for every sport I complete a timely and comprehensive review of the season.  As you well know I completed that process last year for Bill and held a press conference announcing Bill would be retained.  Part of that evaluation included the performance over the prior 11 years.

CC: In other words the difference between the two reviews was the 2012-13 season.

Dr J: Uh... That’s not the full story.  As I said at the press conference, we were down to one year on the contract, I didn’t think an extension was warranted, and only one year remaining would hurt recruiting.

CC: OK.  Fair enough.  So what you are really saying is that you weren’t willing to extend Bill’s contract, even if only for just one more year, on the basis of the 13 years.  Did I get that right?

Dr J: I don’t disagree.

CC: OK.  Then what would it have taken to warrant an extension?

Dr J: Again.  As I said last year we no longer use internal benchmarks for this program.  The training wheels are off and athletic success matters.  If we were preparing for our trip to Auburn Hills, or even if it were Dayton, we would not be sitting down to this hypothetical interview in your head.  By the way I wasn’t sworn in on the Holy Bible.  I’m not saying that I’m fibbing here.

CC:  Your attempts to divert attention will not work here.  Essentially it was NCAAs or bust this year then?

Dr J: It would’ve been tough to can the guy after winning the NIT, and I might’ve lost some sleep over a loss in the finals at MSG.  I do love NYC and Broadway, but you’re not far off. 

CC: Didn’t we learn from WWI that ultimatums were a bad idea?

Dr J: You’re comparing this situation to The Great War?  I think we’re done here.

CC:  You’re right.  Let’s cut to the chase.  How could you possibly hold Bill to something “not far off” from NCAAs or bust given all of the personnel losses to his team this year?  Need I go into the detail?

Dr J:  Please don’t.

CC:  JerShon Cobb.  Best guy in practice and most highly acclaimed recruit on the team.  Suspended one year for undisclosed reasons.  Why are you smiling Sir?

Dr J: Am I?

CC: Yes you are.  Sanjay Lumpkin.  In preseason practice the most promising of the seven freshman including the redshirts.  First can’t play because of mono.  Then redshirted for injury.

Dr J: Yes.  Poor Sanjay.  No one wants to see a kid go through mono.  I know from personal experience.  My freshman year at coll

CC: Drew Crawford.  2nd Team Big 10 last year.  Second highest returning league scorer.  Senior leader.  Shut down in non-conference to get a medical redshirt.  You’re smiling again Jim.

Dr J: Was I again?  Sorry you just reminded of a dinner I had with Morty the night after Bill broke that news to me.  Of course I called up Danny to express my sympathies.  And Drew as well. He had put so much effort in during the offseason to get ready for his NBA push.  You have no idea how hard these kids work.

CC: Yes.  I know Sir.  Jared Swopshire.  Glue guy from a winning program and X-factor for wins/losses.  He goes down halfway through the B1G season and NU goes winless thereafter.

Dr J: Yeah, I was starting to sweat after that 4-6 start conference start despite all those other losses, but I knew Bill had no chance after Jared went down.  Did I just say that out loud? 

CC: Yes.

Dr J: Can I strike that from the record?

CC: No.

Dr J: There is no official record!  Jokes on you fool!

CC:  Sir.  Please. Need I go on? 

Dr J: Look it.  Clearly Bill had no chance to make the NCAAs this year with all the adversity his team faced.  And I feel so bad for those young men.  It’s so tough to lose games with all the hard work you put in year round.  Have you ever played intercollegiate sports at the highest level?  I haven’t, but these young men have a bond you and I will never understand, and each loss takes a serious toll as they don’t want to let down their peers or their coach.  Whom they all revered by the way.  Which is what made this all so tough.

CC:  I appreciate your frankness here, and I am sure this season was very tough on the team.

Dr J: No problem.  I really do love those kids.  Honestly.  Anyway what was I talking about. . . Right.  It was a raw deal for Bill this year, but 13 years is a really long time to go without making the NCAAs.  Where else besides Northwestern could a coach be employed for that long without making the Dance?  The Ivy League?  Sure but this is the Big Leagues.

CC: If you really felt that way then what difference is there between 0-12 on NCAAs and 0-13?  Is there a difference?

Dr J:  Look.  There isn’t a difference.  But, I was willing to give Bill one more shot.  He’s a good guy, classy, he was on a good run by Northwestern standards, and he had two years left on the contract.  So what's the downside here, right?  I leveled with Bill last year and told him the deal.  I felt I owed him one more season.  That’s fair right?

CC: Well…

Dr J: Put yourself in my shoes.  Let’s say you weren’t in the tank for Bill and wanted someone who could create some buzz around the program like Fitz does.  You have no idea how important that is for a place like Northwestern; it's what has been holding back this program for far too long.  Could you really have gotten rid of him last year when he was coming off four NITs, one more than the entire NIT history of the school prior to Bill, not to mention the first 20 win seasons in school history, back-to-back?  Not many care that he won a few games in the NIT, but some do.  What would you do?

CC: If I really believed as you do that Bill was not right for the program?  Then yes I would’ve fired him last year.  That’s my job as AD.  To do what I think is right for the program.  Not what is best for me or what is practical.  It takes some backbone to be a leader.

Dr J: I showed backbone this year.  Look at those fools on the message boards.  I know you’re just gritting your teeth here and now.

CC: No.  You took the opportunity of an injury riddled season to make a move.  That’s a coward’s way out.

Dr J: Hold on there fella.  I knew you were pissed about this decision, and I can understand that, but let’s not get personal.  Frankly, I wanted to fire the guy back when I arrived but couldn’t because I was new to the job and his buddy was still president.  I’ve been waiting five years to do this.  Some would call me a saint!

CC: I wouldn’t.  I’d say you’re even more negligent in doing your duties than I thought.  Just stop before you dig your hole any deeper.  I had respect for you before this dialogue, but I know better now.  You’re not an exemplary AD.  I may live in an ideal world, but to me an AD should DO HIS JOB and make the tough decisions for the betterment of his university no matter how difficult, no matter how unpopular, no matter how damaging it might be for his career.   

Dr J: Talk to me in 20 years when you grow up and understand how the real world works.

Believe what you want, but this rant isn’t about the decision to fire Carmody.  At worst it’s just an attempt to blow off some steam for being fooled by Jim Phillips this time last year.  But as they say fool me once shame on you…  We see you now Dr Jim.

We bloggers really aren’t even dyed-in-the-wool Carmody fans.  Yes we think he’s a good coach.  Yes we think he should be NU’s coach next year.  But we are Northwestern fans first and foremost and will in all likelihood rally around the new guy.  For those of you who are slow on the uptake the name of this blog was tongue-in-cheek and started in fun to be the “Win” to firebillcarmody’s “Wang”.