When people think of Northwestern athletics, Bill Carmody knows basketball will not come to anyones mind as the Wildcats have had a long-standing tradition as Big Ten doormats.
As the programs new head coach, Carmody said the primary reason Northwestern hasnt produced victories in past years points to the lack of talent.
I dont see any reason why we cant win here - its a terrific school, a great basketball conference and a great area, he said. Why cant we win? I think it goes back to the fact that theres no tradition so no one naturally gravitates towards Northwestern.
The previous coach, Kevin ONeill, resigned Sept. 1 to become an assistant for the New York Knicks.
Building a program similar to that of Duke or Indiana was a challenge that attracted the former Princeton coach to Evanston, Ill. Carmody was named the Wildcats head coach on Sept. 6.
Theres a tradition of basketball there (at Princeton) and thats what were trying to establish here, he said.
In four seasons, Carmody guided the Tigers to a 92-25 mark, going 50-6 in the Ivy League while making two NCAA tournament appearances.
He takes over a Northwestern team that features five sophomores, six freshmen and was 0-16 in the Big Ten and 5-25 overall last year.
For coaching at a school that does not give out athletic scholarships, Carmody rose to prominence at Princeton because of his offensive schemes. With an attack featuring backdoor cuts that led to easy baskets, his squads dominated the Ivy League and repeatedly found success against ranked non-conference opponents.
The Tigers were 32-16 under Carmody against schools with scholarship players.
However, Carmody stressed that Northwestern will not resemble his Princeton teams that much since his players athleticism dictates his offense.
Generally speaking, Id like to have the ball move and have the players move - not a lot of standing around, he said. If youre open, shoot the ball. If youre not open, move somewhere where you can shoot the ball or you can help another guy shoot the ball.
Its real basic stuff. Its not a complicated thing but its something a lot of players arent used to.
Sophomore guard Ben Johnson, who led the team in scoring last season with 11.6 points per game, said he expects Carmody to implement backdoor cuts into the Wildcat offense.
Youre always going to see the Princeton fundamentals and flavor with him but at the same time, were going to add a new style because we have different players that can do different things that he was never able to do before, he said. He proved that its worked against decent teams in the NCAA tournament.
Despite having a bright offensive mind on the bench, Johnson said Northwesterns success still falls on the players to score.
Hes giving us an offense that will give us open looks, he said. Its on us to knock down shots and play well.
Johnson was one of six players on the team that played heavy minutes for being freshmen and sophomores last season. He said the experience has made them seasoned veterans despite being so young.
We just bring the mindset that weve been through everything and weve dealt with pressure so well be ready to go, he said.
Forwards Tavaras Hardy and Winston Blake, center Aaron Jennings and guards Jason Burke, Collier Drayton and Johnson are six of only seven players returning from last season. They will form the core of the team.
All those guys played a lot of minutes last year; more than they shouldve, Carmody said. They probably shouldve played 18 minutes - they played 30 minutes a piece. It hurt them last year but now its going to help us this year because theyve been through it.
Hardy, one of two juniors on a team with no seniors, said hes excited about playing for Carmody.
I like him a lot, he said. Hes different from any coach that Ive had as far as his stress on offense and his style of play. Hes definitely a good coach. Hes going to help us win some games.
Last year was a pretty disappointing year. We dont expect that to happen again.
Northwestern is currently 3-2 and begins Big Ten play Jan. 3 at Ohio State.