If you come here often, you know that we like Matt Painter...we're glad he's at Purdue because we believe he'll be able to do something his predecessor never could: Get Purdue to the Final Four. His teams have demonstrated consistency during the regular season and played at least to their seed (with one exception) in the tournament. Plus he recruited, arguably, the best Freshman class ever at Purdue...that says a lot. After that, he recruited some classes that were head-scratchers...but then again last year, he had another great class sign. This class might prove to be better than the Baby Boilers at the end of four years...the jury is obviously still out. He's pretty good in front of the media too- his memory is incredible when recalling details of last game...or a game from 20 years ago; and he's straight forward most of the time.
But this season has been trying for some Purdue fans. Some of you that visit this very site are even off the bandwagon. That's your call- more room for me and my people, I guess...I've never liked crowded places too much anyway.
My point of this intro is that I believe this is going to continue to be a tough season as this team grows and learns...but I kinda hope that people that have bailed stay gone, honestly.
Things will get better...hell, they already have. A few weeks ago, this team not only was out of sync, but was also lacking a heartbeat...now, effort can be seen and signs of life are evident; but so is youth.
Leave the fair weather fandom for IU basketball and Notre Dame football. Purdue fans are Purdue fans- generally, we don't have a fallback. That's why seasons like this hurt...we just have to deal with them. Hey, I'm not saying don't express your displeasure- discourse, when well-thought out, can show a greater, deeper loyalty, in many cases. But if you've stopped believing that Painter knows how to coach or that any of the guys on the team know how to play, you're either extremely young or extremely short-sighted. But again, do what you want to do.
|Not this Gene...|
If you're old enough to remember Gene Keady as coach...and not just in the last two or three seasons at Purdue, at times, it's tough to believe that Matty comes from his tree. In fact, Keady's off-shoot, Bruce Weber is probably Painter's mentor more than Keady...but some refuse to recognize that. But even Weber's style is much different from Painter's. Weber's reputation for being a bit of a whiner comes from the way he expressed his displeasure with officials. He didn't bark and fight...he pleaded and sometimes groveled for justice. We all know he was right much of the time...Officials generally stink. Painter handles it much differently...he generally does nothing...and I just don't get it.
Conversely, Gene Keady never saw a fight in which he didn't want to get involved. Keady was a football player in college...and like any self-respecting football player, he never shied away from contact or melees. In fact, he seemed determined to finish many of them...sometimes with his ejection from the contest. He made it very clear that he was going to fight for his players...because he knew they couldn't and shouldn't do it themselves.
The deck is stacked in college basketball- you have verbose, demonstrative diva officials who see about 1/3 of the calls that they make...but they love the spotlight. Many are there for the party. They like the crowd being whipped into a frenzy and LOVE it when the home crowd is in step with them. We saw this a week ago in East Lansing.
Seven days after #22 did what he does, the B1G has stayed silent. Painter admitted to the media yesterday that he thought he'd at least receive a call from the league asking for Travis Carroll's account of the incident...or his, for that matter. But Delany and Boyages didn't get on the horn to call Matty. Just as MSU had predicted, there was no suspension, no admonishment...nothing. Supposedly, there's a video that exonerates Dawson...but no one, even within the MSU fan base, has seen that video. So I guess we're forced to continue to believe what our own eyes have seen for the last two seasons- that Branden Dawson is a punk. So be it.
After AJ was called (rightfully, in my opinion) for a high elbow that earned him a flagrant foul, the officiating crew in East Lansing took the game out of the player's hands. four-straight fouls on Purdue...two, in one possession, knocked the Purdue players out of focus and delivered a knockout blow. Extra curricular activities following the incident between Carroll and Dawson earned TJohn and Dawson double technicals...and put TJohn on the bench. Painter didn't like the way his player had handled that...but how else should he handle that?
The officials aren't going to do anyone any favors...Carroll isn't a fighter and isn't going to stand up to thugs (which Dawson knew)...so TJohn let the MSU bench know that he and Ray Day weren't going to let it slide.
These are the times where Gene Keady's bulldog mentality was perfect. A screaming opposing student section just feet away from the huddle, three lousy officials on the court and a good team on the other side- bunker mentality often works at times like these. Protect each other, protect yourselves and fight your way out of a battle; together. The players understand that they can easily be suspended...they need someone who will lead them into the fight by doing things they can't do. But that's not Painter's style...and it seems to kill his teams time and again.
On Tuesday at Mackey, aOSU's bench was on the officials for almost all of the game. Keep in mind, it wasn't just Matta...it was also two of his assistant coaches chewing on the crew. So as Aaron Craft smacked RonJohn's hand time and again (he had the gall to play on-ball defense)...no offensive fouls were whistled on Craft. And as aOSU bigs reached over the back of Purdue players blocking out, the peas in the whistles laid motionless. Matta gets it- these guys are bad at their job and need cajoling from time to time. Painter leaves them to do their job poorly...time and again.
And as this week wore on, and a few of the outlets that cover Purdue basketball pleaded for info from Painter on the MSU incident, he stayed consistent...and silent. He wanted the league to handle it...they did just that...by doing nothing.
Turns out, the B1G conference doesn't reciprocate Purdue's love for her. Purdue brags about being a charter member of the conference whenever it can. The conference returns the favor by fighting for aOSU's football players' right to be paid (after they've violated the rules). Perhaps the offices in Chicago need a nudge just to be reminded about lil' ole Purdue...or perhaps they've adopted the NCAA's philosophy that the cash cows are more important. Who knows.
What we do know is that Keady was hardly ever silent when his players were beaten up...during a game or afterwards in a presser...and Gene had it right. I'm sure Matty is trying to teach the young guys a lesson- that things don't always go your way...and you've gotta fight through that. There's no doubt he's correct; life isn't fair, nor is college basketball. But fighting silently doesn't work in the arena. Teams like aOSU, MSU and Wisconsin have been wise enough to adopt a style of play that bets the officials simply won't call every foul...and at the same time, they all have coaches that work officials each and every minute of every game. Get this- maybe they distract officials just enough that they CAN'T effectively do their jobs...and as a result, their players can get away with murder...or punches in the gut, as it were.
Keady couldn't land recruiting classes like the one Matty signed in '12...so he sought every possible advantage he could muster. He also had a perpetual chip on his shoulder that made a bunch of OK players into conference champs time and again. His histrionics were definitely over the top at times- Players that played for him told me that he was a teddy bear in reality...the spitting, cursing, yelling and fist waving was a bit. It was a bit that fed the frenzy in Mackey and bewildered some officials. It was a bit that sent him packing up the tunnels from time to time...and it was a bit that fueled his team's fire when it seemed all odds were against them.
Hopefully Painter can adopt just a bit of it so his players know what he's thinking and that he's fighting the battle with them. Because even though Painter is a better recruiter than Keady was, Matta, Izzo, Crean and others, are better recruiters than him...and Keady had it right- you gotta level the playing field somehow.