Following a loss in the regular season finale to Northwestern 74-65, Matt Painter turned some heads with his post game comments. This season did not turn out as many Purdue fans had thought and for that matter as Painter thought it would. It was obvious that he had hit his breaking point. Reacting not only to this season, but to his players and the state of the program after their sixth straight loss. Here is what he said:
“It’s my fault.” ”It’s my job to get guys to play together. It’s my job to get guys to play hard. It’s my job to get guys to play smart and we don’t do any of those. So it’s my fault.”
“When you start off, people will always give you a break, but when you’re somewhere for nine years, they shouldn’t, they absolutely shouldn’t because it is my fault that we are in this position.”
“I haven’t gotten them to understand playing together, and getting that and having that being contagious and moving the basketball and sharing the basketball not only helps your offensive game but also helps your defensive game because you get a better shot,” said Painter. “When you get a better shot you set your defense and when you set your defense it limits their transition opportunities.”
“We have to recruit a more unselfish player. We have to recruit a tougher player,” said Painter. “We have some of those guys in our program and some guys we don’t-we’ve got to get that out of them or maybe this isn’t their place.
“That’s my fault. This isn’t a school district. I recruited these guys, so the position that we’re in is my fault.”
It is clear that Painter let his true feelings boil over in the press conference. Even when struggling most coaches do not air all of their grievances to the media. So what did this mean in the short term and what will be the repercussions down the road?
In the short term this could be another way Painter is trying to reach his players. They were a young team coming into the season, but never really grew out of that mold. It is difficult to see a team that does not show improvement throughout the season. This could be a motivational tool for one last charge in this week’s Big Ten Tournament. Also in the short term, this could be a chance for Painter himself to reevaluate his performance. How can he do better with the pieces he has? It is easy to point out the reason why you had a disappointing season, but it is more difficult to self-analyze what you could have done differently. I think that was a big reason for this rant. He is trying to not only get the best out of his players. He is trying to push himself to get better.
The long term affects of this are easy to see. The Purdue faithful were already grumbling about the state of the program. This will be two consecutive years without even an NIT bid. This press conference will crank up the heat on Painter. He would have been in trouble if they had a similar season next year, but now he has basically put himself in a make-the-NCAA-tournament-or-your-fired position.
The second thing this does is set in motion changes for next season. Painter knows that this team did not play well. He knows that he needs to get them to buy in. He knows that he needs to get them to play “Purdue” basketball- defense, hustle, intensity, toughness. These were all the traits that made the teams in the Keady and early Painter eras successful. These are the things the fan base wants to see. This should make them get back to the basics and find a way to sell these players on believing in true Boilermaker basketball.
Matt Painter has given himself one offseason and one regular season to turn this around. His own comments have given himself a deadline-Selection Sunday 2015. A year from now we will know if this press conference and re-dedication to the program paid off.
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