Commentary: Only One Choice For Purdue


I’ve held out as long as I can on this Matt Painter situation. I couldn’t decide whose side to take, who was in the right. I’ve finally come to my conclusion … kind of. The way I see it, there is no winning for Purdue in this situation unless it retains Painter.

I know Painter just signed a long-term deal, and if you’re Purdue you can’t cave in and give him a raise and extension after EVERY season, but if Purdue wants to be competitive it has to do this this year. It’s time to put up some major cash, not only for Painter, but for his staff, as well.

Obviously, nothing is official and everything is coming from “sources” on this, but everything I’ve read seems to indicate this isn’t as much about Painter’s salary as it is about his employer’s “commitment” to the basketball program – where “commitment” means money for assistants and staff, money for facilities, etc.

If that is truly the case, that is all the more reason Purdue can’t let Painter leave, especially now that Cuonzo Martin is off the market. What coach would want to come to Purdue knowing the last one left not because you wouldn’t pay HIM, but because he didn’t think you were committed to making your program one of the top in the nation? Do you really think that’s the type of place Brad Stevens has been holding out for? Do you really think that’s what will convince Shaka Smart to leave VCU?

If Painter walks, Purdue will have officially been labeled “cheap.” That’s a perception that will be hard for prospective coaches to overcome, as well as fans (read: donors). I’m not saying Painter is in the right – Butler and VCU just made it to the Final Four with less resources than Painter’s staff – but Purdue, specifically Morgan Burke, has no option to save face other than to re-sign the coach who turned its program around.

This could have been avoided had Burke and Purdue been communicating with the public, specifically their fan base all along. Even saying something as simple as “We’re doing everything we can to retain Matt Painter.” Even better would be to say “We’ve matched Missouri’s offer of X and Y, but couldn’t retain him.” Instead, Purdue stayed silent and has now given the public the impression that it doesn’t care, that it’s not doing everything it can to hold on to a coach who has led his team to five straight NCAA Tournaments and never lost in the first round.

I understand Purdue can’t keep Painter if he really wants to leave, but there has to be at least some obvious effort to keep him around.

Give me a reason to keep believing. Give me a reason to be a fan.