It is not often that you have to stare the death of your basketball program in the face. Most of the time it happens because of NCAA sanctions like at Baylor, Kentucky, and Indiana. Each of those programs have been dealt severe blows in the past 30 years that wrecked everything for quite awhile afterwards. Indiana is still climbing out of the wreckage three years later.
Our potential death was going to be much more cruel because we followed all the rules, rebuilt the right way, and we were going to die because one of our own was going to receive the tools elsewhere that he did not receive at his alma mater. Make no mistake: had coach Painter left for Missouri it would have meant the slow, painful death of Purdue basketball over the next few years. Sure, Robbie Hummel, Lewis Jackson, Terone Johnson, and Ryne Smith would have kept things going next season with a likely NCAA Tournament year, but our recruits for the 2012 and 2013 classes would scatter. We likely would have seen the slow attrition like the end of the Keady era.
Sure, new coach X could have turned things around, but I think we're dreaming if Shaka Smart or Brad Stevens were coming to save the day. They would have seen a situation where Purdue matched the highest bidder for its homegrown coach, saw that said coach left, and wouldn't have wanted to be anywhere near the situation. The sheer fact that coach Painter is a Purdue alum and would have walked away from the final deal offered would have sent the message that it was an internal problem with the athletic department, and that would have scared any big name away.
Coach Painter has done everything but take Purdue to a Final Four in the past three seasons. One could argue he would have had two Final Fours if we had our optimal lineup of the past two years for more than seven of 69 games. Painter has sent the clear message that he expects to compete for championships. Now that he has been given the tools in terms of facilities, salaries, recruiting resources, and compensation for assistants, the expectation of championship will and should follow. I said this before: Matt Painter will have Purdue in a Final Four within 10 years.
When I wrote about the loser's mentality a few days ago the most traffic came from IU message boards who found the link and used it as fodder. I expected that, but they misinterpreted my intent. Yes, we do not have historical success. I wrote about it and pulled out all those painful numbers because I am tired of that history and I want success going forward. This is a step in that direction.
There is a reason Missouri went after coach Painter so hard. They knew that his desire for success would give them an excellent chance of winning. I don't fault them one bit, and if they were offering tools that Purdue did not offer, I don't blame Painter for listening. For a good portion of the day I felt he was doing more than listening. When the rumors out of campus talk about a player's meeting at 8pm you can't help but fear the worst. We will likely never know exactly how close we came to losing coach Painter, but I would not be surprised if there was a change of heart between noon and 4pm when the good news finally broke.
I have to think Coach Painter is secured for the long term now unless something drastically changes. There has been a lot of ire directed at Morgan Burke and the athletic department as a whole, but they came through. Rumor has it that Burke and painter don't get along, but that is mere speculation at best. While I don't agree with some of thing things Burke has done, there is no question that his tenure has produced major facility improvement across the board and have given us at least the physical tools to compete. I also credit him for running an athletic program in the black, and one that generally is on the good side of the NCAA.
We're all thankful that coach Painter is staying. If this increases JPC donations going forward, that is even better because those help all the programs. I'm doing my part at $200 per year and you can even pay in installments, so why not start a small Hammer & Rails membership drive at the minimal level. Every little bit helps, and it is a major way to thank coach Painter for staying.
The last three days have been harrowing. I spent the afternoon at work wonding how I was going to keep some positivity at the site, especially with a couple hundred new Twitter followers and three days of record breaking traffic. To everyone who is new, welcome aboard this train. Let's all take a deep breath, then get back to building a championship program.