Matt Painter made his way down Radio Row at the Final Four today (though if you've never seen it, it's more of a Radio Ballroom) and gave a few interviews that had what I found to be pretty interesting quotes, including one on the status of 5th-year-senior-to-be Sandi Marcius. There was nothing else too fresh or new, but it's always interesting to hear the coach's take on the things we complain about throughout the season.
Query & Schultz from WNDE-AM, part of the Purdue Radio Network, offered a more interesting interview for Purdue fans, as the Tim Brando show caters to a more national audience. As such, they were the ones to ask Painter about Marcius asking for his release.
"We've talked a little bit about things, and I'm going to try my best to keep him. He cares and he's a big ol' kid that started playing basketball at 14 and has taken a little bit more time," Painter said. "He was great for us at the end of the season. But I also don't want somebody that doesn't want to be there. I think he would be a great piece to our puzzle. It takes a while sometimes, especially for big guys, but he's figured some things out now and we'd love for him to be in black and gold next year helping us win games."
The interview with WNDE also touched on Mitch McGary, who Purdue was one of the first schools to recruit when he was in high school. Obviously, McGary decided against Purdue as he is playing in tonight's championship game and is a major part of why Michigan is still playing this season.
"Recruiting is an inexact science," he said. "Give Michigan credit, they're the only big major program in the country that offered Glenn Robinson III. The time when we had to make that decision, he hadn't made that jump. He grew, he worked, he put in time, and all of a sudden you're looking at it from my standpoint and saying ‘Oh my goodness. He's going to be great, not just in college, but beyond.' Mitch McGary was a kid who had to get that extra year of high school; he needed classes and went to a prep school out east. We're actually, us and Cincinnati, we were the only two schools that were recruiting him for a long time. When he had to go and take that fifth year and jump classes, that's what changed. Then the whole country was recruiting him. It wasn't just Michigan and the Big Ten, it was all the blue bloods coming in."
Since this interview aired at 5 p.m., former Exponent sports editor Daniel Thompson has Tweeted the forward told the story a little differently in an interview he did with McGary.
The last -- but most interesting to me -- part of Painter's interviews were when he talked about what went wrong this season. Many Purdue fans took notice of his comments following Purdue's season-ending loss to Nebraska, where he seemed to call out members of his team. Today he stuck with his thoughts that this was an immature team, but was a little nicer about how he said it.
"Our talent wasn't our issue, maturity was. ... We were immature. Five, six years ago we had a group with Hummel, Moore and Johnson, and sure they had to develop as players, but they were mature from day one, in terms of listening to coaching and doing the little things. Our group (this year) wasn't. That doesn't mean they're bad. They're talented, good guys, and we're excited about this group going forward. We had the same conference record as two teams that went to the NCAA Tournament and then won a game. Our goal isn't to go 8-10, but two teams that went 8-10 in our league made the NCAA Tournament. The difference was, they were great in non-conference and we were really poor. You have to be able to set the table for yourself."
I obviously wasn't at practice every day, so I don't really know just how immature this team was. I did watch every game, and I think most Purdue fans noticed at times there seemed to be maturity issues, but none of us truly know how deep those issues went, so I don't feel qualified to talk on that too much.
I will say, however, that I don't know if I, the lowly blogger, agree with Painter, the three-time Big Ten Coach of the Year, that talent wasn't the issue. (Yes, I'm trying to say I'm definitely not qualified to disagree with him on this but will do it anyway.) I've watch college basketball nearly every night of the week this season, and it seems to me when I watch Purdue shots that every other (winning) team make looks easy Purdue struggles with. That - shooting ability - is talent. Purdue didn't have that for the majority of this year.
Anyway, Painter continued talking about maturity, hinting that he knew from the time this group arrived on campus last June that maturity may be an issue.
"I told (the team) before the season, ‘We can be young, but we can't be immature.' That's before we played a game this year. We had some talented guys that weren't ready on a daily basis to battle. They thought they were, but they just weren't. We just have to better at what we do, and we have to get a big jump from our talent. What I mean by that is, AJ Hammons is a talented kid, but he's got to play every night; he's about an every-other night guy. Ronnie Johnson has to learn from his experiences and be one of the best point guards in the country, because he has a lot of ability. He's very fast, and it's hard to keep him in front of you. Raphael Davis is a guy who just plays hard. He's got to continue to be a student of the game, but his work ethic is the best on our team. We've got to get more people plugging every single day.
The facts are, regardless of how immature the young guys on this team are, they're here to stay (at least, none have said at this point that they're not). I'm sure Painter and his staff will make clear to these guys their expectations for next year, and it will be on them to change ... or find their way to the end of the bench. The goal for Painter and company now has to be avoiding a situation like this in the future by recruiting guys that have proven to be mature, hard-working kids. That's not an easy task, Painter said.
First you've got see to how they come in and work. We think all three (freshmen-to-be) are hardworking guys. Guys can come in and it and be a tough adjustment, or sometimes they come in and its easy for them. You just haven't been around them on a daily basis. All three are talented guys. I think they can come in and play, but they have to come in and earn it. I say the same thing to a walk-on as I did to an E'Twaun Moore in recruiting, there's nothing given, you come in to this blue-collar place and outwork people, put yourself in a good position, help us win. A lot of times guys get away from that, and right away that's what you're trying to sell to your guys in your program. Help us win; how do you help us win? Sometimes we've got guys that don't get in games that help us win. Sometimes we've got guys that play 20 minutes that are killing us. So we just try to establish those winning ways with those guys. There is a great opportunity. We stubbed our toe this year and didn't have a great year, and they should be excited about that because there's nobody in there that can be that establish. If they were, we wouldn't have been in that position."
"I think we have the right pieces, to really make a big jump next year, but we've really got to be more mature."
The WNDE-AM interview will be available tomorrow as a podcast, Derek Schultz tweeted. Painter's interview on the Tim Brando Show can be viewed here.