Just over 11 years ago an iconic moment in sports happened. After losing yet another playoff game the Dallas Cowboys headed to the press conference. Terrell Owens, or T.O. as he was often called, bristled at the excoriation of his quarterback Tony Romo with the infamous line, “That’s my teammate. That’s my quarterback.” What often gets lost is the next two lines, “We lost as a team. We lost as a team, man.” Truly these are wise words. At this point you’re probably asking yourself, what does this have to do with Purdue Athletics but I’m getting there, trust me.
Around two months ago Purdue basketball went through a rough patch with losses to Florida State, Michigan, Texas, and Notre Dame. Purdue had lost four out of their last five and the team didn’t look good doing it. Purdue was losing after having leads, losing because they couldn’t hold onto the ball, losing to teams they shouldn’t have lost to *cough* Notre Dame *cough*. Naturally fans started to lose their minds. Many were challenging the leadership of the team, the ability of specific players, and a great many were calling on head coach Matt Painter to be pushed out the door. Then, on December 15th, 2018 former Purdue player and point guard P.J. Thompson got sick of all the Painter doubters on Twitter and put out a tweet encapsulating his feelings. It’s worth reading in full.
Since everyone’s entitled to their own opinion, here’s mine :) pic.twitter.com/HWVw3tBFS7— Pj Thompson (@pj_thompson11) December 15, 2018
The most relevant part for me is about a third of the way down when Thompson says, “It’s a process, enjoy it and be positive, the guys will be fine. And Paint is one of the BEST coaches in college basketball”. He’s right. You can argue that there are things Painter can improve but can’t that be said of nearly everyone in every job? I’m certainly never satisfied with where I’m at and always try to improve. I hope simply because I have places I need to improve doesn’t mean my bosses are seeking to force me out. If so a lot of us, not just me, are in grave trouble.
I’ve doubted Painter for sure and been frustrated with some of the down years and wondered about the recruiting misses but like Thompson says Painter truly is one of the best coaches in all of college basketball. You and I don’t attend practices, we aren’t out on the recruiting trail, and we certainly don’t know what happens behind closed doors in the locker room. All we can do is judge Painter for the results on the court and quite frankly there was reason to worry in the middle of the season, but with the turnaround starting after that Notre Dame loss it seems the ship has been righted and Purdue seems poised to not just make the NCAA Tournament but possibly make some noise in the tournament or even contend for a conference title.
On January 27th just about six weeks after tweeting that everyone needed to be patient P.J. Thompson took to Twitter again to more or less take a (well-deserved) victory lap about his earlier tweet.
I’m not gonna say I told you so but ♂️..... the “process” started a little quicker than I thought too :) BOILER UP pic.twitter.com/5VHoaJJkNc— Pj Thompson (@pj_thompson11) January 27, 2019
You can’t really blame him can you? People were attacking his coach (read as quarterback for this narrative) but what was happening on the court was happening as a team. Just like T.O. said they were losing as a team. You can’t place the blame entirely on one person in any sports situation. As much as we fans like to blame the kicker or the guy who makes one bonehead play or the coach who didn’t do X or Y like we would’ve if we were coach the truth is you win as a team and you lose as a team. Right now Purdue is winning as a team thanks to the emergence of key players and the resolve of Coach Matt Painter. Next time things go a bit south remember the words of both T.O. and P.J. Thompson and maybe things won’t look so bleak.