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Purdue is Lucky To Have Matt Painter Regardless of This Season’s Results

The AP Top 10 is a cautionary tale.

Syndication: Journal-Courier Alex Martin/Journal and Courier / USA TODAY NETWORK

When the latest AP Top 25 poll came out on Monday Purdue was coming off a 1-1 week including an absolute drubbing at the hands of the referees Maryland. There was no doubt Purdue would drop down. No doubt at all. Purdue found themselves at #5. A spot that I think most Purdue fans are very happy with and understand given the recent slide. Joining Purdue in the top 10 are two teams that have made headlines this season for all the wrong reasons. Those teams? #8 Texas and #2 Alabama.

Listen, I’m not here to pass judgment on the legal cases that are or in Alabama’s case are not embroiling these programs. While yes I am a lawyer (there’s my one) I don’t know all the facts and all of the information surrounding either of these cases. What I do know is that Texas Head Coach Chris Beard is now former Texas Head Coach Chris Beard. I know that Alabama Head Coach Nate Oats has been dragged all throughout the college basketball world this past week after his “wrong place, wrong time” comments about a literal murder. No matter what happens with the outcome of either of these situations, and the charges against Beard have since been dropped, it leaves a stain on the university and a stain on the program.

These two coaches, well one former coach I guess (look for Beard to come to a small school near you next season), have put their schools in the spotlight for all the wrong reasons. As I’m watching all of this unfold I can’t help but think how lucky Purdue is to have Matt Painter leading our program. Before you hop in the comments and tell me that Painter is a failure because he hasn’t gotten his team to a Final Four or won a National Title I’ll obviously concede those facts. Because that’s what they are, facts. I desperately want those things. Not just for me but for Coach Gene Keady, for all the long suffering fans, for Matt Painter to finally get that monkey off his back, for Glenn Robinson, for Brian Cardinal, Kenny Lowe, Willie Deane, Robbie Hummel, E’Twaun Moore, Lewis Jackson, Carl Landry, David Teague, I could go on for ages here.

While I concede that to you I hope you can at least acknowledge that there’s more to all of this than just winning. I know that’s sacrilegious but it’s also true, to me at least. If you know anything about me you know that Ted Lasso on Apple TV+ is one of my absolute favorite shows. To me it’s perfect. Every episode. Every joke. Every emotional beat gets me. I just finished rewatching it for I believe the 4th time in preparation for the new season coming on March 15th. As I was watching there were two scenes that hit me. The first one is a quote from Ted who, for those that don’t know, previously coached the Wichita State football team and is hired to coach a Premier League team in England. Going from college to the pros, regardless of sport is a jarring change. Ted says, “For me, success is not about the wins and losses. It’s about helping these young fellas be the best versions of themselves on and off the field.” There’s something beautiful and pure about that. It’s not absolutely true of course because without results on the court or field or mat or what have you that coach wouldn’t be around very long.

But Matt Painter has had success in his time at Purdue. He’s won three conference titles, one conference tournament title, has coached numerous All-Americans, reached six Sweet 16s and one Elite Eight. He’s also brought Purdue their first ever #1 ranking in program history, and he’s earned a #1 ranking in back to back seasons. So there’s no arguing that Matt Painter has brought results. More apt to this article though, he’s represented the university with pride. When Purdue players make off the court mistakes, and there have been a handful during his time, Painter handles it with grace, class, and generally a four game suspension. Understanding that these players are just young men and Painter holds great influence over them he tends to give players a second chance. He wants these young men to learn from mistakes and become better men. He’s talked about this numerous times. He’s like Ted Lasso in that regard. Winning is important, but it isn’t the only thing.

I suppose at this point in the article I’ve got to push this Ted Lasso comparison further. Sports media features prominently in Ted Lasso most notably in the guise of Trent Crimm, The Independent, a tough but fair journalist who profiles Lasso and gets the above mentioned quote out of him. Following his first extensive interview with Lasso he’s shocked to find that Lasso is sincere and that he truly wants to make the players better men and that even if that results in losses he’s okay with it. I think if pressed Matt Painter would say the same thing. The winning is important to him too, you can see it each and every time he talks about this team or steps onto the floor, but nothing is more important to him than being a good steward of these young men.

The second scene that gets me is one that contains a huge spoiler for both the first and second seasons so I won’t give any context and I won’t link to it. Instead I’ll just provide a quote that “through grit, determination, and most of all belief” good results can come. For Painter maybe that means finally getting to that Final Four, or maybe, just maybe, it means representing Purdue with pride and molding young men.

I don’t know about you, but I’d much rather root for a team that never wins anything but grows and molds young men into men of character and men that contribute to society and their communities. In fact, I think I already root for that team, but damn would the winning be nice.