Have you heard the howling dog story? If not here is a quick synopsis; a man moves into his new home. Day after day he hears the neighbor dog howling. At first, he tries to ignore it but as time goes on his agitation grows.
Finally, he goes to his neighbor’s house to see the dog sitting on the porch howling while the neighbor sips coffee near by unbothered. He asks the neighbor, why does he keep howling?
The neighbor explains that the dog is sitting on nail. The man a little perplexed asks why the dog just doesn’t get up and move in which the neighbor responds because he isn’t in enough pain yet.
Moral of the story, a lot of times we stay in a place because the nail isn’t that painful yet. Maybe it’s a job that isn’t fulfilling you, a major you don’t really like, or a place to live you don’t necessarily enjoy. Because while the good isn’t great, the bad isn’t unbearable yet.
You may be sitting there asking why I am telling this story on a sports blog but when I heard it, it made me think. Purdue basketball is a lot like that dog right now. Sitting on the same nail because it hasn’t been uncomfortable enough to change where we are sitting.
I’m not saying we haven’t had recent success because we have. Yes, we won the Big Ten last year and yes, we have some exciting recruits coming in, but Jaden Ivey was an exciting recruit. So was Carsen Edwards and so was Biggie Swanigan among others.
I’m not counting my chickens before they hatch on some prized recruit leading us to the promised land at this point. I… we… all know it takes more than that. It takes a fundamental change on the coaching level.
I’m not here to discredit Painter, I am the biggest Coach Painter fan and truly believe he is the coach to take us to that coveted final four. But I do think there needs to be some changes; even he recognizes that. And the trend this program has built over three straight March disasters cannot stand. It’s not acceptable. North Texas. Saint Peter’s. And now FDU.
How do you win the Big Ten by a big margin, roll through the conference tournament and then lose to FDU, a team that was ranked 275th in kenpom efficiency ratings? Has the nail not hurt enough yet? Are we too scared of these games? All these questions, all of these March tournament issues, that’s the world that Coach Painter has been and is going to continue to live in this off-season.
Maybe Painter’s system needs to be more flexible (or does it? We’ve seen major flexibility with Carsen Edwards and Jaden Ivey). Maybe he needs to recruit more pure athletes, but one could argue we’ve had those dynamic athletes, recently. Maybe its tournament preparation, maybe it’s this and maybe it’s that. We all know, it’s something, and that dang nail is starting to hurt enough for me. And I think it is for Coach Painter, too.
Painter values the truth, and I’m certain he’s had some very long looks in the mirror. After the loss of FDU he admitted he had to go back to the drawing board and make some changes because they keep getting beat by the same team.
It’s okay to support a coach and their work with also making critiques, the two feelings can be synonymous. With any job, in any profession, we are judged by our performance. As a former teacher, I would have administration come in to see how effective of a teacher I was. An “effective” rating was good, “highly effective” was rarely achieved because they would argue there was always room for improvement. I think we can same the same here. We’ve been effective, we’ve been good. But there is obviously room for improvement without yelling “Fire Painter” from the rafters.
So, I ask you… has Purdue/Coach Painter finally had enough pain to get off the nail? Has there been enough suffering for them to evaluate that sometimes maybe where you are isn’t the best place you can be? I’m hopeful that we are going to see some of these changes this season and finally get off that nail.