Matt Painter Reflects on Historical Coaching Carousel that Established Him

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Purdue basketball coach Matt Painter reflected this week on being a part of the biggest coaching carousel in the history of college basketball.

“Sometimes the world flips around differently, and you get opportunities,” Painter said about the 2003 coaching changes that had numerous ripple effects beyond several high major and mid major programs.

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Following his team’s grinder of a win over #17 Louisville in the B1G/ACC Challenge, Painter was asked about the opportunity presented to Louisville acting Head Coach David Padgett, who replaced the fired Rick Pitino. UL has been rocked by scandals in recent years, involving everything from the FBI to strippers to prostitutes to shoe companies.

Padgett has kept the Cardinals winning in spite of it all.

“People look at you as a coach after you’ve coached for a while,” Painter said.

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“And I got the Southern Illinois job because Roy Williams left Kansas and went to North Carolina, and Bill Self left Illinois and went to Kansas. And Bruce Weber left Southern Illinois and went to Illinois. So I’m sitting there.”

Matt Painter continued.

“That’s how I started my career. What if he (Williams) doesn’t go to North Carolina (and set the wheels in motion)? How does my career end up? So things happen. Then we have one season at Southern Illinois, and we have a really good year. Then you think I’m lucky to be at Southern Illinois.”

“I’m 32 years old, then they call and ask me to be the head coach in waiting. So I mean, who even heard of that? You know what I mean? It was like it was so circumstantial and how you can handle that.”

During his one year leading SIU, Painter went 25-5, 17-1 in the Missouri Valley, winning the conference title and leading the Salukis to the NCAA Tournament.

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He then had a transition year at his alma mater, where he was Associate Head Coach until the following season, when he inherited the program from Gene Keady. With Sunday’s 74-69 win over Northwestern, he’s now 273-144, 129-85 in B1G play. He’s just two wins away from achieving 300 overall for his career.

The Purdue class of 1994 graduate has also accomplished two conference titles and three sweet sixteen appearances with the Boilermakers. The coaching musical chairs entering the 2003-04 season are to college basketball what the 1983 quarterback class was to the NFL or the 1984 Draft class to the NBA.

Roy Williams is 405-116, 169-65 in the ACC during his time at UNC.

He has three national titles, five final fours, eight conference titles and nine sweet sixteens.

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Since making the move to Kansas, Bill Self (423-87, 195-41 in the Big 12 at KU) has won one national title, made seven elite 8s, two final fours, and nine sweet sixteens. He also has a record, currently active streak of 13 conference championships.

Bruce Weber was eventually fired at Illinois in 2012, but not before he went 210-101, 89-65 in league play, accomplishing two sweet sixteens, one conference title, and one national runner-up. What a fab four this group of coaches truly is- four national titles, eight final fours, 13 elite eights, 21 sweet sixteens and 25 conference championships among the quartet.

It’s a domino theory that has made a huge imprint on the sport.

Matt Painter is behind only program legends Gene Keady and Piggy Lambert, both hall of famers, for coaching wins in Purdue basketball history. However, his beginnings as mentor at Mackey Arena were rough.

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“I told him (Padgett) before the game, the thing that was the worst two year run in the history of Purdue basketball, my year as an assistant and my first year,” Painter added.

“It’s hard. The one thing that he has is players, embrace that and enjoy that because it’s fun.”

The two years Matt Painter referenced saw Purdue go 16-40, 6-26 in conference play.

Looking back on the chain reaction that got Painter to where he is today, the man who’s 16th all time in B1G coaching wins feels grateful for all the dominoes that fell into place.

“You feel fortunate. You feel lucky. There’s a lot of guys out there. I was in the right place at the right time twice,” he added.

“Why does that happen for you? Like I didn’t do anything differently than some other coach. But that’s part of advancing in any profession and being in the right place at the right time.

“I was fortunate that I’ve been around some really good guys that I’ve worked for in Rick Samuels and Bruce Weber and Coach Keady.”

Matt Painter knows that job security for college basketball coaches is both precious and fleeting. You can’t get complacent, because you know that there’s always somebody coming up, looking to replace you.

“A lot of times it’s really hard. Because if you learn too much from your mistakes, you’re going to end up getting fired. That’s just the way it is in our business. Guys get released and you get fired, and it’s hard.”

Paul M. Banks runs The Sports Bank.net and TheBank.News, which is partnered with News Now. Banks, a former writer for the Washington Times, NBC Chicago.com and Chicago Tribune.com, currently contributes regularly to WGN CLTV and the Tribune company’s blogging community Chicago Now.

Follow him on TwitterInstagramSound Cloud, LinkedIn and YouTube.

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