On Friday night, Purdue Boilermakers coach Matt Painter suffered the worst loss in program history. That’s not hyperbole- it was what is was. On Monday, Painter was named one of four semifinalists for the James Naismith Coach of the Year award.
It’s not a “both things can be true” moment. It’s a both things are true, and that’s complicated. If you’re in the ” Matt Painter must go” crowd, well, sorry because what follows may not be for you.
Likewise if you’re in the ” Matt Painter is everything that’s right with college basketball crowd.”
“The test of a first-rate intelligence is the ability to hold two opposed ideas in the mind at the same time, and still retain the ability to function.” ? F. Scott Fitzgerald, The Crack-Up
Let’s take a look at why and why not when it comes to the idea of replacing Matt Painter
Only one team, ever, has lost to a #16 seed (2018 Virginia, to UMBC in 2018). Painter has also lost to a #15 and #13 seed over the course of his career. Falling to FDU on St. Patrick’s Day now means that Purdue has moved dangerously closer toward a dubious fear that program ever wants to “accomplish.”
If/when Purdue gets eliminated by a #5,#7, #9 and #14 seed, they’ll become the first program to get knocked out of March Madness, at least once, by every seed number, #1-#16.
Getting shocked by a very low seed, three times, means this isn’t fluky, it’s a real trend. Matt Painter needs to be held accountable for the failings at some point.
March Results are Also Greatly Overexaggerated and Over-Amplified
To an overwhelming majority of Americans aware of college basketball, the season only exists for one month. Sorry, but this problem is real and it is only getting worse, not better.
March Madness results get way more attention and amplification than they deserve, because well, most people just don’t care about the rest of the season.
So coaches will be judged and evaluated, first and foremost, by how they do in the tournament.
Not conference tournaments, those aren’t as much a big of a deal.
We’re talking about the big dance. Firing a guy because he consistently whiffs in March is akin to all those flavor of the month hires we see just because some mid-major or low-major strung together a couple/few upsets.
Shaka Smart, who reminded us that he’s college hoops’ most overrated coach yet again on Sunday, is the poster child for this.
Well, okay, maybe not- that is probably Archie Miller! But seriously, hiring the flavor of the month guy rarely works out, so it’s a dumb idea to go that route.
Likewise to fire a man who literally can not step out on the floor and hit wide open threes, at a time when his team desperately needed it, because no one around has the ability to do so.
Be Careful What You Wished For
Painter’s situation at West Lafayette is similar to Brad Underwood at Illinois and Fran McCaffery at Iowa. Good to great, sometimes even elite regular season coaches; completely awful postseason coaches.
Illinois fans that want Underwood out, and there are many, and they do have a strong case, have to ask themselves- who is walking through that door? Really? Who can you for sure get?
Purdue and Iowa fans need to ask themselves this same question.
Matt Painter is a Good Guy Who Succeeds in a Cesspool
Make no bones about it- slime rises to the top in this profession. Sampson. Pitino. Pearl. The list goes on and on. Matt Painter is an exception. He’s all class and he’s never been implicated in any scandal, anywhere.
While that does not get you banners or tournament wins, it does still count for something. Actually, it counts for a lot. And if we have to pick a side in this argument, and in this sports media landscape, I guess we must- we say keep Matt Painter! He should stay. Boiler Up!
Paul M. Banks is the owner/manager of The Sports Bank. He’s also the author of “Transatlantic Passage: How the English Premier League Redefined Soccer in America,” and “No, I Can’t Get You Free Tickets: Lessons Learned From a Life in the Sports Media Industry.”
He’s written for numerous publications, including the New York Daily News, Sports Illustrated and the Chicago Tribune. He regularly appears on NTD News and WGN News Now. Follow the website on Twitter and Instagram.
Leave a Reply