Matt Painter and the Purdue Boilermakers have a well-defined identity. Painter talked more about this identity, specifically in relationship to recruiting, before the Boilermakers’ NCAA Tournament first-round game against the Old Dominion Monarchs in the South Region.
“They have to want an education. They have to want to win as a team,” Painter said in an attempt to explain his recruiting philosophy. “We’ve had a tough time getting so-called one-and-dones or two-and-dones, but in a kind of a backhanded compliment it helps you in a way because people aren’t running out the door after one year or two years. If you’re at Duke, you know those guys are leaving. But if you take a guy who stays for two years or three years, you don’t know when he leaves and that makes it hard to sign a guy. So for us, it’s worked well because we’ve had some really good four-year guys.”
It is hard to argue with Painter’s consistency. Purdue has made 11 of the last 13 NCAA Tournaments and is 11 for 14 under Painter in making the Big Dance. Purdue is almost always in the Big Ten hunt, a bastion of stability and reliability in the Big Ten.
The source of frustration for Purdue and Painter is not in the year-to-year pursuit of excellence, but in the bigger picture over the course of five-year periods and whole decades. Purdue has not been to a Final Four since 1980, and not to the Elite Eight since 2000 under Gene Keady. Painter preaches patience in relationship to his own recruiting philosophy, but 39 years is a long time to wait for another Final Four berth, and Purdue would certainly like to satisfy that longing for college basketball glory.
This NCAA Tournament — Purdue fans hope — will be a story in which patience finally pays off on a grand scale, both for Painter and the program he has carefully maintained since he succeeded Keady in the autumn of 2005.
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