Winning easily gets taken for granted, particularly in an era when the loudest sports conversationalists are miniature Ricky Bobbies all too eager to declare, if you ain’t first, you’re last.
Matt Painter’s won in his time at Purdue; perhaps not at the rate of peers like Tom Izzo or John Calipari, but a 64 percent in 11 seasons with the Boilers is nothing to scoff at. The same goes for eight NCAA Tournament appearances.
Credit Purdue athletic brass for seeing the value. The university athletic department announced last week an extension of Painter’s contract through the 2021-22 season.
In locking up Painter for another five years, Purdue continues a direct line from a legend. Painter played point guard for Gene Keady, the most successful coach in Boilers history, and immediately succeeded Keady as head coach after a transitional year.
Continued cultivation of the Keady tree demonstrates Purdue’s commitment to a good thing. Obvious lessons were also learned from Keady’s long and illustrious career.
Keady never reached a Final Four; he’s widely regarded the best coach never to do so. Despite that, though, he made Boilermaker basketball nationally relevant. Painter’s managed to keep Purdue in the spotlight and competing in a Big Ten that’s better than ever.
Successfully following a legend is no easy feat. Emulating his success is even more difficult, but that’s exactly what Painter could do in his first season after his five-year extension.
Patience paid off as Keady steadily built up Purdue through the 1980s. The Boilers’ breakthrough came with National Player of the Year Glenn Robinson in 1993-94, when Purdue spent time as the nation’s No. 1-ranked team, and reached the Elite Eight.
Prior to that season, the Boilers had been to just one second weekend under Keady. Painter’s coached them to two, but none since 2009-10.
His breakout team — the modern equivalent of the ’93-94 Boilermakers — could be the 2016-17 squad.
Purdue returns a talented roster from a Top 20 team a year ago. Post player Caleb Swanigan isn’t the Big Dog — few can claim to be on par with Robinson, one of the all-time great college basketball players — but he’ll be an All-American candidate as a sophomore.
“All parts of my game, I’m trying to brush up on and sharpen,” Swanigan told reporters this week, via PurdueSports.com. At 10 points and eight rebounds per game as a freshman, Swanigan was a solid presence, but taking his game to another level will elevate a Purdue team that was solid as is.
Last year’s promising team bowed out of the Tournament’s First Round, the second straight year they suffered opening round heartbreak. March’s upset loss to Arkansas Little-Rock followed a one-point stunner in 2015 against Cincinnati.
The early exit gives the coming year’s Boilers some added motivation.
“The pressure’s even more. We lost two years a row in the first game of the NCAA [Tournament]. The pressure isn’t on me. The pressure’s on Purdue. I look forward to taking that next step as a program,” Swanigan said.
Helping in that pursuit of the next step, Painter signed four-star point guard Carsen Edwards, and Michigan transfer Spike Albrecht adds a needed, 3-point touch.
His five-year extension will help with future recruiting efforts — though arguably not as much as a splash in March this coming season.
The Boilers’ pursuit of March greatness starts in August. Painter’s first game after signing his extension is in Spain, where Purdue is touring in the coming weeks.