Painter owns up to Purdue's demise

After a home loss to Northwestern, the sixth straight for Purdue, Matt Painter accepted the blame for the overall program downfall.

WEST LAFAYETTE - Throughout February and into March, it has been the elephant in the room.

After Sunday's regular-season-ending 74-65 loss to Northwestern in Mackey Arena - a loss that saddled the Purdue basketball team with a last-place Big Ten Conference finish at 5-13 - coach Matt Painter talked at length about the elephant, pointing the blame squarely on himself.

For a second consecutive season, the Boilermakers will enter the Big Ten tournament 15-16, certainly not the kind of success Purdue fans expect of their basketball team.

This team was 13-5, 3-2 in the Big Ten after a Jan. 18 victory against Penn State. Since, Painter's ninth Boilermaker team is 2-11, defeating only second-division league foes Minnesota and Indiana.

Shot selection, effort, free throw shooting, inconsistency, turnovers and an unwillingness to accept coaching have been obvious. Normally calm and thought-provoking in postgame press conferences - win or lose - Painter took my question about what has happened to this proud program and ran with it.

Beginning with an NCAA tournament loss to Kansas in Robbie Hummel's final game as a Boilermaker, Purdue is 31-35, including 13-23 in the Big Ten.

A trip back to the NCAA tournament was expected of this team. A trip home for spring break is the likely destination for this team after this week's Big Ten tournament in Banker's Life Fieldhouse in Indianapolis.

"We have been inconsistent and just have to be able to do some basic things in this game," Painter said. "When you don't take care of the basketball, you don't take good shots and have breakdowns on the defensive end, that is not a good recipe for success.

"The struggle for me as a coach is that we had stretches where we were able to take good shots and take care of the basketball. As soon as you felt good about it, we would revert back to where you would not know the identity of the team. It would be so inconsistent. When we got consistent play across the board, we gave ourselves a chance. We have to learn to play organized basketball and share the ball and take good shots."

In 2005-2006, Painter's first season as head coach, Purdue was 9-19, 3-13 for a last-place Big Ten finish. But he turned the program quickly by signing Chris Kramer, Keaton Grant, E'Twaun Moore, Robbie Hummel and JaJuan Johnson.

Six consecutive NCAA tournament appearances has evolved back to failure, and Painter said it is his fault.

"It is my job to get the guys to play together, and it is my job to get guys to play hard," Painter said. "It is my job to get guys to play smart, and we do not do any of those. When you start off, people always give you a break, but when you are somewhere for nine years, they should not.

"They absolutely should not. It is my fault that we are in this position. I have not gotten them to understand that playing together is contagious. We have to move the basketball and share the basketball. That helps your offensive game and your defensive game, because you get a better shot.

"That makes for healthy basketball. Sometimes, that is hard to really explain. It is really fun to coach when guys will do that. It is unbelievably frustrating when guys won't. It is the best game in the world, and we are trying to mess it up, because we keep thinking about ourselves.

"When you draw two people, you pass. When you get double teamed, you pass. It is a great game to be around when that happens. We have to recruit a more unselfish player. We have to recruit a tougher player. We have some of those guys in our program. Some guys, we don't. Or, maybe this is not the place for them. That is my fault. This is not a school district. I recruited these guys. So, the position that we are in is my fault."

Painter said the same issues happened last season.

"I think each guy made some improvements, but you find out about guys when that adversity sets in," Painter continued. "You have to be able to swallow your pride, show more patience, follow a scouting report and then be able to own the problems.

"That is a hard thing to do with any company, business or team when you have breakdowns. When you own them, you are going to get them corrected. When you don't, you play the blame game and it becomes a vicious cycle. It is what losing teams do. That is something I always try to do as a coach. It's important that your team and your fans hear that, because that is where it starts. Now, you hope guys own their behavior and actions and make corrections. If you do that, you are moving in the right direction. That is what we have to be able to do."

Senior Terone Johnson said after the game that there is talent in the Purdue locker room, but that some of that talent has not been willing to accept coaching and lose themselves to the team.

So, Matt Painter has addressed the elephant in the room, taking full responsibility for what has happened to Purdue basketball in the past two seasons after a six-season run loaded with great moments and exciting victories.

Painter says this is his fault. These are the players he recruited. Painter is a Purdue guy and wants to coach here for many years to come.

But he knows that losing to Northwestern twice in the same season and placing last in the Big Ten will not make that happen for him.

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