Spring cleaning begins for the Boilermakers

The departure of Ronnie Johnson is the start of Purdue's spring cleaning, as it attempts to reshape a program mired in recent struggles.

Snow is melting from the ground, and spring cleaning has begun in West Lafayette.

Ronnie Johnson's departure from Purdue may just be the start of cleaning house at Mackey Arena. Coach Matt Painter needs change for his Boilermakers, and his plan is beginning to take shape.

By no means was Johnson a problem personality. He's a likable guy, a close friend to many teammates and as genuine as they come. Yet, he never quite progressed toward his potential in two seasons with Purdue.

Far too often, Johnson was careless with the basketball, whether it came in the form of a sloppy pass or unwarranted shot. Painter needs a floor general at the point guard position.

At Purdue, team-first basketball is critical. Painter works his players hard in practice, demanding consistency in every facet of the game. Johnson was the most important player on the floor, and he just wasn't working the way his role required.

Transferring was a mutual decision for Johnson and Purdue, according to sources close to both parties. Perhaps the junior-to-be has two tremendous years of basketball ahead, but that wouldn't have happened in West Lafayette. It just wasn't a match.

Many of those Painter postgame rants—about a lack of consistency, needing to recruit better leaders, etcetera—we now know were partially aimed toward Johnson. He wasn't providing what Purdue needed after being trusted with the car keys.

The decision to transfer was made between Painter and Johnson during the season, as it was becoming apparent change was needed on both sides. Purdue upped its steady recruitment of Indianapolis point guard prospect P.J. Thompson, finding a replacement for Johnson before his departure even became official. Just days before news was released, Thompson gave the Boilermakers his verbal commitment.

Now, the Boilermakers turn the page. A full starting five of freshmen will join the program next season, meshing with a promising core. Players like Rapheal Davis and Kendall Stephens emerged as leaders, both on Keady Court and Cardinal Court. Purdue needs more of that.

For those not on board with the Boilermakers' push for change, Painter will open the door out of the program. The sudden exit of the start point guard sets the precedent for a critical offseason.

It's do or die for Matt Painter's run at Purdue, starting with these next months of rebuilding before October. He must reshape his alma mater into a perennial contender for the Big Ten title, bringing it up from the basement.

Spring cleaning is just beginning for Painter's Purdue program. He must be thorough.

Chris Emma has covered recruiting, college athletics and professional baseball for FOX Sports Next since 2009. Emma covered the Nebraska Cornhuskers and Northwestern Wildcats, and currently covers the Purdue Boilermakers. A Chicago native, he resides in West Lafayette.
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