Purdue’s Matt Painter hopes scandal cleans up college basketball

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The Boilermaker coach on a scandalous week in the sport and what happens next.
Nathan Baird/Journal & Courier

WEST LAFAYETTE, Ind. — Purdue basketball coach Matt Painter joked he would only take questions about his beloved Chicago Cubs at Friday’s post-practice interview.

Yet after the Boilermakers wrapped up their first official practice on Cardinal Court, Painter inevitably fielded questions about the scandal that dominated the college basketball conversation all week. Four assistant coaches were arrested, and Louisville coach Rick Pitino is on unpaid administrative leave, likely in advance of being fired.

Painter turned back to baseball for his answer. He hopes the probe, led by the FBI and the U.S. Attorney for the Southern District of New York, cleans up college basketball the way the steroid hunt cleaned up baseball.

The latter sport may not be perfect, Painter said, but it’s certainly improved.

“I think it sent a loud message through college basketball that they’re obviously not messing around,” Painter said. “I applaud what they did. You’ve got a conscious decision to do what you’re supposed to do in any profession, and some people decided not to do that.

“Obviously they’re going to pay dearly, but from a personal standpoint, it doesn’t affect me one bit. You’re worried about your team and trying to get guys to understand the opportunity they have here and trying to get them to grow as students and individuals and players and hopefully each year have a good team.”

NATHAN BAIRD: College basketball scandal a vindication for some, too late for others

Purdue players interviewed Friday said such stories about the underbelly of college basketball always floated around like legends. They never saw it with their own eyes, but after enough rumors of smoke, they believed a fire was burning somewhere.

Still, some said they were taken aback by the nature of the allegations earlier this week.

Not Painter, who enters his 14th season as head coach of his alma mater. When asked if the existence of such malfeasance frustrated him, he responded as if it were another 1-2-2 zone.

“It’s your profession. You learn to navigate in and around it,” Painter said. “You have a decision to make and we’ve always just tried to recruit who we could recruit and who we couldn’t recruit. If it’s something where you think something might be happening or something improper, you go the other direction. 

“A lot of times it’s hard, when there’s maybe not very many big guys or many point guards or things of that nature through the years. But after a while it gets to be where you find the guys that want to be at Purdue for the right reasons.”

Vincent Edwards said “I wasn’t that guy” — that he didn’t need further enticement beyond a scholarship.

“I mean, I was top 100, but I was at the bottom of the top 100,” Edwards said in a self-deprecating assessment of his value on the open market.

The Boilermaker players bristled at any suggestion that college basketball might be so tainted with corruption that it damages the sport’s reputation.

“Some people tend to break the rules and that’s how they run things,” junior guard Ryan Cline said. “Obviously here I feel like we’ve never done that, ‘We’ve never come off like we’ve done that. We develop players into standout players that can maybe make it to the league one day.

“Here it’s not something you have to worry about. We’re not worrying about it as much as other people are.”

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