Painter to Mizzou: More Than Just a Rumor

By grant.brown

Will Columbia be receiving a new coat of paint? It remains to be seen, but the rumor that began a week ago is gaining steam.

Speculation of Purdue head coach Matt Painter leaving his alma mater for the Missouri Tigers is now a viable possibility for the school that lost head coach Mike Anderson to Arkansas just recently.

It has also been reported Painter will be meeting with Missouri officials on Monday to ‘gauge the school’s commitment to the basketball program’.

At first glance, it seems to be a lateral move for Painter. At a closer look though, it’s step up in multiple areas.

Although Purdue is opening the newly renovated Mackey Arena next season, Missouri debuted their state of the art Mizzou Arena back in November of 2004. The Tigers’ home facility has become a nightmare of a traveling destination for opponents, as former coach Mike Anderson built a 51-3 record at home over the past 3 seasons.

When focusing on financials, Painter is currently making just over $1 million after incentives and bonuses when the season ends at Purdue. From what’s been heard, Missouri is offering a 7-year deal that is worth about $2 million a year, and could be more after bonuses and other incentive agreements. Purdue won’t be able to compete with that price.

The jump to Missouri would give Painter a chance to go back to his head coaching stomping grounds. He began his head coaching career at Southern Illinois, a member of the Missouri Valley conference. Painter undoubtedly knows the Show Me State well when he was recruiting for the Salukis beginning in the late 90’s when he was an assistant.

The move would also give Painter a chance to revitalize a program that has been up and down ever since long-time legend Norm Stewart retired at the end of the 1999 season. And we all know how good the Purdue alum is at turning around teams, as he’s done so at SIU and Purdue in short periods of time.

Mizzou has put all its eggs in one basket here. They have focused all of their attention and manpower on landing the Boilermaker. There’s no plan B, there isn’t another option for Missouri at this point.

It’s been noted before that Painter holds the Missouri job in high regard, and has always left the door open for a possible move away from his basketball playing roots. And it should be known that the former Purdue guard loves a new challenge.

That being said, the move doesn’t seem to add up when taking everything into account.

Purdue has the distinction of being in a traditional powerhouse conference in the Big Ten, while Missouri is in the flailing Big 12 Conference that could become irrelevant in the next 5-10 years. When the Big Ten decided to expand, there was little to no speculation on adding Mizzou, which tells you what Jim Delany and the rest of the conference feel about the state school.

Although Purdue will never be able to pay top dollar compared to Mizzou (Purdue is one of the few power 6 conference schools that is self-sustaining), it is a place that is recognized to be a strong area to raise a family, something that Painter and his wife are currently doing at the moment.

Along with the family atmosphere promoted at Purdue, Painter has high profile recruits coming to West Lafayette in the next 3 years.

Next season, big men Jacob Lawson and Donnie Hale are expected to be viable low post threats for the Boilermakers. In 2012, Rapheal Davis, Jay Simpson, and Kyle Molock (all of which are 4-star and above caliber players) will be attending Purdue. Then in 2013, Painter will debut one of his strongest classes, with the arrival of guards Bryson Scott, Kendall Stephens, and forward Basil Smotherman.

Of course, there is the possibility that the all 8 could change their minds and head to Missouri if Painter decides to dart from Purdue, but that is a high risk to be taking a chance on.

In the end, Purdue is where Painter began his college basketball career. Would he actually depart from his alma mater for Missouri? It’s a question that will be asked countless times for the next 24 hours.

It’s also been speculated that Missouri will officially announce whether or not Painter will be in Columbia for the future or not on Tuesday. By tomorrow, we may know the final verdict on Painter and the Tigers.

The loss of the head coach here at Purdue would be catastrophic. For a Purdue man to bolt from his alma mater for another job that most do not hold in the upper echelon would be extremely degrading for the fans and the Athletic Department in West Lafayette.

There’s always the possibility that Painter is playing the bluff card in the hopes of using this job as leverage for his staff and himself to get a raise, but it’s an extremely risky play at a school that normally plays it very conservatively.

There is a slight bit of positivity to gain from the past 24 hours: former Painter assistant Cuonzo Martin was hired Monday for the head coaching job at Tennessee. It was thought that if Painter departed, Martin knew for sure he would be the next hire at Purdue.

Does the former sharp-shooter Martin know something the rest of us do not? It remains to be seen, but it appears to be a 50-50 shot that Painter stays here in West Lafayette.

As Boilermaker faithful wait on pins and needles, the rumor mill will continue to turn as the search for Painter’s replacement could begin this week: an unthinkable scenario when back in October Purdue was preparing for a run at their first NCAA Tournament title.

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