by Kent Sterling
Big day for apologies, I guess. First, a Purdue athletic staffer apologizes for her email to John Purdue Club people, who were offended by her pinning the blame for the lack of resources needed to make former and current coach Matt Painter happy, and now St. Louis Post-Dispatch columnist Bernie Miklasz is very contrite for reporting that a source told him that Painter had accepted the Missouri job.”If my information on Painter was wrong, then all I can do is wear it. Any or all criticism of me is justified. I take pride in my reporting and my cred, so if this has blown up on me, then all I can do is apologize profusely. And I know that isn’t good enough for many of you. But my embarrassment is profound. Something changed and I have no idea what it was. Thanks for listening,” wrote Miklasz.
Miklasz might have been right at the time he posted, but his almost gleeful message that Missouri fans would be happy today was, literally at the end of the day, not a correct assessment of the situation.
The moral of the story for Painter is that going somewhere is a hell of a lot more fun than leaving the people you have come to know, like, and respect. Reporters might have guessed that, but guessing isn’t what good reporters do.
I had a similar situation several years ago in trying to leave for another job, so I might have known better myself. I was the assistant program director at WIBC Radio, and was courted and offered a good job at a sports entity with a broadcasting position. It was a cool job with great history and some intriguing perks. My bosses at Emmis Communication had recommended me for the job, so there would be no bad blood for me taking it.
The bump in money was nice, so I accepted the offer and gave notice. As I spoke to my bosses, including CEO Jeff Smulyan, to thank them, they were so gracious that when I got back to my office, I couldn’t bear the thought of leaving. I talked about it with my wife, and the next day I made the same tour of offices to ask their blessing for me staying.
I drove to the office of the guy who hired me, and told him I changed my mind.
As soon as I said I would take the job, I got a knot in my stomach that I assumed would go away. Until I unrang the bell to stay at Emmis, that knot stayed right there. All the stars can align and the numbers make perfect sense, but the knot in the stomach is hard to ignore for some people.
I’m guessing Painter is one of those people.
He may have called Missouri AD Mike Alden this morning to say he was coming to Columbia, but wanted to talk to his team and management first. He may have returned to West Lafayette, met Purdue AD Morgan Burke and his players. Rather than saying goodbye, it was hugs all around, and a new eight-year deal was done. Or maybe he stayed in Florida, his wife brought some clarity to the situation, and made the decision without the emotional tugs of seeing his players and staff.
Painter has deep roots in Indiana. He went to high school at Delta in Muncie, played for Gene Keady at Purdue, coached elsewhere, but always hoped to come back to Purdue. He accepted the torch passed by Gene Keady, and promptly returned the Boilermakers to prominence in the Big Ten.
A culture was resurrected that demanded defense be played with ferocity every possession, and kids were recruited for their willingness to do that. Players like E’Twaun Moore and JaJuan Johnson showed up good, and under Painter’s tutelage became great.
Moving a family to a new town where they don’t know anyone is tough. For a guy to pull that trigger, either he needs to be very calculating, or presented with a package that he just can’t say no to. I guess $2 million to stay and assurances that his issues with the staff and being nickled and dimed would never arise again were enough to counter whatever Missouri promised.
Throughout this drama, it never felt right that Painter might go to Missouri. Whatever this means, Painter is a Boilermaker. He belongs on the bench for Purdue. I’m not sure why, and I’m sure that Painter would find a way to succeed wherever he might have gone, but it wouldn’t have seemed right.
Maybe it didn’t seem right for him either.
People make mistakes, but as Bob Kravitz reminded me, Rick Pitino used to say, “it was right at the time.” Miklasz may have been right earlier today, but wrong a little bit later. Reporting before Painter was anywhere near the pen he was supposed to use to sign with Missouri is the way journalism works today. Nothing wrong with that.
Just as was the case with Nancy Cross and her ‘cross’ email yesterday, apology accepted.