The 2018 Purdue season at Boston’s TD Arena at the Sweet Sixteen ended with the number 2 ranked Boilermakers falling to coach Chris Bird, the number 3 seed of the Texas Tech Red Raisers. It may have ended earlier, in Detroit, with a commotion that echoed all the way up to the rafters of Little Caesar’s Arena. I was there, all the way there, and I could still hear that heavy noise.
But let’s go back to the coaches who can’t stop playing with each other.
This was the second time that Coach Matt Painter’s Boilermakers had named Beard as the highest-ranked team. This was the second time Coach Bird had outgrown him.
They will play for the third time in the NCAA Championship on Sunday. This time in Milwaukee. This time with Coach Bird in Texas.
There is a bar in Boston. It’s called the Green Dragon Tavern. It was called the Green Dragon, long ago, before the United States was, you know, the United States. Their site says that in this tape Paul Revere overheard the conversation that began one of the most important road trips in history.
I had lunch there, hours before the game, and lobster mac n cheese with sharp accents (laaaaaaaaaaaahhbsta) and all the dark woods and antiques displayed on the wall. The steps then walked, the ones Revere took around town. Some bricks in the road are still there.
We have a natural fascination with this, history, to follow in the footsteps of the people who came before us. Is it out of admiration? respect? Deepest need to understand where we come from?
For fans of Bordeaux, we started to feel like we were going there out of fear. Fear, the need to remember the historical sites of our greatest pains and disappointments. We go there to remind ourselves of what this created, an imperfect union between a fan and a team. We go there because we believe history repeats itself.
that is it. Purdue History. Glenn Robinson. Rick Mount. Children’s kettles. Inevitably, Arkansas Little Rock. The game is in Boston. Virginia. The information. scroll. floating.
There is no Paul Revere in our story…not yet. Or is there? Was Paul Revere present at that moment, at that pub, or did he come later? on the horse? After the war? What if America lost, and simply wasn’t? What do we call it then?
In Boston, on that day, there was a warning. This team, this build, this kind of attack, it’s not going to work. Maybe it could be with Isaac Haas with two working elbows…but there was Arkansas Little Rock too, and Purdue had three dominant positions at the time.
The painter’s instructor had to feel it. He should have known because he reached out to someone in Boston, coach Micah Shrewsbury, and told him to go back to West Lafayette, and back to Purdue.
The painter’s coach was losing a lot that year. Dakota Mathias will disappear. Isaac Hass. Vincent Edwards. PJ Thompson. One category put Bordeaux back in the right direction.
Of all that loss, Carson Edwards and Ryan Klein are back. How would that be enough? How would Bordeaux have sparked their revolt with only two guards?
There are more anecdotes and similes to draw, I’m sure. America wasn’t Britain after all. They were not well equipped or full of five star athletes. They had the smarts and space advantage, and they stopped playing by the rules. The limitations set by polite agreements on war.
Purdue doesn’t have a top 5 NBA lottery pick. They play big, lumbering characters and clever shooting rangers who play “the right way”. They put the ball inside, then back inside, and then they did it more.
They play in defense because they have to play in defense. It’s not good enough to outsmart you. They will not meet you on the battlefield face to face, rather they will fight the guerrilla war away from you and choose their positions.
But somewhere it gets complicated, mixing metaphor with madness, and we just have to get here.
I spent the morning watching Purdue lose to Arkansas Little Rock. I spent the morning watching Purdue lose to Texas Tech.
I only have one real note: This is not a Purdue difference. This is not a Purdue program.
Basketball isn’t a war, but software can certainly make revolutions. They can change before our eyes. So fast that you don’t even realize it happened. Certainly before you believe in it.
You see, Bordeaux didn’t need an exorcist after all. They needed Travion Williams. They needed Jaden Ivey. They needed Zack Eddy. They needed Sasha Stefanovic and Eric Hunter Jr., they needed more basketballs for the Indiana and runners-up, and they needed a fresh attack.
They needed the Painter Coach to be a better coach, and now he is. I have learned. It has also evolved. “I didn’t make a mistake in the Virginia game. I made a mistake in the Little Rock game,” he said halfway through his press conference on Saturday. He talks about inflated strands and when they spoil. It’s just proof that he knows he can’t be stubborn, he has to change.
Back in the 2019 season, to coach Shrewsberry and Purdue’s evolution in attack. There were always groups, even good ones, but Perdue’s attack not only went through the post, he insisted on the post, he needed the post. That’s why Isaac Hass’ injury was so devastating. Not only because Texas Tech was so small, but because the Purdue needed to be so big. When they lost Haas, they lost their humiliation.
Dakota Mathias and PJ Thompson were great keepers. They played great defense and didn’t take bad shots. Part of the fact is that they can’t make bad shots. This was not their game. They relied on Haas’ gravity, off-ball screens, and finding the space these two things would give them.
Fast forward and Jaden Ivey retires from being at the three-point line, and re-appears in the paint on the other side of his cannons, rising at the ledge. Tre swings left, turns right, makes contact and lands backwards and still throws the ball with touch and accuracy. Even Eric Hunter Jr., at one point, a limited offensive player, plays the No. 1 three-point shooter in the Big Ten in the conference, and a senior guard, capable of finishing paint off a set of raging jerky movements and his left hand.
Mason Gillis may be three inches shorter than you would have preferred your power forward, but he’s a 4 star who has shot 43% of three this season and is a brutal rebel. He can defend big and small, rotate and hedge, double inside, or stick his leg into the ocean. If you want that extra three inches, Coach Painter has a real freshman who’s every 6’10” and just had the best game of his career in his first NCAA game despite not being in the rotation last month.
cleverness. athletic. Comprehensive skill. Still size. Still shooters.
The scheme depends on the players, but the players the coaches get depends on the purpose. It depends on what plan the coach has and what plan he wants to implement.
So we’re back to Coach Shrewsberry and a new offense, and Coach Painter put a new plan in place, or at least a change from the previous one. Omicron level difference. Moving the ball and filling the field with playmakers and shot makers is very contagious. It’s no longer just a matter of finding the man in the post. Purdue need to put pressure on people everywhere. What’s more, they must be able to change as well, adapt and stand up to pressure from other teams. Teams are like Coach Beard coaches, no matter what outfit they’re wearing.
Jaden Ivey runs powerfully around two screens on Ryan Cline ala Carsen Edwards, thus allowing him to runway where he can decide whether he wants a drive, a shot, or a one-on-one with a 7’4″ center somehow already more imposing than Isaac Haas or er J. Hammons. He resists choosing Spain by sending that big guy to the edge of the alley. It’s about finding players and a scheme that allows players to change the answers because teams have a way of changing the questions in Purdue Or maybe it’s just bad luck and injuries. You’ll have to defeat both anyway, If you are already going to hack.
Shrewsberry is now gone, to his own team, Penn State, but his effects remain. Improved offense, variations on variations of variances, and the trained painter never stopped playing with his groups, staff, and creating a new style of basketball at Purdue.
As the kids say, Coach Painter is in his bag, and the bag is big.
It’s not normal, that kind of development in basketball. There is a lot of change everywhere.
In the four years since Purdue lost that game to Texas Tech, Chris Bird has gone to a National Championship game. Then he went to another school. His dream school. He returned home long after the painter coach had already settled in his home.
But this is not the right word. adjustments. This is all about the opposite. What Chris Bird should discover, perhaps, if he stays this time is that just because you’re home doesn’t mean you’re done.
“He did a great job on all of his stops,” coach Pinter says, referring to Little-Rock, Texas Tech.
“You learn from your losses,” he continues. “You learn from him. You want your teams to be that hard.”
We’re supposed to wrap this stuff up with something clever.
Four years ago, Coach Painter and Coach Beard passed a high-caliber NCAA team training circus about to play with each other.
New schools. new players. new yard.
what are they saying? As much as things change, they remain the same?
The painter’s coach hopes this team will change that.