This commentary is in response to a recent column published in the Journal and Courier by Tom Kubat, titled "Premier program deserved big name". This response was submitted as an editorial, but was not published online by the Journal and Courier.
Tom Kubat’s column suggesting Purdue should have hired a “big-name, proven head coach” to replace Gene Keady was flawed in so many ways, I scarcely know where to begin.
The most obvious is that big-name, proven head coaches do not leave their current school for another unless there is some strong tie to the new school. Bill Self wanted to coach in the Big XII, which is home to him. Roy Williams went to North Carolina because it’s his alma mater, but even they had to ask more than once. Bobby Knight and Rick Pitino are among those who were not in the college game when they were hired at their current schools. What big-name, proven head coach is longing to return to his Purdue or midwestern roots?
Kubat mostly leaves that to our imagination because there is no such coach. The only suggestion he offered was Xavier coach Thad Matta. Matta may be a hot name in coaching, but he hardly qualifies as a “big-name, proven” head coach. Unlike the coaches mentioned above, Matta has never coached at a high-major school, and all but Self have been to the Final Four. Matta, who is only 36 years old, has been a head coach for only four years, and while he Xavier did well this year, they were led by players that Matta inherited from the previous coach.
Kubat also did not seem to consider the circumstances under which Purdue hired Keady’s replacement. It is extremely rare for a coaching position to be open a year in advance. Which big-name head coach is going to come sit next to Keady for a year while he waits for his turn? If Purdue wanted a big-name replacement, it needed to either have the opening right now, or wait until next year to hire one. Since Keady didn’t take the San Francisco job, there was no opening now, and waiting essentially would have meant that Purdue could not recruit while they waited.
Besides all that, hiring a big-name coach does not guarantee success. I’m sure Purdue thought big things were in the future when they spent a ton of money to hire football coach Fred Akers. Akers had been successful at Texas, however I don’t think I’m going too far out on a limb when I say that he is among the worst coaches in Purdue history – in any sport.
Finally, Kubat suggested that a big-name replacement would be a better way to “truly honor what Keady has built.” Kubat knows Keady better than I do, but I’ll bet that Keady is more honored to have a member of his own basketball family as his replacement than some big-name outsider.
While I would have rather seen Keady get the extension he wanted, he and Morgan Burke should be congratulated for making the best of a bad situation. I hate to think what might have happened if Painter had said no.
Jerry Palm is a former contributor to Old Gold Free Press. He currently maintains the internet's best source for RPI information at CollegeRPI.com.