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February 21, 2013
A new experience
Matt Painter isn't all that accustomed to losing, since he's done so little of it during his career as a head coach.
Not since Painter's first season as Purdue's head coach, when the Boilermakers were either severely under-manned and ravaged by injury, has Purdue struggled like it's been recently. The Boilermakers are 12-14, coming off five losses - all by double-digits - in their past six outings.
Painter suggested Thursday that that 9-19 season in 2005-06 has provided him little relevant frame of reference on how to deal with this year's struggling group.
"That team played a lot harder than this team," Painter said. "We were under-manned, but we didn't give in to things. We've given in to things (this season). We had some guys come into the program when things were going pretty good and didn't realize the heavy lifting some other people were doing. It starts with discipline and with working on your game."
Throughout the course of this season, Painter has criticized his team's effort, work ethic, chemistry and myriad other intangibles.
He was asked Thursday if some of the issues encountered this season - whether they be related to complexion of roster, personality of player or whatever - might change the way he recruits moving forward.
"You're always learning things," Painter said. "We're also in this position because we don't have enough skill. Any time you can put the ball in the basket, it helps other things. It helps people feel good about themselves. But I also think part of our issue is shot selection as much as it is skill. We have guys who just play away from their strengths and they want to be something they're not when they haven't put in the time to make that change.
"But there's no doubt. You learn things, and sometimes you have to re-learn things, in recruiting. Sometimes you're talking about a guy you feel's going to develop and make those strides and they don't. That's part of it. You have to look at a guy (and project). But we have not done a good job in terms of getting a skilled player."
Purdue lost a bevy of perimeter shooters off last season's team and has struggled mightily from the outside this season, even though its offensive focus has moved to the interior with the presence of freshman A.J. Hammons.
Meanwhile, its guard play has been erratic.
"That's why you have to have depth and it's my fault that we don't have depth," Painter said, referring again back to recruiting. "We have a lot of guys who need to sit and watch, but we don't have the depth to do that. It's a great lesson, because you make mistakes and when you continue to play, you think the mistakes are OK."
But Purdue's problems this season, by every account, especially the head coach's, have had as much to do with what's transpired away from the court than on it.
Painter has mentioned the erosion of Purdue's "basketball culture" numerous times in relation to this year's team and the need to restore it.
In recruiting, gauging motivation and work ethic can be as important as it is a player's jump shot or ball-handling acumen.
"You talk to people around the kid about how much they love the game, but you really don't know, except for with those special guys who have a real passion for the game," Painter said. "... That's the one thing is when you get a couple guys like that, it can really influence other guys on your team to get in the gym.
"But if you have guys who don't, that could also be a negative change. We had some guys coming in who are young and now in their second year and the blueprint was right in front of them in Rob Hummel. And they didn't do what Rob Hummel did. And now they stare into space about why they're struggling. They had the perfect role model right in front of them.
"We just haven't had guys do the extra things to help themselves and help our team. When you compare the two, that's where we need to improve, on the discipline side and extra work."
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