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August 14, 2013

Brantley expected to bring passion to Purdue





Brandon Brantley joins Matt Painter's staff with no formal college coaching experience.

What the Boilermaker alumnus has plenty of, however, is life experience.

And that can go a long way, according to a man who found himself in much the same situation Brantley does today: Cuonzo Martin.

In 2000, Martin joined Gene Keady's staff fresh off his professional playing career, cut short by the battle he'd ultimately win over cancer.

Brantley's experiences may not have been quite so harrowing, but Martin draws parallels between his path into coaching and that of his fellow former Boilermaker and close friend.

"A great thing about Brandon is he's had years now to figure out what he wants to do," said Martin, now the head coach at Tennessee. "He's been in the corporate world, he's played, he's coached. So now when you're turning 40 years old, he's in a great place, where he always wanted to be. You have to understand that this is a guy who has always wanted to be (at Purdue again). He waited patiently. He stayed around the program. He took notes. Now, he's there and you know he'll work as hard as he can.

"He's not like me when I was young and I was all over the place and trying to learn. He's settled in his life. Going in at 40, you kind of know what you want. Me, I was trying to decide when I came in, 'Do I want to do this for the next 10 or 20 years?' For him, he already knows he does. This is what he wants to do. Coach Painter doesn't have to worry if the guy has one foot out the door trying to be the next head coach somewhere. He knows Brandon will be a part of his program."

Brantley was a center and captain for Purdue during its run of three consecutive outright Big Ten titles in the '90s, after which he played professionally for a decade during stops in Spain, Finland, England, Italy, Venezuela and the Continental Basketball Association domestically.

Martin praised Brantley's understanding of post play - the 6-foot-9 former center will work with Purdue's big men - but admits there will be a transition for anyone breaking into college coaching for the first time.

But, Martin says, Brantley's equipped well - and will have a strong enough support system - to make the move smoothly at his alma mater.

"It's very important to have that understanding of Purdue, but there's always going to be a process you go through," Martin said. "Coach Painter, the assistant coaches, Elliot Bloom, he'll learn from those guys and continue to gain knowledge, but the great thing is he knows the culture, he knows the campus, he knows the environment. When he's talking to recruits, he won't have to be brought up to speed to sell Purdue. It comes naturally for him, because it's a way of life for him."

The opportunity at Purdue is one Brantley has coveted, one he's tried to prepare himself for by coaching at grassroots levels since his playing days met their end.

First, he spent five seasons coaching at Ben Davis High School in Indianapolis, as junior varsity coach and a varsity assistant.

"He really knew the game," said Jordan Britt, who played for Brantley on the Giants' J.V. team from '06-'08. "I wouldn't consider myself an expert but I'm from Indiana and grew up watching the game all the time and you can usually tell when people understand the game in the way they explain it and offer up information and giving you ways to look at things.

"He understood how to play, he understood the X and Os and he understood how to communicate with you on a personal level. And when a play happened, he understood how you felt about it. You know how they call (coaches) 'players' coaches' on TV? He was like that. He knows how you feel in the moment and he understands personality dynamics. He was a very impressive coach."

Brantley has since coached on summer travel circuit also, most recently with veteran coach Pat Mullin's Eric Gordon All-Stars Central Stars team.

"He's a very personable guy, just a good guy who's honest and hard-working," said Mullin, who's coached AAU in Indiana since 1992. "It's hard not to like Brandon because of those qualities.

"He gained the respect of the players, because he was all about rolling up his sleeves and working. There are good coaches and great coaches and the difference can be people and results. There's a lot of guys who just go one way or the other. He's both. He has the respect of our players, that's for sure."

One of those players was Center Grove wing Michael Benkert, who said his spring and summer around Brantley were valuable.

"I loved being coached by him," said Benkert, a Class of 2015 player with an offer in hand already from Indiana State and many other schools showing interest. "And it wasn't just about basketball. He really just taught me and everybody else on the team about hard work. He was just so into coaching and basketball in general. I think Purdue got a great assistant coach.

"I just think it's his energy (above all else). Before games, he'd be the one to lead us in stretches and he was always the one talking and trying to motivate us. I really liked that in him."

Brantley, Martin said, will bring that same zeal, and then some, back to Purdue.

"You're also talking about a guy who has a passion to work with Coach Painter and his staff and not only that but just the university because he plays basketball there and is from the state of Indiana," Martin said. "He's so excited, like a kid in a candy store, to be honest with you. It's just a good opportunity for a good guy.

"Purdue alums, the guys who played, the ones who came before and after us, are all excited about Brandon Brantley being hired, because he's a good guy, we know where his heart is and we know he has a passion for Purdue basketball and also the university. It's a great hire by Coach Painter."




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