Painter leaves SIU for job at Purdue

Friday, April 9, 2004
Matt Painter

Matt Painter resigned Thursday as head basketball coach at Southern Illinois to take an assistant coaching job at Purdue, SIU athletic director Paul Kowalczyk announced.

Painter will be an associate coach under Gene Keady next season before taking over when the longtime Boilermakers coach retires. The 67-year-old Keady has one year left on his contract.

A Purdue spokesman said the school was planning a Friday press conference. Officials at SIU in Carbondale, who offered to double Painter's salary to get him to stay, also scheduled a Friday news conference to announce a new coach. Painter had three years left on a contract at Southern Illinois that paid him $180,000 a year.

"If it were a scenario where it was just a school offering me a lot of money, I wouldn't have taken the job at this point in my career," Painter said in a statement posted on SIU's Web site. "But Purdue wasn't just another school. I have a passion for Purdue. It's my alma mater. And then there's Gene Keady."

Painter, 33, played for Keady from 1989-93 and was hired as an assistant at Southern Illinois in 1998 by Bruce Weber -- who spent 18 years as an assistant coach under Keady at Purdue.

Darren Brooks, the Salukis' leading scorer and the Missouri Valley player of the year, said Painter interrupted a pickup basketball game to tell several of the players he was leaving.

"He just told us that he took the job and it was a tough decision all along. We didn't say much," Brooks said. "He was emotional. He was kind of teary. When he said his speech, it came from the heart."

Painter was hired to replace Weber last offseason, becoming the second-youngest men's basketball coach in school history.

He guided the Salukis to one of the best seasons in school history in his first season, when little was expected of them. Southern Illinois was picked to finish fifth in the Missouri Valley preseason poll.

The Salukis won their first six games, enjoyed a 16-game winning streak in conference play and won their third consecutive Missouri Valley championship. They also spent six weeks in the Top 25, rising as high as No. 15 -- the highest ranking in school history.

Southern Illinois received an at-large bid to the NCAA tournament, losing 65-64 to Alabama on a last-second shot. It was the third straight NCAA appearance since making the round of sixteen two seasons ago.

The Salukis finished the season 25-5, and Painter was named Missouri Valley coach of the year -- just like Weber was last season before he left the Salukis to take the head coaching job at Illinois.

"He's done a tremendous job and got more out of our team this year than anyone could have expected," Kowalczyk said. "He's been part of the rebuilding process for six years and left his stamp on the program."

Painter met with Purdue officials on Sunday, but waited until after the team's annual banquet to make a decision.

He is a logical fit for Purdue, having grown up in Indiana. He played high school basketball there before heading to Purdue.

"This is a great development for Purdue basketball," Keady said in a statement posted on Purdue's Web site. "Ever since he was a player here, Matt has had one of the sharpest basketball minds I've ever been around. He eats it, sleeps it and wakes up in the middle of the night thinking about it."

But leaving Southern Illinois won't be easy for Painter.

Southern Illinois returns four of its five leading scorers from last year's team, including Brooks.

"People always say, 'It's a dream for me to go back to Purdue.' But it's also a dream for me to coach here," Painter said. "You just don't think something like this is going to be on your plate, ever. Especially your alma mater."

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