The Company We Keep
A wise man once said we are judged by the company we keep.
The good people that determine who gets into the Naismith Memorial Basketball Hall of Fame and who doesn’t have once again deigned to give Purdue’s winningest coach, Gene Keady, a chance to be immortalized.
While joining fellow Purdue legends John Wooden, Ward “Piggy” Lambert and Charles “Stretch” Murphy in Springfield, Mass., would be a great 87th birthday (May 21) present, Keady would add class to a section of the Hall of Fame that at times has dispelled the myth that cheaters never prosper.
Take Larry Brown. Elected in 2002, Brown pulled off the triple crown of violating NCAA rules at UCLA, Kansas and SMU. But read his Hall of Fame biography on the Naismith website (hoophall.com) and one would get the impression winning was all that mattered and that Brown was basketball’s gift to coaching.
Here’s what you won’t read in that biography: Suspended for 30 percent of SMU’s games in 2015 and the Mustangs banned from the 2016 NCAA tournament. His actions at UCLA and Kansas also drew postseason bans. But yeah, he’s an all-time great.
To his dying day, former Purdue coach Lee Rose was bitter toward Brown for violating NCAA rules to put together the UCLA team that beat him during the 1980 Final Four.
Current Kentucky coach John Calipari also pulled off a rare feat in NCAA history, coaching not one but two schools (UMass, Memphis) who had their Final Four berths erased due to recruiting violations.
Rick Pitino, whose penchant for cheating extended (embarrassingly in one case) into his personal life, swore he knew nothing about an assistant procuring escorts for recruits and players at Louisville. That fib resulted in the NCAA stripping the Cardinals of their 2012 national championship.
There are other Hall of Fame coaches who had, to be kind, sketchy history with NCAA investigators: Jim Boeheim, Jim Calhoun, Everett Case, Bill Self and Jerry Tarkanian.
Perhaps then it is fitting that the Class of 2023 will be announced on April Fools Day in Houston as part of the NCAA Men’s Final Four festivities. It would also be fitting if Keady’s protégé, Matt Painter, and the Boilermakers would be there to celebrate (hopefully) his big day.
Keady has been waiting since 2006 for a third chance at election to the Naismith Hall of Fame. Among the competition this time is East Chicago native Gregg Popovich, a five-time NBA championship coach with the San Antonio Spurs, and women’s basketball coaching great Gary Blair, who led Texas A&M to the 2011 title.
Keady’s credentials lack a Final Four but he can boast six National Coach of the Year honors (1984, 1988, 1994-96, 2000), six Big Ten titles (1984, 1987-88, 1994-96) and a record seven Big Ten Coach of the Year awards (1984, 1988, 1990, 1994-96, 2000).
Keady isn’t the only Purdue legend who has waited too long for enshrinement.
Rick Mount hasn’t picked up a basketball professionally since 1975. If I am interpreting the Hall of Fame eligibility rules correctly, the greatest shooter in my lifetime has been waiting more than 40 years for the call.
Caleb Swanigan and Zach Edey are among a select group of Purdue players who have had seasons approaching the career numbers put up by Terry Dischinger in the early 1960s. His career averages were 28.3 points and 13.7 rebounds per game.
Dischinger, also the 1963 NBA Rookie of the Year and a three-time NBA All-Star, is in the Naismith Hall of Fame as a member of the 1960 Olympic gold medal basketball team. But Dischinger deserves a solo plaque like his 1960 teammates Oscar Robertson, Jerry West, Jerry Lucas and Walt Bellamy.
Glenn Robinson’s case for Hall of Fame enshrinement includes unanimous collegiate player of the year in 1994, national scoring champion that same season and a nearly 21-point scoring average in the NBA. He has been out of basketball since winning an NBA championship ring with San Antonio in 2005.
College basketball’s future
Former Purdue star Robbie Hummel and Boilermaker coach Matt Painter are among The Athletic’s “20 for the next 20 years of college basketball” who will influence the game.
Hummel came in at No. 6, two spots ahead of his former head coach. After his playing career ended, Hummel has been in demand as a TV analyst. He currently calls games for both ESPN and the Big Ten Network.
“The former Purdue star already has proven to be insightful and intuitive, appreciated for both his understanding of the game and his candor,” Dana O’Neil writes. “Analysts are pretty much the sport’s megaphone, and Hummel could be the insider voice of the future.”
Painter was given a place on the list for more than his coaching acumen.
“Aside from his own staying power, as a perennial March presence, Painter is quietly and unassumingly becoming a powerful voice in college basketball leadership,” O’Neil writes. “He sits on a number of NCAA committees and is on the (National Association of Basketball Coaches) board of directors.
“More important than the positions themselves, he wants to roll up his sleeves and take care of the game. Coaches hope that, in the new NCAA structure, there will actually be room at the table for them to share their insights and opinions. If so, seat Painter at the head.”
The Purdue men’s and women’s basketball teams could have something in common at season’s end.
For the first time in school history, each squad could have a 2,000-point career scorer on their roster. However, this statement comes with an asterisk.
Fifth-year senior guard Lasha Petree surpassed the 2,000-point milestone last Sunday in the 83-60 loss at No. 2 Indiana. Her team-high 23 points gives her 356 in a Purdue uniform to go with 257 at Rutgers and 1,398 at Bradley for a total of 2,011.
On the men’s side, fifth-year senior guard David Jenkins Jr. is 46 points shy of 2,000. His totals include 1,194 at South Dakota State, 399 at UNLV, 264 at Utah and 97 in his role as the backup to Braden Smith at Purdue. …
Purdue’s Matt Painter and Northwestern’s Chris Collins are the only Big Ten Conference coaches on the Naismith Coach of the Year late-season watch list.
The Atlanta Tipoff Club placed 15 coaches on the list that includes Randy Bennett of Saint Mary’s, Jeff Capel of Pittsburgh, Mick Cronin of UCLA, Dennis Gates of Missouri, Pat Kelsey of College of Charleston, Dusty May of Florida Atlantic, Sean Miller of Xavier, Nate Oats of Alabama, T.J. Otzelberger of Iowa State, Kelvin Sampson of Houston, Shaka Smart of Marquette, Jerome Tang of Kansas State and Rodney Terry of Texas.
The list will be narrowed to 10 semifinalists on March 9 and four finalists on March 20.
Projected to finish in the middle of the Big Ten pack, Purdue (23-4) leads the league at 12-4. The Boilermakers have spent seven weeks atop The Associated Press poll and are competing for the program’s fourth No. 1 NCAA Tournament seed in school history. …
The Darrell Hazell era at Purdue was one fans would like to forget. But two members of Hazell’s staff made news last week.
Notre Dame head coach Marcus Freeman, the co-defensive coordinator during Hazell’s final season in 2016, needed an offensive coordinator after Alabama hired away Tommy Rees this offseason.
Enter Gerad Parker, the man who served as interim coach at Purdue in 2016 for the final six games after Hazell was dismissed.
Parker was promoted from tight ends coach and earned praise for his development of Mackey Award finalist Michael Mayer.
“I know firsthand the person, teacher, recruiter and innovative football mind he is,” Freeman said. “I look forward to watching our offense flourish under Gerad’s leadership and direction.”Kenny Thompson is the former sports editor for the Lafayette Journal & Courier and an award-winning journalist. He has covered Purdue athletics for many years.