The Lafayette Journal & Courier has an interesting little scoop today. Upon review, JC writer Mike Carmin found that Purdue coach Matt Painter's contract contains a clause that would allow Painter to leave Purdue without paying a termination fee at the end of the 2010-11 season. That would allow Painter to break his new deal -- as of July 1, 2011 -- with six years remaining on the contract.
It's a mundane little contract detail until you consider the context. Painter has been remarkably successful in his first six years at Purdue, but much of that success has been tied to the particularly remarkable class of 2007. You know the bunch: Robbie Hummel, E'Twaun Moore, and JaJuan Johnson, Purdue's three returning senior stars for 2010-11. It's not difficult to see a coach -- not Painter, necessarily, but any average career-driven college hoops coach -- taking that talent to a (very possible) Final Four or national title and then deciding to leverage his newfound coaching stardom into money, fame, and a legacy program. It sure beats rebuilding.
For his part, Painter is saying all the right things -- chalking the clause up to a negotiating tactic -- even if he's not exactly committing to anything:
"You always do your best as an employee for an institution, but you have to take care of you and your family when it comes to negotiating the best contract for yourself," Painter said. "Once you get into negotiations, there's going to be a hard line drawn in the sand somewhere by both parties. When those things happen, sometimes their side can't move any more financially and then you're going to look at other areas to try to put yourself in the best possible situation to give yourself a little bit of freedom," Painter said. "Maybe if you don't have quite the guaranteed money as some of your peers in your league, there's going to have to be some other things that are advantageous to you and that was one example of that."
It's enough to make Purdue fans slightly nervous. There are a few reasons why it's easier to see Painter staying, though.
For one, Purdue's incoming talent, though far from mind-blowing, is solid. Painter's 2010 class features a couple of players in the top 40 at their positions. 2009 recruits Sandi Marcius (who redshirted after an injury last season) and D.J. Byrd (who played limited minutes in 2009-10) were highly regarded during their recruitment, and could yet blossom into Big Ten-caliber players.
There's also the matter of Painter's emotional ties to the Boilermakers. It's his alma mater. He was groomed for the position by Lafayette coaching legend Gene Keady. It's a big-time job in a major conference, the kind most coaches spend 20 years grinding to get, and leaving it for a flashier opportunity or more money -- which Purdue could potentially provide anyway -- seems antithetical to Painter's circumstances. He's a Purdue guy. Purdue is, in so many ways, a legacy program of its own. Would he really want to pull a LeBron? (Just trying to picture "Painter: The Decision" on Lafayette local news makes my brain hurt.)
At the very least, Matt Painter has that opportunity. And it couldn't have been timed any better.