Mar 2, 2018
Building a Strong Culture

The Purdue University men’s basketball team is having a terrific season, with its best national ranking since 1988. Head Coach Matt Painter has done a lot of behind-the-scenes work to make it all happen.

The veteran coach is a big believer in promoting a positive culture. He says he has also learned that creating a great culture is not a one-time occurrence. It takes constant attention and re-evaluation.

“It is a tough process to accumulate people who fit the culture you want but will also give you the talent you need to win at a high level,” says Painter.

A few years ago, his team was not where he wanted it to be. The Boilermakers had made six straight appearances in the NCAA Tournament between 2007 and 2012, but then came a wake-up call. The team finished last in the Big Ten Conference for the 2013-14 season.

“We weren’t a close-knit group and didn’t stick together when times got tough,” Painter says. “Anybody can have a good team, but not everybody has a good program.”

That caused Painter to re-think the team’s culture and make changes. He appointed then-sophomore Raphael Davis as captain midway through the 2013-14 season, and his work ethic set the tone for improvements to come.

Painter also began recruiting players of “substance” — guys who understand values, know right from wrong, and play with a sense of purpose and pride- — even if that meant passing up on more athletic, talented players. The squad has been back in the NCAA Tournament and national rankings ever since.

“I tell my players, ‘I’m working every day to be the Head Coach at Purdue, and you’re working to be here, too. We’re all replaceable,'” Painter says. “We really haven’t had a cultural shift. We’ve always had a good culture, but it’s our job to get people to buy into that culture.”

Image by JJSnickers

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