Matt Painter

Purdue's Matt Painter to Have Delta Number Retired
Posted on 12/13/2019
Matt Painter coaches

By Adam Navarro Eagle's Eye sports writer The retiring of numbers is a tradition that is woven into the realm of athletics at the high school, college and professional levels. 

For Delta High School, however, retiring the number of a student-athlete has never happened. Until now.

 Matt Painter, current Purdue University men’s basketball head coach and one of Delta’s greatest basketball players, will have his number 12 immortalized. 

The ceremony will take place on Saturday, Dec. 21, during halftime of the varsity boys’ basketball game against Muncie Central.

Painter himself will be in attendance for the ceremony. Purdue plays Butler at 2:30 p.m. for the Crossroads Classic in Indianapolis, and afterward he will travel north to Muncie.

“It is pretty cool being recognized by your high school, especially understanding the significance behind it and witnessing others being given the honor,” Painter stated.

“Well, it’s long overdue, that’s for sure,” said boys’ basketball head coach Mark Detweiler. “It’s one of those things that needs to be done because he’s had such an impact on the game of basketball at so many levels.”

Painter graduated from Delta in 1989 as the school’s all-time leader in career points with 1,497 and in career assists. It wasn’t until a decade later that Rob Robbins shattered Painter’s all-time scoring record. Painter’s total has remained at second ever since. 

Painter also possesses the highest single-season scoring total with 693 points in 1988-89.

Painter’s skill set was not only limited to scoring the ball. He also ranks second all-time in single-season assists. Painter stated that he believed passing was his best attribute on the court. 

His best season as an Eagle came in the form of his 1988-1989 campaign. His statline for that year was 28.9 points, 9.6 rebounds, and 4.5 assists per game. That same year, he was selected to the Indiana All-Star team. 

At the time, Painter was Delta’s first Indiana All-Star and only the third one ever from a county school in Delaware County (the other two were Yorktown’s Bruce Parkinson in 1972 and Yorktown’s Greg Miller in 1986). On top of all of that, in that same year, Painter signed a letter of intent to play basketball on a full scholarship at Purdue University.  

Painter’s success wasn’t just limited to individual statistics. Painter played on the junior varsity team his freshman year, which was headlined by an undefeated regular season. The varsity basketball team then went 60-12 during Painter’s three-year varsity career. 

Math teacher Mr. Sam Fields was an assistant coach for the basketball team when Painter played. Fields said his favorite memory with Painter was winning the sectional title in 1989. 

“Winning the sectional and getting to go to the regional is something I’ll never forget,” Fields said. 

Another fond memory came when Painter hit a game-winning shot at Yorktown. 

“Everybody riding the bus home from Yorktown was just in disbelief.,” Fields said. “The game was at Yorktown and he hit that ridiculous shot to win it and everyone went nuts, so that’s something I’ll never forget.” 

Eighth grade social studies teacher Mr. Brad Himes was Painter’s teammate. He stated that, “Matt was the kind of player that made all of his teammates better …. Matt was the best passer I ever played with or against. His court vision was incredible and his knowledge of the game was unrivaled.” 

In addition to all that, Himes stressed that Painter was an even better person.

“Matt is a great guy. He is the same guy today. Success changes a lot of people. Not Matt, he remembers his roots,” Himes stated. “I was fortunate to have had the opportunity to play with him and know him.”

Retiring his number hasn’t just been a one-year conversation. Detweiler said that when he arrived here three years ago, there were already conversations being had about retiring Painter’s number.  

Detweiler feels strongly that Painter’s overall impact in the game of basketball makes it necessary to retire his jersey.

“The logistics of retiring a jersey, it’s one of those things politically, because we’ve had a few guys on the All-Star team, and the overriding conversation we’ll always come back to is, ‘My gosh! This is a graduate of ours that one, was on the All-Star team, and two, he’s a National Coach of the Year, a coach at the highest level of (NCAA) Division 1 basketball, and is just a guy that we need to make sure we retire his jersey,’” Detweiler said. 

The main man behind the jersey retirement ceremony, though, has been athletic director Mr. Grant Zgunda. 

“His contribution to basketball in the state of Indiana is basically why we did it,” Zgunda said. “By him becoming Purdue’s head basketball coach and with what a big deal that was, it was a big factor.” 

He said that for the ceremony, Painter will be presented with an honorary plaque and a basketball. The banner of his No. 12 will be hung on the north wall in the gym.

After Delta, Painter went on to Purdue University and played from 1989 to 1993. For his Purdue playing career, he averaged 4.5 points, 2.5 assists, and 1.7 rebounds. He was also named a team captain as a senior. This wouldn’t be the last time that Purdue heard the name Matt Painter. 

Eleven years later in 2004, Purdue was in search of a successor to the winningest coach in school history, men’s basketball coach Gene Keady, who was slated to retire after the 2004-2005 season. Painter spent that season as the associate head coach. 

He took over as head coach the following season and began his journey to help Purdue basketball be a consistent winner. 

Since Painter took over as head coach, Purdue has been to the NCAA Tournament 11 times and to the Sweet 16 five times. The five winningest classes in school history have come during the Painter era (2010, 2011, 2012, 2018, 2019). 

With all that being said, Purdue wasted no time in giving Painter a contract extension last year to remain the Boilermakers’ head coach through the 2023-2024 season. He makes $2.8 million per year, which ranks 25th nationally among Division 1 basketball coaches. 

As for this year, Painter’s expectations for his team remain the same.

“Our goals every season are to win the Big Ten Championship and compete well in the NCAA tournament, and this year they are no different,” Painter stated.  

By definition, to immortalize something means to bestow unending fame upon it. By retiring the jersey of Matt Painter, Delta High School is doing more than just retiring a jersey. Delta is immortalizing the legacy of one of the school’s most famous graduates. They’re recognizing a man who has impacted basketball in the state of Indiana at every level. Most important of all, though, Delta is immortalizing an Eagle.  Matt Painter at Delta