In the spring, Purdue coach Matt Painter found himself with a critical vacancy on his coaching staff to fill after Jack Owens became head coach at Miami (Ohio), but then landed the only coach he's believed to have targeted for the opening when Creighton's Steve Lutz signed on.
Lutz came to Purdue following a highly successful run at Creighton, which went 166-82, played in four NCAA Tournaments and won three conference titles of one kind or another during his seven seasons in Omaha, under Greg McDermott.
GoldandBlack.com caught up with Lutz earlier in June for the following interview.
Q: How difficult has been the adjustment been to a new program?
Lutz: "I don't know that anything's been hard in terms of adjustment, but it's a different set of language, a different set of terminology. Obviously a little bit different system in terms of style of play and in terms of the type of player he likes to coach and prefers to win with, but once you get the basics down of what he wants, it's pretty simple after that. Matt's really, really good at communicating, which makes things that much easier."
Q: Why did you want to come to Purdue?
Lutz: "I don't think I woke up one morning and said, 'I want to go to Purdue.' But as things unfolded and I began talking to (Painter) and I met with (athletic director) Mike Bobinski, I just really believed in their vision. I had a very, very good situation there at Creighton and was part of a group of people who'd accomplished a lot but knew if I had a chance to come to Purdue, we'd have a chance to accomplish all that and maybe more. I really feel Purdue has everything in place to win a national title at some point."
Q: How can Purdue help get you where you want to go one day?
Lutz: "We're all driven by different things, and at the end of the day, I would like to become a head coach, and I know Coach Painter and Mike Bobinski and very much in favor of that for our entire staff. But let's not put the cart before the horse. My job is to come here and try to help us win Big Ten titles and translate that into national titles. Years down the road, if I'm fortunate enough to become a head coach, I think Matt Painter and Mike Bobinski and the people here at Purdue will have had a large hand in that."
Q: But was there something about Purdue or Painter that could be particularly valuable in that regard? Painter does have a strong reputation in the industry, it seems.
Lutz: "Coach has a great reputation around the industry and is very much in favor of his coaches advancing. But at the end of the day, getting head coaching jobs involves luck and being around proven winners who are good people, but there's only 350 Division I jobs and probably 150 to 175 of those I either can't get or don't want. When you have to go against other qualified individuals for those jobs, you increase your chances by having more people in your (basketball) family, in your network, in your coaching tree. Obviously, Matt's coaching tree and family in the basketball sense is very, very strong and grows by the day, and the same is true of Mike Bobinski. So if I add them to the Danny Kaspar, Greg McDermott, Matt Doherty and the other people I've worked with in the past, I can only enhance my chances."
Q: You have a strong reputation as a recruiter. Why?
Lutz: "Recruiting is very much about relationships and when you're in this business long enough, you have opportunities to either make people your ally or your enemy. I think one of my biggest strengths probably is that I've made people my allies. While nothing's ever been perfect, I've always tried to tell them the truth, shoot 'em straight and done the right things by their players and their families. That's boded well for me so far and should continue to and with that being said, Matt Painter's the exact same way. He's going to tell you the truth whether you want to hear it or not and you have to be able to understand that and accept that."
Q: What's your impression of Purdue as a destination for recruits?
Lutz: "If you're a basketball player and someone who really wants to become a better basketball player and work on your craft, this place is perfect for you. Now, if you're a guy who just wants to go practice, enjoy life off the floor, hang out and go to parties, then this probably isn't the right fit for you."
Q: Some of your former Creighton players appreciated your honesty with them. Does it take time, though, to build up enough credibility with players to be that way?
Lutz: "I think at any job at any program, you have to build equity with those guys. I'm not going to walk into any job ever and not tell them the truth ever, but there's certain guys you can be very black-and-white with from Day 1, then some where they need you to build equity and trust, and right now I'm kind of working through that with some of them. But at the end of the day, you've still got to be who you are and be an up-front and honest person every single day with them."
Q: Why was Creighton successful during your years there with Greg McDermott?
Lutz: "Very similar to here. We had a strong culture and good kids who played hard and cared more about winning than their individual goals. They were more interested in Creighton University being successful than in scoring their 25 points or getting their 10 rebounds. A large part of that is dictated by the head coach and a large part is dictated by the players you get into your program."
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