WEST LAFAYETTE, Ind. -- Matt Painter couldn't reach Kelsey Barlow. He couldn't get the Purdue junior to understand one mistake can't become two, that doing the right thing can't involve a 21st birthday celebration gone wrong.
So Barlow is out of the program, teammate D.J. Byrd is out of a costly one-game suspension and the Boilers remain on the NCAA tourney bubble in the aftermath of Sunday's 76-62 loss to No. 7 Michigan State.
At least when it comes to Barlow, who was suspended last spring for unspecified conduct detrimental to the team, only to be reinstated, Painter regretted his second-chance leniency that ended in Friday morning's disturbance at a West Lafayette bar. Barlow precipitated the incident that left Byrd arrested for suspicion of public intoxication.
For that, Painter suspended Byrd for the Michigan State game and cut Barlow loose.
“It's disappointing,” Painter said. “There's no doubt about it. It's disappointing because when you put in time with guys and you give guys a second chance, that's what it's all about. You think about the chances you get in life. You think about somebody sticking by you.
“I stood by somebody (Barlow) and it didn't pay off. I feel like I let out team down by doing that because I think I made a decision that was best for an individual and, in the long run, it wasn't best for our team.”
Even though Barlow was a strong defender who averaged 8.3 points and 3.7 rebounds, and who was becoming more of an offensive factor, senior guard Ryne Smith said publicly what many in and outide of the program thought privately.
“We'll come together as a team better (for this),” he said. “It's addition by subtraction.”
In a press conference setting, Painter wasn't willing to go that far.
“The one thing you try to do is educate your players,” Painter said. “I don't want to give Ryne Smith his opinion. If that's how he feels, he sees some things I don't. As a coach, you're looking through your own glasses, and you move forward.”
And then …
“When something happens and you have to part ways with somebody,” Painter said, “it doesn't make you feel good. In a way, I failed, also. As a coach, you're trying to reach people. That's our job. That's what we do.
“So you wish them well and hope things work out. If this decision helps (Barlow) in life, then so be it.”
Michigan State coach Tom Izzo has walked in Painter's shoes. He's kicked off players before for off-court issues, most recently Korie Lucious and Chris Allen.
“Don't think we're not all a Thursday night away from problems like this,” he said. “I don't think these are just Purdue or Michigan State issues. It's everybody issues. Some of it is society's fault. Some of it is the fault of the kids.
“It's just a shame. It's mind-boggling to me why people throw away opportunities. I've had guys that I thought were sure pros ruin it. Till the day I get out of (the profession), I'll never understand it.”
Under Painter, and Gene Keady before him, Purdue has been known for the caliber of its players' character as much as their basketball ability. That the dismissal and suspension have hurt that reputation, guard Lewis Jackson said, “is a bad thing.”
“You don't want anything like that to happen to your program,” he said. “People who know this program know that it was just a mistake. Every kid makes a mistake. The exposure we get sometimes things get blown out of proportion. Everybody knows that kind of players Coach Painter recruits.
“You stick with these guys. You be there for them. Everybody makes a mistake. You stick together. That's the best we can do.”
Byrd, who has never been in trouble before, is set to return for Wednesday's game against Nebraska. He was playing the best of his career before the suspension, averaging 16.8 points, double his season average.
“D.J. will come back full force,” Smith said. “He's a great player. When he comes back, he's going to be ready. I'll tell you that much.
Added Painter: “I think D.J. Byrd is a great kid. He made a mistake and hopefully he learns from it. I think he will.
“It's like taking Ryne Smith and Lewis Jackson out of the starting lineup. Any time you take character out of the starting lineup and do something, character always responds. D.J. Byrd has character. He'll respond.”