April 13, 2010
Clemson Athletic Director Terry Don Phillips: “Thanks for being here today and we are delighted to introduce our new head basketball coach. Brad has had an opportunity to meet with the team very briefly. We are very proud of our basketball program and our student-athletes. They have a great foundation to build upon and move forward in the future and give us an opportunity to win championships. The best recommendations you can have and counsel you can have is from people in the coaching community. In conducting this search it was very evident that people in this profession feel very strongly about Brad. He is a disciplinarian in that the team is going to be very well prepared and do things right. Every team that he has coached, UNC Wilmington and Wright State, have been teams that have played extremely well and been well-coached. That is the most telling thing as I talked to basketball coaches throughout the country, with regard to coaches they believed had an opportunity to take our kids – and we are very proud of the kids we have here – and the foundations we have here and build upon it in a very aggressive state.”
Brownell’s Opening Statement: “This has been a whirlwind five or six days for me. I was contacted and asked to come meet with Terry Don and Bill D’Andrea. I felt right from the start when I got in that interview room, that it was very evident how much I felt like I fit the Clemson family. We talked about values and ideals and what their expectations were, and I just felt a connection with both of these men and myself in how I believe a program should be run. I think they felt and sensed the passion from a guy that is looking for an unbelievable opportunity.
“I can tell you today that I am humbled by this opportunity. I am truly humbled. This is a wonderful university. I am taking over a program that is in good shape and is in the best basketball league in the country. To have that chance is something I didn’t know would ever happen. I am proud of myself in that I am a self-made coach. My dad was a high school coach. I played small college basketball but I worked my tail off as an assistant, graduate assistant, third assistant, second assistant, and associate head coach to get myself a chance to be a head coach one day. Then, I worked every day as a head coach with the idea of making my players have a great experience.
“I want my players to have a great experience. I want them to win, because I think that is part of it. I want them to do well in school, graduate, and get involved in the community. I think if you do all of those things they will leave college a better man and with a great experience. Fortunately, I have been blessed to be at two great schools and we were able to recruit good kids and good players.
“One of the things that attracted me to the Clemson job was, as soon as I was preparing for this interview, I immediately looked at the roster to see who is coming back, what do they have, are the guys any good, what have they done in the past. Obviously it didn’t take me long. I knew they had been in the tournament and they have good players in the program. So to come into a situation that is not completely broken – one where you aren’t asked to be a magician and fix it – is truly exciting for a young coach like me. I have done it both ways. I have taken over at UNC Wilmington for Jerry Wainwright, whose was a very good coach and a mentor to me. I took over a program that had been to the NCAA Tournament and we were able to go back my first year. I have also taken over at Wright State, where the program had not been in good shape.
“I just talked to the players about how we were able to develop an unbelievable bond and relationship with that group (first team at Wright State) in a short amount of time, and we were able to get to the tournament in my first year. I feel blessed to be at this school and be with these guys.
“I certainly want to thank President Barker. He was probably the most difficult of any of the interviews; he was tough and asked some really good questions. One of them being what my expectations were of him. Maybe I am smart enough to figure out my expectations of him are whatever his are of me. He was great. He talked to me about the Clemson family and the values here. I just felt like I fit that. I am a family man and believe in working really hard and doing things the right way. I believe in being honest. Our players are going to have those values. They are going to play like that and as a team. They are going to be successful.
“I also want to talk about the league. The opportunity to coach in the ACC is wonderful, probably in April, but will be challenging come next January and February, but it is exciting. I want to compete against the best. My next goal is to take a team to the Final Four, and I told the people here that that was my goal. Certainly, if you can play well enough in the ACC and compete with the best teams in the ACC, then you have every opportunity to do that. I think it is possible at Clemson because this is a great place. Places are great because of people. The people here have an undying loyalty to this school and an unbelievable loyalty to each other.
“The fan base is terrific. I watched ESPN’s College GameDay here and it was unbelievable. I have coached in Littlejohn a long time ago, and it was a great experience. You have to have a great home court to be successful, and we have that here. There is good talent in the program. Good talent will help us recruit more good players.
“I also have a history of doing well in conference tournaments. I like versatility and having a roster that has all kinds of different players. We have done a great job in recruiting. There are many ways to recruit. Just take a look at what Butler did, and I coached against them more times than I would have liked to last year. People get too caught up in rankings; it is not just how you collect pieces, but how you make pieces fit. How you make the pieces fit comes down to coaching, and I have full confidence that our coaching staff will make the pieces fit. If these guys will play as hard as they possibly can, not for me, but for each other and for Clemson, then we can be successful. I think that is what is great about this place.
“These guys were so respectful to me, and they are talented and hungry, and I know I am. I am just excited about all of that. I believe in three things, what I call the principles of our program. I think you have to be passionate. I don’t believe you wake up on the wrong side of the bed. You wake up with a good attitude and hit the ground running. I want guys that are passionate about our team. I want them to be passionate about each other, our school and about the process of getting better. Champions are passionate about getting better. Secondly, I think you have to work really hard and with purpose. You also better work smart. You better be intelligent and work at your craft in a way that is going to improve you. Talent is God-given, but skill is what you should be measured by. I think you are given a certain amount of blessings, and what you do with those blessings is how you should be measured. We are going to play with great purpose. You need to take great pride in what you do and we will take great pride in who we are and who we are playing for. We are going to give you great effort. I am unbelievably thankful to be here. I want to connect with our guys as much as possible and with everyone on campus and in the community. Our family is about as open and easygoing as they come. I think we are going to have a good time and adjust really well.”
How do you sell yourself to the players here and take ownership of them? “They are my players, and I told them that in the meeting. They are Clemson’s players, and I am Clemson’s coach. I think too many coaches get wrapped up in the stigma that this player is recruited by this coach. That won’t happen here. I just hope we do it through honest dialogue. Change is difficult, but if you spend time with guys the right way, trust will come.”
Have you talked to any other coaches about their thoughts on you taking this job? “I have gotten probably 75 to 100 congratulatory calls. I did some research in talking to several coaches. Jerry (Wainwright) was one of them, as was my college coach Royce Walton. Jim Crews was another mentor of mine. I talked to Rick Barnes about Clemson. Everybody has been very positive about the experience. Certainly there are challenges, but everyone comes back to the same thing. It is a great place and a great opportunity and you are going to be coaching against some of the best players and coaches in America. Why would you not want to do that?”
Did you target this as a job you wanted when Oliver Purnell left? “Yes. Immediately. I knew that this is right in my wheelhouse. This is a breadbasket job for me. I spent 12 years of my life at UNC Wilmington; I absolutely loved the place and the people were terrific. When you come to this part of the country and for 12 years you see the ACC, you realize they love basketball. I felt like this was a job that fit me. As soon as I spent time with Terry Don and Billy D, it took me about 30 minutes to realize I had to get this job. These are great people and this is a great place, and I needed to try like crazy to get this job.”
What are your expectations for the team? “I don’t really get into what we are going to be and what our record is going to be. I expect us to play really hard and conduct ourselves in a professional manner. I have to get to know them, see them work out and interact with them. My expectations are high, no doubt. My expectations are high every year, and a lot of that will depend on the players. They have to buy into me and into what we are trying to do, and I think if that happens, we can be pretty good.”
What is your philosophy? “Again, versatility. You have to recruit versatility. When you are coaching at Wright State and Wilmington it is different because not a lot of kids grow up wanting to go there. Hopefully there will be kids who grew up wanting to go to Clemson. I don’t just recruit a speed point guard or a big wing. I recruit players, and I want you to be a basketball player. I want to know about your character and what you will bring as a player in other areas. Are you going to bring toughness? That is a talent that can be overlooked in recruiting. We will press a little bit because these guys are used to doing it. I don’t claim to have all the answers. I make adjustments. I have to get to know our personnel and make adjustments. I do believe this: to be successful at the highest level, ultimately your players have to make plays. The plays don’t make the players. I want our guys to learn how to play. I want to teach them how to play, how to play with each other, teach them to play in flow, and how to play when a set breaks down, and in transition. There are some reads and reactions that have to be done in a motion offense that are not easy to pick up sometimes. We are going to figure out a way to make it work.”
Are you going to bring any staff from Wright State? “It is not 100 percent set. I am very optimistic that our associate head coach will be named the head coach at Wright State, so he may not come. I am taking names and listening. My phone is ringing off the hook about people that want to come join us here. They know this is a great place, and know this will be a great opportunity to make a name for themselves.”
What do you do about recruiting, since Clemson’s lone signee has opted out of his NLI? “You don’t panic. You do what you need to do to make roads in those situations. You get to those people quickly. You get a survey of the land, but you don’t just hand out scholarships to fill spaces. You find out what your needs are, and people that are going to help your basketball program. You give yourself a chance to sign better players a year from now, but you don’t go sign players just to sign them. I am excited about selling Clemson, and we will get out there and fight for the guys that originally committed and also for guys we think can help our team in the future.”
How different will it be recruiting here as opposed to Wright State? “It is a little more difficult from the standpoint that you have to get started a little earlier. You have to look at kids as sophomores and freshmen, as opposed to the other schools where you looked at just juniors and seniors. You have to get out and evaluate early. There are a lot of good players out there. I think you have to evaluate properly. I think misevaluation is common in our business. It will definitely be competitive, but I think there are also people that grew up wanting to come to Clemson and that can work to your advantage.”
Did you recruit in South Carolina when you were at UNC Wilmington? “It was more around the coast and a little bit in Columbia. I think you can get kids to come south. I tried to get kids to go north and that didn’t work, so we stopped that. We had great success at Wilmington recruiting guys from Ohio to come play. We are not just going to look right around here in our breadbasket. We will certainly look at those areas first, but we are going to keep our eyes open for the Midwest and Northeast.”
Has the success of Oliver Purnell helped the program from an image standpoint? “I hope so. I haven’t sold anything yet, or been out recruiting, but I would certainly think that since they have had success that people would see that. That opens eyes that you can be successful here.”
What are your thoughts on the major in-state rivalry? “I suppose I have to say I hate South Carolina, right? Is that a softball question; are you the guy I go to that makes me look good? I like that. I appreciate that. I think the rivalry is good. I haven’t been here long enough to know. I know Darrin (Horn) and I respect him for what he has done, making his way from mid-major basketball to get to the highest level. He had to earn his job, too, and he is a very good coach and they will be a very formidable foe. At the same time, I hope that we will be as well.”
How much of an influence is Bobby Knight on what you do? “He was a big influence, but not directly, because I never worked for him. My two first mentors, Coach Walton that I played for, and Jim Crews, were part of the Indiana family and national champions there. There is no question they had the biggest impact on me in terms of style of play and coaching philosophy. Jerry (Wainwright) is great and I think I learned a lot about recruiting from him. He helped me figure out how to run a program the right way. He and I worked well together on the defensive side as well.”
Do you find it funny Jerry Wainwright started this by leaving DePaul? “I guess so. He is a great guy and a great coach. He was in a very difficult situation. He is one of the more respected coaches in our business. That is one thing I appreciate about what Terry Don said in his research of me, that coaches care about what other coaches think of them. He is unbelievably highly thought of in the coaching profession. We all know you can get in a tough situation at the wrong time, and it is hard to get out. It is a little bit ironic that it led to me having an opportunity. After talking to him on my way down here today, he is happy that I did get this opportunity and I am sure you will see him wearing orange at one of our games.”
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