Nov. 9, 2005
Basketball season at Clemson got underway last week as the men’s and women’s teams played exhibitions in a prelude to the upcoming season. This week will mark the official start for the women’s team as they play Missouri on Friday in the WBCA-BTI Classic in Tempe, AZ.
The home season will begin on Friday, Nov. 18 when the women play Tennessee Tech in the first of a Littlejohn Coliseum doubleheader followed by the men’s game against Bethune-Cookman.
We are delighted to have Cristy McKinney come on board as our new women’s coach. Cristy was an outstanding player at N.C. State under Kay Yow. She has taken over for Jim Davis, who had an outstanding career as a head coach. Jim built a good solid foundation. The long-term success that Jim had with women’s basketball gave Clemson a boost nationwide in reputation.
Cristy’s track record of building the program at Rice is impressive. In the 11 seasons prior to McKinney’s arrival at Rice, the program experienced just two winning seasons. Upon her arrival, Rice had a record of .500 or better in 10 of 12 seasons. She compiled a record of 216-139.
She guided Rice to consecutive winning seasons each of the last nine years, including six seasons of 20 wins or more. Her teams averaged more than 20 wins per season over the last eight years. In 12 years prior to McKinney’s tenure at the school, Rice had a record of 133-190.
Last season, Rice had a 24-9 overall record, won the WAC Tournament crown and shared the WAC regular season title with Louisiana Tech after recording a 14-4 conference mark. McKinney was named WAC Coach of the Year.
A victory over Louisiana Tech in the conference tournament final sent Rice to its second-ever NCAA Tournament appearance, with both occurring under McKinney’s guidance. The 2004-05 season also included a 12-game winning streak, which tied a school record.
The reason we selected Cristy is that she built a very solid program at Rice University under some difficult circumstances. At Rice, she coached in the same league with Louisiana Tech — a team which is perennially in the NCAA Final Four. She was able to win a couple of conference championships.
Likewise, she will build an outstanding program here for the long term. Although Oliver Purnell has been our men’s coach for just two years, he has already made a significant impact on the program.
In his first season, he guided the team to wins over two top-15 teams. In his second season, the 2004-05 season, he led the Tigers to a six-win improvement and first postseason appearance since 1999. Clemson earned a berth in the NIT and finished the season with a 16-16 overall record. Along the way in 2004-05, Purnell led Clemson to a three-game sweep of ACC foe Maryland, something that the Tigers had not since the 1993-94 season.
Oliver’s team caught national attention building a 13-point advantage over eventual national champion North Carolina in the ACC tournament. Clemson took home a 63-62 overtime victory over South Carolina last season in front of 17,828 fans in Columbia. The Tigers also defeated Virginia Tech at home, 66-64, in what turned out to be the latest game-winning shot in school history as Sharrod Ford scored on a slam dunk off a steal and assist by Shawan Robinson with 0.2 seconds left on the clock. Oliver is renowned nationally as a program builder.
Purnell came to Clemson with 15 years of Division I head coaching experience at Radford (1988-89 through 1990-91), Old Dominion (1991-92 through 1993-94), and Dayton (1994-95 through 2002-03). He has a career record of 282-225, including an 88-39 record in his final four years at Dayton. He led the Flyers to at least 21 wins in each of his last four years, the first time since the late 1960s that Dayton had four straight 20-win seasons. Taking over at Dayton in 1994, he inherited a program that had won just 17 games the previous four seasons.
Oliver and Cristy have built programs for the long term and that is our goal at Clemson. And we want to try to help them. In upgrading our facilities in Littlejohn Coliseum with new locker rooms and Jervey Athletic Center with new offices, we want to enhance the image of our programs and create a better environment for our kids.
Additionally, new state-of-the-art video boards and concourse monitors will be installed at Littlejohn Coliseum in November to enhance the fan experience.
There is not a quick fix. The ACC is a premier conference in every sport, most particularly in basketball. We understand we have inconsistencies in our history. That’s difficult to overcome.
Our approach is to look at the long term. Where are we going to be in three or five years? Under the direction of Cristy and Oliver, we are very optimistic about the future of basketball at Clemson University.
In Solid Orange, Terry Don Phillips
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