March 13, 2006
This past week I read an article that stated Clemson would have a pretty difficult time in building a men’s basketball program, given Clemson’s basketball history. And further, that NIT bids are the norm and NCAA Tournament bids the exception. Frankly, the article was very complimentary of Coach Purnell and our team. The article was merely providing perspective to those fans who want instant miracles without understanding how true long-term success is achieved.
For purposes of explaining our approach in building Clemson basketball, I’ll point to Kansas State football under Head Coach Bill Snyder. I have often said that I believe Coach Snyder did the very best job in NCAA football history in turning the Kansas State football program into one of admirable respect. He took a job that had the very worst winning percentage in the history of Division I football – a job that had the worst facilities – and built it into a Big 12 Champion, BCS Bowl team, and a constant in the Bowl picture. Kansas State accomplished this at a time during which Nebraska, Texas, Oklahoma, Texas A&M, and Colorado continued to be strong, not unlike the strength of basketball in our conference. In essence, Kansas State went from basically nothing to a champion. The great coaches such as Coach Bryant, Coach Paterno, Coach Bowden, etc. at least started with something.
In building football at Kansas State, it first started with a commitment from the University and athletic administration in that they were tired of being second-class citizens and they simply were not, anymore, willing to accept where they had been historically. They set about the task of significantly improving the infrastructure to put their players in first-class facilities – facilities that would unequivocally show recruits that Kansas State was very serious about building a quality program that would compete with the best. They began to conduct their operations consistent with great programs. And, they made a long-term commitment to Coach Snyder and his staff – and, given the early years’ struggles, that wasn’t always easy. But, they persevered.
Clemson Basketball is nowhere as disadvantaged historically as Kansas State football was. We’ve had some outstanding teams and players in our history. But, we have had inconsistency and we must minimize this part of our history. Inconsistency breaks down confidence and is a hindrance to long-term growth.
In order to minimize these inconsistencies, we, like Kansas State football, started with infrastructure and the selection of a coach who knows how to build programs. We will continue to improve Littlejohn as we have already developed dressing rooms, meeting rooms, and office space that present a quality and class environment. And very importantly, we have a commitment to Coach Purnell for the long term. He is a quality human being and an outstanding coach who has built programs in difficult situations – and he will build this one. And, we will stay a steady course as Kansas State did with football. We simply do not have to accept that history will dictate our future. There is a simple saying, “…the future is not something we enter, it is something we create”. And, that’s what we intend to do.
In Solid Orange, Terry Don Phillips
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