Oct. 26, 2004
A big part of changing our program in men’s basketball is changing perceptions. To begin with, we’ve got to change the perception that basketball is not very important here.
We began that process by hiring Oliver Purnell as our head coach. It was important for us to hire a coach that would catch the attention of people in college basketball nationwide. Oliver was that type coach. He is nationally recognized and very well respected among basketball coaches.
Based upon his reputation and of what he had accomplished in his career, we felt Oliver would be the type coach who could come in and build a program because he’s done that in a first-class fashion in some difficult places.
That’s the first part of changing that perception.
Oliver, because of who he is, can get a lot of young men to visit the campus. Once they get here, their senses are going to tell them whether or not basketball is important. That’s why when they go into the environment they are going to be in, it needs to have a perception that we intend to compete at the very highest level.
That is why I talk so much about facilities. We have put a good deal of our resources into renovating and upgrading our lockerrooms and our other training facilities for basketball. We are not finished, either. We are also going to remodel the front third of Jervey Athletic Center for men’s basketball and women’s basketball.
I like the saying: “If you always do what you always did, you will always get what you always got.” That’s where we are with our basketball program. We have to change the paradigm. It has to be different from what we have done in the past. Whatever we’ve done in the past has not been successful on a consistent basis.
There have been real good years and then Clemson falls all the way back to the bottom. When that happens, your fans can not gain faith and confidence. With a program so fragile, the first time you go through a three or four-game losing streak the fans aren’t coming.
That is not to say we have not had some awfully good teams at Clemson. The 1989-90 Cliff Ellis-coached team could have won the national championship. They were that good.
We have had some great basketball here. We just have not had it on a consistent basis. We have not gotten it to a higher level and kept it there. This is the goal.
We sometimes talk about national championships like you can go pick them off trees. As I told our coaches, “Forget about talking about national championships. Let’s talk about where we are in this conference.”
They do not give away conference championships in any sport. Now that we are in a 12-team conference, we need to get all of our sports — and basketball will be the toughest one — consistently in the upper third of this league. That means we may hang around that fourth place finish a lot more years than not. However, if we are fourth and above consistently, we will compete for championships.
There will be years where you have the right chemistry, you do not have the injuries, the schedule falls right, then you will be a factor in the championship. You may win it. You may not win it, but you will be a factor.
I know that we will able to get kids to visit Clemson because of the stature of the coach we have at Clemson. We are going to put the tools in his hands.
Once we can show them how important basketball is, we will get our fair share of talented kids. Once we do that on a consistent basis, we will compete very well.
Jim Davis has had good success here with our women’s program. We have confidence he is going to get it going back in the direction that he had it going at one time. That’s an important program at Clemson.
I have every bit of confidence that we are going to be successful in every sport and that includes men’s and women’s basketball. If you hire good people — which we have — and you invest in the program in ways that change perceptions, you can be successful. We are going to get there.
Terry Don Phillips
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