It’s said that success has a 1000 fathers and failure is an orphan. Say whatever you want, but being the head basketball coach at Clemson, Brad Brownell must feel like he is living the unfortunate life of an orphan.
He has given a large portion of his career to this University and his players. In spite of the lack of consistent success on the hardwood, he remains positive. He has never been one to deflect blame or to criticize anyone. Not his players, not his assistants, and not Clemson University,
The purpose of this story is not to assign blame to or defend Coach Brownell, rather to try and understand what it must be like to be an orphan in a large loving family like Clemson. One can imagine the difficulty, the struggle of existing in the same community as one of the most successful FBS football programs in America. It has to be daunting.
Think how it must feel lo look literally across the street on any given fall Saturday. There you see the outward success of Clemson Football. That success manifested into hundreds of thousands of people supporting that sport.
In stark contrast, the seats in the newly refurbished Littlejohn Coliseum are nowhere close to capacity most nights. The reasons for such disparity are obvious, the tremendous success of one and the lack of success of the other.
Fact is, there is no more polarizing subject amongst the Clemson faithful than the basketball program. Its’s clear to see the passion is there. If Brad Brownell can harness that passion into something positive, who knows what might happen.
We could point to his body of work, as in the wins and losses to justify our opinion. Understanding that records do matter, and the fun is, as Dabo says, “in the winning,” what are the root causes of our basketball fortunes? What should the expectations be for this program? What is a reasonable outcome for this program? All good questions, but the answers are a little harder to find.
In his tenth season as the head coach of the Tigers, Brownell has compiled a 179-135 overall record. He has led the Tigers to three NIT and two NCAA berths, including a sweet 16 run in 2018. Under his leadership, his teams have four seasons of 20 or more wins. He has the highest winning percentage of any basketball coach in Clemson history, passing Bill Foster (1975-1985), and more wins than any coach in school history.
Clemson basketball plays in unarguably, the most competitive and talented basketball conference in the sport. Going against the immensely talented rosters of Duke, UNC, Louisville and Virginia to name a few, presents a huge challenge for this program. Yes, the Tigers have had notable upsets throughout Coach Brownell’s tenure, but they’ve also had an equal numbers of unflattering loses.
The players he recruits are mostly good players. Most have talent but need development and experience to fully realize their potential. His recent success in recruiting features some ESPN top 100 recruits committing to play in his program, These incoming players represent a new direction and future for this program.
These young men are successful on the court, in the classroom and of more importance, in life. While those qualities don’t necessarily equate to success on the court, they do matter. They really matter.
The common belief among Tiger fans is that Clemson can’t compete yearly with the upper echelon of the conference. Maybe that’s true but that hasn’t stopped this coach and his players from believing they can. Belief is a powerful thing. One need only look to the beginning of Dabo Swinney’s tenure as football coach to see the power of belief and an improbable dream.
In comparing the Clemson football and basketball programs, it’s easy to focus on the records and statistics. Those statistics reveal what is obvious, football is dominant and basketball is a break even proposition most years. However, if you take the time to look deeper, you can see the foundation that’s being built. That foundation, or for a better term, culture, is there and it’s flourishing despite records and stats that imply otherwise.
The success of Clemson football is a source of immense pride amongst the fan base, and there are many reasons for that pride. However, look closer, past the numbers and stats, to see a hopeful future for this Clemson basketball program.
This head coach, staff, and players believe in themselves. They play hard and never quit. The guts and determination of this group can and should be another source of family pride. They come from good stock, you see, they’re tigers, Clemson Tigers.