BROWNELL ERA BEGINS
By MICHAEL HORTON
CLEMSON, SC. – It is said that if a comedian gets a big laugh within the first 15 seconds of his set, then his performance will be a success. If the same is true for head basketball coaches, then new Clemson head coach Brad Brownell should be very successful with the Tigers.
The McFadden conference room was itching with anticipation by the time four o’clock arrived on Tuesday and the introductory press conference was scheduled to begin. The room had begun to fill with media two hours earlier. After the media, came members of the athletic board, then some interested students, and lastly the players strolled in shortly before four o’clock.
Brownell walked through the side door with athletics director Terry Don Phillips and senior associate athletics director Bill D’Adrea at precisely four o’clock. After a brief statement by Phillips he introduced Brownell and welcomed him to the Clemson family by doing what he referred to as “pawing” him. He leaned over and pinned a Clemson paw brooch on Brownell’s lapel.
After a round of applause, Brownell remarked, “I’m not sure if I should say this, but I wish my wife would paw me more often.”
The McFadden conference room that was so tense with anticipation and uncertainty cracked like an egg thrown from the top of the empire state building. Brownell continued his opening statements and answers to questions in the same personable and confident tone.
“That one got me in a little trouble at home,” said Brownell regarding the joke, “But that one was for the guys, for the team and the recruits; to show them my sense of humor a little.”
But it shouldn’t have been a surprise that Brownell was great at the press conference. It was something that he’s been dreaming about since he graduated from Depauw University in 1991.
“I’ve been dying to be at a place like Clemson,” Brownell said about the opportunity, “Where you’re involved with everybody, and everyone is behind you one hundred percent, and everybody bleeds orange.”
Brownell started coaching immediately after graduation. He spent three seasons as an assistant coach for two different colleges before he got his first shot as head coach at UNC Wilmington. He spent four years there before taking the job as head coach of Wright State. He has improved and brought success to every program he’s been at, hoping that if he worked hard enough he would one day get a shot at coaching a major university.
When Brownell heard of the opening at Clemson, he went for it. Brownell said he knew immediately after his interview with Terry Don Phillips that this was the opportunity he’d been looking for.
“You've got to get this. You've got to get this job,” Brownell recalled telling himself, “These are great people, this is a great place, and you need to try like crazy to be the next head coach here.”
Apparently he tried just hard enough, and Phillips called and offered Brownell the job early on Tuesday morning. These first couple of days on campus have been a big adjustment for Brownell, everything is a little bigger and brighter here at Clemson.
“I’m not used to all these interviews and cameras,” Brownell told me, “I’m from a Mid-Major! I’m not perfect at this stuff yet. I need some coaching. I’m no Trevor Booker!”