When he first came to interview for the Clemson job back in 2010, Brad Brownell did everything he could to get the job, including reaching across Terry Don Phillips’ desk to beg him to hire him as the Tigers’ new coach. Phillips ultimately did just that.
“Terry Don and Billy D’Andrea are the guys that brought me to Clemson and I will never forget that,” Brownell said on Friday as Clemson officially opened the new Littlejohn Coliseum with a ribbon cutting ceremony. “I had to crawl over the table just begging Terry Don to hire me. ‘Come on Terry Don give me a chance. I’m going to work for you,’ and I have never forgotten that he gave me the opportunity. For him to take that risk on me it means a great deal and it always will.”
It did not take Brownell long to begin talks with Phillips on what his program needed to be a successful one. What it needed was a new arena. Littlejohn Coliseum was outdated, especially the players’ amenities as the Tigers were falling behind especially when ACC rivals Virginia, NC State, Georgia Tech and now Louisville and Pitt have some of the best arenas in the country.
When Terry Don retired in 2012, new athletic director Dan Radakovich picked up were Phillips left off and with the help of IPTAY’S Aaron Dunham and the athletic department’s business manager, Graham Neff, getting a new arena quickly took off. Three years later, Littlejohn is brand new and the Swann Pavilion, where the men’s and women’s programs are housed, is one of the best practice facilities in the country as well as its players’ facilities.
“Dan has done this before so things got moving quickly,” Brownell said. “He did not need a lot of convincing to say, ‘Hey, we need to move forward in basketball.’ Obviously, having done things at Georgia Tech Dan knew what to do, but I think he took it to another level here.”
Brownell’s says basketball’s new digs has the Tigers on par with just about everyone in the ACC and has created a certain level of excitement and positive momentum in the program.
“It takes some time to get to. There were times a few years ago where I was telling (the media) there were a lot of really good things happening behind the scenes within the program that do not always show up in wins and losses and those days were when there was a lot of time spent to make this day a reality.”
Brownell says he gets a lot of satisfaction in seeing the new facility completed on Friday.
“It’s something that I kind of challenged myself to get done. Very early on I knew I wanted to do this,” he said. “Aaron Dunham, and I got together, and I just talked to him about it. ‘Hey, we need to make this happen.’ Clemson basketball can’t have the success that people want without making facility improvements.
“We had to convince people that this is what we need and we have to find a way to figure out how to do it. I was certainly willing to do what I needed to do to make it happen and he took me up on that.”
Brownell met with all kinds of different people and went to different places to create momentum. The Clemson coach said he remembers meeting one fan at an IPTAY Prowl and Growl event when he first got hired and she whispered to him, “I like basketball more than football.” Brownell asked her, “Why are whispering? You can talk out loud about that. That’s not a bad thing. That is a good thing.”
“You just had to go find some of those folks and get them excited about it. When they met our staff and met our players, and saw our vision, thankfully we have some great folks at Clemson.”
People who helped Brownell’s dream for Clemson come true