Clemson basketball had an interesting 2016 season to say the least.
They had so much promise going into its ACC schedule, sitting with an 11-2 record. As most Clemson fans know, the Tigers ended up struggling late in games, eventually finishing the regular season with a 17-16 record, including a 6-12 mark in the ACC.
While they were awarded a No. 2 seed in the NIT, they failed to finish, blowing a 20-point lead in the second half, capping off a season that had so much potential.
Now some changes are in order for the Tigers. Head coach Brad Brownell held a meeting with athletic director Dan Radakovich, and said that the future looks bright for his team.
“It’s an exciting time for our future in basketball,” he said. “I think we have many positive things going on in our program, certainly in my meeting with Dan and Graham…a lot of things came out on both sides that showed we are doing a lot of good things off the court.”
While the product on the court has been good, Brownell said he is very proud of what his guys have been able to do off of the court.
“Our guys graduate; they are tremendous ambassadors to our university,” said Brownell. “I’m proud of not only how they carry themselves on campus but the kind of things they get out in the community and give back. Our staff is extremely well liked and respected by other coaches.”
Looking back on the season, Brownell believes they were only a couple games away from making the NCAA Tournament and having the type of season they envisioned.
“There’s a razor thin major between where we are and where we want to be,” he said. “We had chances but unfortunately we couldn’t close out enough games.”
That being said, this is where the changes start. There are several areas the team needs to improve on next year, and Brownell said it all starts with him.
“I need to understand our personnel a little better this year…I’ve gotta come up with some things to help out guys defensively,” he said. “I’ve gotta commit more to a zone defense or an alternative man defensive and I think consistently I can play a bit more to help these guys.”
One big area of change is player relations. The team will actively use a sports psychologist during the season, just like many other athletic programs at Clemson have done for years.
“I’ve got to have more consistent use of a sports psychologist,” he said. “We’ve not really had that, and talking with Dan and Dabo, we’ve kind of used one here or there but we never had a plan going forward about how that can include the performance of our players. A consistent plan where we teach them visualization, and positive self-talk. I think we had a couple guys lose confidence this year that would’ve been really helped by that.”
The other big change is at the assistant coach position. Coach Mike Winiecki, a longtime assistant and friend of Brownell’s, was let go this past week, leaving a big opening for the staff to fill.
“It was one of the more difficult decisions that I have made, but Mike Winiecki is not going to be with us next year, and really through no fault of anything he has done,” said Brownell. “He is an outstanding coach, he’s been a great friend of mine for 15-plus years. We’ve been together ever since he was an assistant coach at Wilmington.”
Brownell said he wishes Winiecki the best of luck, but that it was time to get a new perspective to help in a different area of coaching.
“He’s a guy that’s talented and worked with big guys. He’s a good game plan guy, a guy that understands scouting, has provided a lot of energy there,” said Brownell. “But at the same time I think there are some times when we need a new perspective and that’s what I was encouraged to think about when I talked with some of the folks that I did…maybe help in a different area that we’re not getting.”
According to Brownell, they are taking their time on a decision and are not sure when they will decide on who will fill the position.
“I’m still sifting through some things,” he said. “There are a lot of different ways we could go with that and I wanna make sure I give it clear thought because you can go a lot of different ways during this hire.”
It’s an off-season of changes, and while Brownell is optimistic about the direction of the program, the fans will have to wait until October to see the final product.
“I think we’re really close, I’m excited about where we’re going and how we can get there,” said Brownell. “I’m optimistic that a few changes in our program here in the off-season will really help us make that jump.”