SUNSET, S.C. — Before becoming an assistant coach at the University of Rhode Island in 2015 and helping his alma mater to the Atlantic 10 Conference championship in 2016-17, Antonio Reynolds Dean spent a season at the College of Charleston in 2014-15 as an assistant under Earl Grant.
Grant, of course, served as an assistant to Clemson head coach Brad Brownell for four seasons from 2010-14.
So, when Brownell hired Reynolds Dean in June to replace Mike Winiecki as an assistant for the Tigers, it made for a seamless transition.
“Both of those guys, they worked together obviously for a long time. A lot of work coach Grant did down at Charleston is the same thing we do here at Clemson,” Reynolds Dean said at Brownell’s media golf outing on Wednesday at The Reserve at Lake Keowee. “They both coach with a chip on their shoulder and both have that ‘Clemson grit,’ and I think they both are guys that are going to be around for a long period of time.”
Last season, Reynolds Dean helped lead Rhode Island to a 25-10 record and the NCAA Tournament, where it defeated Creighton and lost by just three points to eventual Final Four team Oregon.
The native of Atlanta played at Rhode Island from 1995-99 and finished his career as one of just three players in program history to amass at least 1,000 points (1,576) and 1,000 rebounds (1,028). He was inducted into the Rhode Island Athletic Hall of Fame in 2015.
After playing professional basketball for nine years overseas, Reynolds Dean began his coaching career as director of basketball operations at Fairfield in 2008-09 under Ed Cooley, now the head coach at Providence.
He began his career as a full-time assistant coach at Northeastern in 2009-10. In 2014-15, he moved to the College of Charleston before coaching at Rhode Island the last two seasons.
“Coach Dean is going to do a good job for us,” Brownell said. “He was an outstanding player at Rhode Island. He was really a blue-collar kind of guy. He’s a guy that got the most out of his ability, so he’s a detailed guy, which I’m really big on. He’s unbelievably excited about the opportunity to be at a Power Five school and certainly to be back in the South at a place like Clemson.
“Being from Atlanta, growing up there, having a little bit more recruiting ties to the South, I think that’s where he’s going to help us even more is to just give us another guy that has strong ties to an area with a lot of players. I’m really excited about what he’s been able to bring to our staff, and I think he’s going to be a really nice addition.”
Reynolds Dean, who coaches Clemson’s post players, said the aspect of the team that has jumped out to him the most so far is its camaraderie.
Clemson’s team trip to Spain from Aug. 8-18 was less about basketball and more of a bonding experience, and it was precisely that for Reynolds Dean with the players.
“I thought the Spain trip was huge for us,” he said. “Got a chance to bond, and it was also a good chance for me to get to know the guys individually. So I took time out of each and every day to get to know the guys on a personal level. Now that we have that personal relationship, it helps you coach them a lot. Especially with Elijah Thomas and some of the freshmen that I’m coaching in the post. It’s really good that I’m getting to know them on a personal level so now I can push them.”
This is his first season at Clemson, but Reynolds Dean is well aware of what’s on the line for the Tigers, who haven’t made it to the NCAA Tournament since 2010-11, Brownell’s first season at the helm.
“I can’t kid you guys. Everyone knows what’s at stake,” Reynolds Dean said. “But I think those guys, they’re taking it upon themselves, especially Donte Grantham and Gabe DeVoe. There’s a sense of urgency. They’re our seniors. I’m a fond believer of in order to get somewhere you’ve never been before, you’ve got to do some things that you’ve never done, and I think Gabe and Donte are leading by example right now. That Spain trip, like I said, was big for us. So I think if we’re going to make it, those two guys have to lead us there.”