By Will Vandervort.
By Will Vandervort
Sitting on a coffee table between a chair and a couch in his office, laid perhaps the biggest plan in Brad Brownell’s future as Clemson University’s men’s basketball coach.
Closed in an almost coffee-table like book was the plans for Clemson’s possible new arena and Littlejohn Coliseum. Brownell could not discuss what was in those pages, but he did talk about what a new arena could mean to the future of Clemson basketball.
“It does a lot,” he said in an exclusive interview with The Clemson Insider.com on Wednesday. “It helps in a lot of ways. Number one, it helps everybody associated with the program by ejecting a little enthusiasm into it. It kind of makes them feel good. It makes them see, ‘Hey, basketball is important here and we are trying to do something to help the basketball program.’
“Secondly, it is a statement to recruits and other people outside the program that basketball is important to Clemson. There is a little bit of a stigma at times that some people question every once in a while. Then third, when it gets done or close enough that you can actually get kids to see it and come experience it, then it takes on a whole new meaning.”
Right now, no one knows what recruits might see in the future. Athletic Director Dan Radakovich and the athletic department’s major gifts team have presented their thoughts and ideas to the Clemson Board of Trustees. Brownell is hoping they will get some positive feedback maybe in the next month or in the fall.
“Littlejohn is not a bad arena,” Brownell said. “It just isn’t as modern from what we usually see in all the other places we go. Most of the other arenas we go to are modern and there is just more of the ‘Wow!’ factor that impresses recruits and gives off a feeling of excitement.
“When we have a great crowd and things are going well and Littlejohn is rocking, it can be a really good environment. But what most people don’t realize is that only happens at fifteen home games a year. There are 300 other days where we have the possibility of having recruits on campus and we are showing them an empty Littlejohn and an empty facility and that’s mostly what they see. That’s a big part of recruiting.”
Brownell says he has spoken with a lot of people about Littlejohn and what a new facility might mean to his program, which last year slipped to its first losing season since the 2003-’04 campaign. The Clemson coach firmly believes facility improvements will help him get some of the top players in the country to come to Tigertown.
And he is not greedy. Though he would like a bunch of them, he says a program like Clemson only needs to get like one or maybe two to start changing the fortunes.
“Dabo and I have talked about it a lot. He believes tremendously that the improvements to the west end zone helped their program,” Brownell said. “We have talked a lot that some progress with men’s basketball can kind of give us a shot in the arm and that’s really what it is.
“In basketball, you are looking for one or two special players that have a tremendous impact. Trevor Booker had a tremendous impact on a four-year period here. Not that the other players that played with him were not really good players because they were, but he was special. He was a difference maker. He was a guy that elevated everybody’s game and elevated the enthusiasm in the program.
“You are constantly searching for a guy like that, who can kind of elevate you. I think all of these little things and the facilities, especially, help you attract a difference maker.”