By Will Vandervort.
Brad Brownell and Clemson University are married to each other or at least that is how it appears for the time being.
As most of you know, Clemson’s head basketball coach signed a new-six year deal worth about $10.6 million last Friday that will keep him in Tigertown through 2020. This is coming on the heels of a 23-win season that saw the Tigers advance to the Final Four of the NIT.
By offering the new contract to Brownell, Clemson Athletic Director Dan Radakovich has now endorsed him as his basketball coach and that he believes he is the future when it comes to Clemson basketball. From this point moving forward, Brownell cannot and will not be viewed as Terry Don Phillips’ guy.
Radakovich also proved, by offering Brownell a new deal, the athletic department is in full support of men’s basketball. With plans in the work for a new basketball arena and facilities, Radakovich seems to be keeping his word about putting his weight behind the program.
So far, it seems as if he is willing to give Brownell the necessary tools to be successful in what is arguably the toughest conference in the country.
This is a good thing for Clemson basketball. Only a few times in the program’s long and turbulent history Clemson has shown it supports the game and is willing to do what it takes to win.
The first time this happened is when it brought in Tates Locke to coach the Tigers in 1970. The program at the time was a doormat in the ACC, but by the 1974-’75 season Locke coached the Tigers to their first top 20 season and their first postseason tournament – the NIT. But Clemson gave Locke a little too much leeway and after an NCAA investigation, he was out right after the season.
Clemson had some good years under Bill Foster as he directed the program to its first NCAA Tournament appearance in 1980, which resulted in a berth in the Elite Eight of the tournament. That’s as far as any Clemson team has gone in the NCAA Tournament.
But by 1984, Clemson and Foster’s run came to a close when he left the program to restart one at the University of Miami. That brought in Cliff Ellis, who is still the winningest coach in Clemson history.
Ellis coached the Tigers for 10 years and in eight of those years he advanced Clemson into the postseason. His teams played in three NCAA Tournaments—advancing to the Sweet 16 in 1990—and five NITs. His 1990 team won the ACC regular season title, the only one in Clemson history.
For all he did in his short time at Clemson, one wonders what Rick Barnes could have done if he was given the support he deserved to stay at the school. In his four years at Clemson, he guided the Tigers to three straight NCAA appearances from 1995-’98, but Texas came calling after the 1998 season and Barnes was off to Austin where he guided the Longhorns to the 2004 Final Four.
Oliver Purnell spent seven seasons at Clemson from 2003-’10 and he brought the program back to where Barnes had it when he left. Purnell guided the program to six straight postseason tournaments with the final three appearing in the NCAA Tournament. In 2008, he led the Tigers to their first ACC Championship Game appearance in 46 years.
But again, a lack of support was enough for DePaul to entice Purnell to Chicago, where he is trying to turn around that program.
That brings us back to Brownell, who for the first time really since the Ellis’ era is getting the full support of the Clemson administration. Sure, there are some football folks out there that think football should be the only sport to get that kind of support and financial backing, but that is an absurd way of thinking.
All of Clemson sports teams deserve the full backing of its administration; it shows that the school cares about being the best it can be.
Radakovich made a statement last Friday when he re-signed Brownell for another six years. He is married to his basketball coach just like he is his football coach, and that can only be a good thing for those two sports moving forward.
Or at least he hopes so.