Watching football program has prepped basketball team on how to handle success
SUNSET, S.C. — Clemson football coach Dabo Swinney has said in the past the 2011 season did a lot in building what has become one of the more consistent programs in college football.
That was the season the Tigers first showed off the potential of the program. However, the success of that team also came with some growing pains.
Clemson opened the 2011 season with eight straight wins and ascended into the top five. However, those Tigers did not know how to handle the success and lost four of their last six games.
Though Clemson had won its first ACC Football Championship in 20 years and won 10 games in a season for the first time 21 years, Swinney knew the program did not know how to handle being on top, so he made it a point to adjust and coach his players up that following off-season.
Across the street, without Swinney knowing it, Clemson men’s basketball coach Brad Brownell was taking notes. He was paying attention to how Swinney and his staff handled everything in their program and he wanted to emulate some of it to his, especially how the program dealt with the pressures and the expectations of being successful every single year.
Since that first ACC Championship in 2011, Clemson has won three more conference titles in football and the 2016 National Championship, while also winning 10 or more games every single year. They are currently in the running for another ACC title and a berth in the College Football Playoff for a fourth straight year.
Last year, the men’s basketball program at Clemson did something it has not done in 21 years, advance to the Sweet 16 of the NCAA Tournament. It was a major milestone in Brownell’s program.
With four seniors returning this year, as well as a sophomore who started 12 games, the Tigers have five guys back that started at least seven games a year ago, making the expectations for Clemson basketball the highest it has ever been. Guards Marcquise Reed and Shelton Mitchell return in the backcourt, along with center Elijah Thomas and forwards David Skara and Aamir Simms. All five contributed to Clemson’s third place finish in the ACC and its NCAA Tournament run last year.
Now the question is, how will they handle being on top. Unlike last year, when they were picked No. 13 by the media that cover the ACC in the preseason poll, the Tigers should be picked in the top five of the conference when they get together in Charlotte in two weeks. Some say it could be in the top 3.
Clemson will also likely be a preseason top 25 selection when the preseason polls come out in a few weeks.
“Human nature is we all kind of take our foot off the gas a little bit when we experience some success in life,” Brownell said from his media golf outing on Wednesday at The Reserve at Lake Keowee . “We get patted on the back a lot and feel good about ourselves.”
The Clemson coach does not mind his players receiving compliments for a job well done, but he wants to make sure they understand that was last year. This is a new year, and nothing is guaranteed. They’re going to have to work for it and earn it all over again.
“We talked about that with our team a lot this summer and I had a lot of conversations with our older players about that, but I don’t see it in them right now,” Brownell said. “I think right now, they are pretty focused and mature. I think they had things they want to do in this game and they know they have to have productive senior years to try and help reach those goals.
“However, at the same time, the challenge then is to make sure everything is directed towards our team and what is best for our team. Sometimes, you never know that until you start playing games. I have been very pleased with our seniors. I think those guys have worked hard this spring and summer and I am excited to see their games develop even more this year.”
And if that happens, the Tigers are sure to navigate themselves to a second consecutive NCAA Tournament appearance, and after that, who knows.