AMELIA ISLAND, Fla. — For the first time since Steve Smith’s comments were released by the FBI in a New York Federal Court on April 25, Clemson men’s basketball coach Brad Brownell spoke publicly about his former associate head coach and how he felt about the comments.
Smith’s contract was not renewed by Clemson on May 3 after what he said in an FBI wiretap conversation with convicted felon Christian Dawkins. In July of 2017, while in Las Vegas, Dawkins was taped talking to Smith about the recruitment of former Duke star Zion Williamson and the Clemson football program.
Brownell told The Clemson Insider on Tuesday he was surprised by Smith’s comments, but he didn’t want to go into too much detail.
“I’m really disappointed by a couple of decisions he made to put himself in that position,” Brownell said during the ACC Spring Meetings from the Ritz-Carlton in Amelia Island, Fla. “Having said that, I have a lot of respect for Steve and fondness for he and his family. I hate that it came to the point where we needed to move in a different direction. I certainly wish him well going into the future and moving forward. He is a good man. He made a mistake, but he will learn from it.”
In the conversation with Dawkins, Smith said, “That is why football is so successful, is if you do it and use resources at Clemson, like you can really keep everything tight.”
Smith also said, “It’s a small college town … You can come to a game one night, after the game you see a dude out there in a nice a looking suit, you like, wait a minute now.”
Upon hearing Smith’s comments, Brownell immediately reached out to Clemson head coach Dabo Swinney and apologized.
“Coach Swinney and I are very good friends,” Brownell said. “Obviously, the last thing I want to do is make his job harder or his staff’s job harder. I was certainly surprised by the comments. I just wanted to make sure I called and apologized. I think Dabo understands that and understands my position and was shocked as well.
“We are moving forward. Dabo is a terrific friend and I respect whole heartedly the job he and his staff have done at Clemson. What they have done is remarkable and the last thing we want to do is taint what they have accomplished and what they have moving forward because it is certainly an inspiring program.”
Brownell says he is just beginning to look at who is going to replace Smith on his staff. He said he has had a lot of coaches reach out to him about the job.
As for the in-house review of the basketball program, which athletic director Dan Radakovich announced after Smith’s comments, Brownell said, “I don’t know where that is all the way. We have had some conversations about it and part of that has been worked through, but I don’t know where it is really any more than that.”