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Brad Brownell’s Time At Clemson Should End

NCAA Basketball: Boston College at Clemson Joshua S. Kelly-USA TODAY Sports

Now that Clemson’s season is over minus a potential NIT berth, I wanted to try to put into words the feelings of the general Clemson fan about this basketball team. As many of you know I am not a basketball guy. I enjoy watching, but I can’t break down the X’s and O’s like Ryan, Jay, Coach_Craft, and other excellent basketball guys on staff.

And to me there is no valid reason to keep Coach Brownell around after this season ends. The truth is that this has been a failed experiment. The Littlejohn renovation along with an absolutely terrible contract extension allowed this experiment to continue longer than it should, but it is time to move on. It is time for Clemson to look for a new coach that can utilize the new facilities and the general excitement surrounding Clemson athletics to push our basketball team towards consistent NCAA Tournament berths, maybe even a tournament run or two.

Below is a table with Brad Brownell’s record each year at Clemson including conference record and any postseason berths, it is not pretty.

Brownell Coaching Record

Season Overall Record ACC Record ACC Finish Postseason
Season Overall Record ACC Record ACC Finish Postseason
2010-11 22-12 (9-7) T-4th NCAA Second Round
2011-12 16-15 (8-8) 7th None
2012-13 13-18 (5-13) 11th None
2013-14 23-13 (10-8) 6th NIT Semifinals
2014-15 16-15 (8-10) T-9th None
2015-16 17-14 (10-8) T-7th None
2016-17 17-15 (6-12) 12th NIT

Mediocre is probably the best description. A few lows and a couple of highs are punctuated by a lot of .500 play, especially in recent seasons.

And the problem is that there doesn’t seem to be a path forward under Brownell. For the past 7 seasons we have seen the same problems plague this team. The offense is inconsistent if it even exists and the defense takes a break for stretches of a game, especially coming out of halftime.

The less I say about end of game situations the better. But we’ve had several seasons of atrocious in-bounds play and frankly it is infuriating. There doesn’t even seem to be much impetus on Brownell to change things up and try new plays or players. Granted it doesn’t help that even when the players run the proper play the execution on the shot is often lacking, but at some point there has to be improvement.

Clemson basketball is making the same mistakes over and over. At some point it isn’t about the players and it is about the coach. We’ve all heard about how talented Brownell is at X’s and O’s, but that message isn’t resonating with the players. Assuming of course it is the right message. And that is on the coach. Brownell has to change his approach to try and reach his players in the most effective manner. That hasn’t been happening, or he’s recruiting players that are completely out of their depth with Division 1 basketball strategy. Either way Brownell is responsible.

There has also been a lot of talk about luck. Clemson has only won 2 games all year when the score was within 1 possession. They’ve lost at least 6 like that. It may be considered luck, but when the trend is same for season after season it stops being luck and more about effort and ability.

To those talking about keeping Brownell, the fact that the same issues always crop up should set off alarms. Every year Clemson teases us with a possible NCAA Tournament berth. Almost every year the team comes up 3-4 wins short. We’ve talked constantly about a couple possessions going our way in these games or how if we could only make free throws we would have them all. In some cases it was, “Just some bad luck.” At some point we’ve got to realize these excuses are the same ones for the past 5 seasons or so. If the excuses are never going away then maybe we need to look at the root cause of the problem.

Of course the only reason we are even having this conversation is because of the ridiculous extension Brownell got. AD Dan Radakovich really messed up by giving Brownell such a ridiculous buyout. Coach Brownell’s buyout is practically the same if we keep him for the 2017-2018 season so the only difference in expense is Brownell’s salary. But it does seem silly to just eat another year of salary when the team is likely going to be worse, at least from a talent perspective.

A new coach may take a couple of seasons to improve the team, but more importantly he would bring some excitement to Clemson basketball. Right now it is hard to be excited for another year of mediocre play that will ultimately tease fans but never produce results. I’m not expecting a coach that will come in and lead Clemson to Consistent Elite 8 or even Sweet 16 appearances. But the facilities and money are in place for Clemson to compete at the top of the ACC, make the tournament with regularity, and occasionally make a run in the tournament. Those should be the goals for this team, not sitting around at .500 and praying for a miracle.