Brad Brownell confident about job security as Clemson prepares for NIT
CLEMSON — He understands the fans’ frustration and the questions that linger about his program. The lack of NCAA Tournament appearances, the close losses this season, the future of his job security — Brad Brownell addressed it all on Monday.
Speaking to a group of reporters ahead of Clemson’s NIT game against Oakland on Tuesday, Brownell admitted his program has come up short and endured some painful struggles in recent years. But in regards to a potential firing — as some in the fanbase have called for — the seven-year Clemson coach indicated he is confident he will be back for an eighth year.
“It’s really not my decision, but yes I do (feel comfortable I’ll be back),” Brownell said. “(Athletic director) Dan (Radakovich) and the administration handle all those things. We’re not at the end of the season so we haven’t had our end-of-the-year meeting, but he’s been very supportive. I think he recognizes a lot of the positive things happening in our program. So, yes. I feel comfortable.”
A former player at DePauw University in Indiana, Brownell arrived at Clemson in April of 2010 by way of Wright State — in Ohio — and UNC-Wilmington first. At UNC-Wilmington, he went 83-40 from 2002 until 2006 and was named the CAA Coach of the Year twice. He then left for Wright State, where he accumulated an 84-45 record with the Raiders and earned the league’s top coaching honor once.
Clemson made the NCAA Tournament his first year on the job and won the program’s first tournament victory in 14 years. Statistically, Brownell is now tied with Cliff Ellis for the most wins against ACC programs as the Tigers’ head coach, but the elephant in the room is the postseason. The Tigers have failed to earn a berth into the big dance since 2011, the longest NCAA drought by a Clemson men’s basketball coach since Bobby Roberts endured a similar skid from 1963-70.
“I think the program is very healthy and is in a good place. It’s very difficult because college basketball has become about March Madness, and so when you don’t do that, it doesn’t feel like you had a good year,” said Brownell, whose is 17-15. “I think our program is in a really good place minus winning a couple more games in the last two seasons. We’re certainly working really hard to do that and I think we’re on the track toward doing it. Positive comments from our administrators support that.”
Indeed, Radakovich went on record supporting Brownell last week at the ACC Tournament, telling the Greenville News while he was in Brooklyn that the plan was to retain Brownell. Brownell has three years remaining on his contract and would be owed a $3.5 million buyout if Clemson were to fire him at the end of this season. If Radakovich decided to terminate Brownell (124-102 at Clemson) in either of his final two seasons, the buyout would drop to $3 million.
Brownell will have another chance to make his case when the Tigers take on Oakland at 7 p.m. Tuesday. Because of a strong strength of schedule and a high RPI (Ratings Percentage Index), Clemson was given a No. 2 seed in the tournament. A deep run in the NIT would give Brownell some wiggle room. But for now, Brownell has made it a point to not get caught up in the chatter about his future.
“I can’t control that, guys,” he said. “ There’s a lot of things going on within our program that (we) should be very proud of. I think people recognize that we do need to win a couple more games and that’s what we’re going to work to do.”
Clemson vs. Oakland
WHAT: NIT First Round
WHEN: Tuesday, 8 p.m.
WHERE: Littlejohn Coliseum (9,000)
RECORDS: Clemson 17-15; Oakland 24-8,
RADIO: WQSC-AM 1340