Friday, May 12, 2017

Case for Brad

My first thoughts on this subject were developed about half way through the college basketball season. While a lot has happened since then my overall view has remained the same. The Brad I am talking about is Brad Brownell, head coach of the Clemson men’s basketball team. He has come under fire this year for the lack of victories on the court. At about the mid-point of the season the shouts for his removal began to increase in volume. My position then and is still now, that any decision on his future should be made at the conclusion of the season and not during. At that time I believed that he should be retained in spite of the number of losses that were beginning to mount. Almost every loss this season was a close loss and in many of them the Tigers had an opportunity to win on the last possession, either by making a shot or defending one. Since the season has ended the athletic director has already decided to keep Brownell as the head coach. I still agree with that decision. Let me try to explain why.

First, I find it very unfair when coaches are hired into unfavorable situations and then let go just as things begin to improve or just before they have had a chance to turn the tide. For instance, there are countless examples of coaches being hired on the heels of the dismissal of a coach for violations that led to program sanctions. I don’t think people realize the effects that loss of postseason appearances and loss of scholarships have on programs. It is difficult enough to recruit and compete at a high level when everyone is on a level playing field. To win with sanctions against your program is difficult. It takes time to recover from those years. Too many coaches are fired after 3 or 4 years when their success on the field hasn’t produced the number of wins deemed acceptable. When that happens you get one of two results. Either the new guy comes in and has success, which points to a firm foundation laid by the guy you just fired, or the new guy has to start the process all over. If case number two is true then that guy better watch out because he will be let go in 3 or 4 years also if he hasn’t reached the number of wins required.

Brad’s case is one in which he inherited a program that was on a firm foundation, but one that couldn’t advance deep into the tournament even when they would make it. He took them to the tournament his first year but since then it has been NIT bids or nothing at all. Littlejohn was just renovated and the new facilities should help with recruiting which is where we need to improve if we are going to improve on the number of wins on the court. Clemson has always had a few exceptional players. The problem has been the lack of them all playing on the same team. I find little value in the recruiting services ratings of high school players. What catches my attention is who else wants them. In football, for instance, I don’t really care about the number of stars after the kid’s name but rather are they receiving offers from the Alabama’s, FSU’s, USC’s, Ohio State’s of the college football world. There are always players that aren’t highly thought of that Dabo and his staff get and develop into NFL type players. Clemson basketball does that as well. The difference is our guys are rarely listed with offers from Duke, UNC, Kentucky, etc. New facilities and consistency in coaching staffs help when trying to recruit top notch players. That is why I think Brad deserves more time to show what Clemson has to offer and that these great players can achieve their goals by coming to Clemson. Patience is a virtue. Always going after the hottest young coach doesn’t always work out the way you want it to. Dabo is once again a perfect example. While he was young he certainly didn’t have the “experience” as a head coach or even a coordinator that one would think was a requirement for a position as Clemson’s head coach. There are no Clemson people (especially those who witnessed the ‘80s) who think Clemson is anything less than a top football program. That sentiment was true even before last year’s national championship. There is a history of sustained winning to back that up. Basketball does not have that sustained history. There have clearly been flashes of success but no one in their right mind would say we are the same type of program as the Duke’s and UNC’s of the world. An acceptance of who we are as a basketball program is not an acceptance of losing. It does require, however, patience along the way to that greatness we all want. Having a guy that runs a clean program, has players that are invested in the community, and wants to be here is enough for me to extend his contract with the expectation that just finishing in the middle of the pack in the ACC, while is still a good accomplishment, is not the standard we want for our program. I think Brad understands that and will continue to move us in the right direction. Just remember this year’s Final Four. The school to the south would have had overwhelming support to fire their coach after this season. Now they want to extend his contract. Patience. If they can do it there is no doubt we can too.

(This post was written over a period of about 7 weeks so it is a little choppy but I think I get my point across.)

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