Clemson University

Brownell hopes changes result in NCAA berth

Clemson Tigers head coach Brad Brownell during the first half against the Virginia Cavaliers at Bon Secours Wellness Arena. The Cavaliers won 64-57.
Clemson Tigers head coach Brad Brownell during the first half against the Virginia Cavaliers at Bon Secours Wellness Arena. The Cavaliers won 64-57. USA TODAY

Clemson men’s basketball coach Brad Brownell confirmed Saturday afternoon that longtime assistant Mike Winiecki is no longer with the program.

The parting of ways with Winiecki, who had a 14-year association at three schools with Brownell, was among several changes Brownell is implementing in hopes of returning the Tigers to the NCAA Tournament for the first time since the 2010-11 season.

Clemson Director of Athletics Dan Radakovich announced on March 20 that Brownell would be retained for an eighth season, six days after the Tigers concluded the 2016-17 season with a 74-69 loss to Oakland in the first round of the NIT.

“I’m excited to be back as head coach,” Brownell said during his first postseason media availability. “I have a great affinity for Clemson, and my family loves living here.”

Brownell is 124-103 overall in seven seasons at Clemson, including a 56-66 record in Atlantic Coast Conference play. The 48-year-old coach is preparing to enter the fourth year of a six-year contract extension.

His immediate goal is the same as Radakovich’s – namely, put Clemson back in the NCAA Tournament.

“We were probably two wins short,” said Brownell, whose team finished 17-16 overall and 6-12 in the Atlantic Coast Conference. “There’s a razor-thin margin between where we are and where we want to be. We had a very good team that came up just short, but we’ve got to find a way to get over that hump.”

To that end, Brownell announced several planned changes, including:

▪  Making more adjustments defensively: That could include more zone or alternative defenses, Brownell said.

▪  More consistent use of a sports psychologist: “We had a couple of guys who lost confidence this year, so I think that will help,” Brownell said.

▪  Incorporating a new perspective: This begins with the departure of Winiecki. “It no fault of anything he’s done, he’s an outstanding coach and a great friend of mine,” Brownell said. “There are some times when you need a new perspective, and that’s what I was encouraged to think about.”

▪  Prevailing in close games: The Tigers lost five games by three points or less last season. “We’ve got to figure out ways to be better in close games,” Brownell said.

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