Clemson University

Clemson ‘program’s fine’ despite outside noise, coach Brad Brownell believes

Clemson coach Brad Brownell wraps up season, looks ahead to next year

Tigers missed out on 2019 NCAA Tournament
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Tigers missed out on 2019 NCAA Tournament

Clemson coach Brad Brownell has heard the talk that his program might be in trouble with four starters, including the top three scorers, all graduating. He just isn’t buying it.

The Indiana native, who just finished his ninth season leading the Tigers, held his season wrap-up news conference Tuesday and remains optimistic about the program’s future, despite the Tigers falling short of expectations in 2018-19.

Clemson was ranked No. 22 in the AP preseason poll after returning four starters from a Sweet 16 team but finished 20-14 (9-9 ACC) and was on the wrong side of the NCAA Tournament bubble.

“Not exactly the season we wanted. We hoped to make the big tournament, but I’m still pretty proud of what the guys were able to accomplish in terms of 20-win season, nine wins in the ACC,” Brownell said. “Now we’ll move forward. ... There’s going to be great opportunity for some younger guys to not only get to play but get to become primary players and have more opportunities to be significant contributors on a consistent basis.”

Forward Aamir Simms and guard Clyde Trapp are at the top of the list of guys who will be counted on to move into bigger roles in 2019-20.

Brownell hoped that the big jump for the two would occur between their freshman and sophomore seasons. Now he hopes it will occur as they move into their junior years.

In addition to Simms and Trapp, John Newman and Hunter Tyson return after playing in the majority of last year’s games. Potential starter Javan White transferred out of the program, which was a surprise to Brownell.

Still, with the recruiting class coming in and the returners, Brownell is excited about the future of the program.

When asked this question — “How do you feel about the state of the program right now, what you guys return, what you’re bringing in for next year?” — Brownell was blunt in his assessment of the Tigers.

“I know it looks like we’re losing some great players and the other guys are all unproven and so now it’s like, ‘Oh wow, the state of the program.’ I think that term is a little, there’s some negativity in the question, to be honest with you,” Brownell said.

He continued: “I think the program’s fine. I think it’s hard to be really good every year. If you really want to know the truth, I think if you look at the history of basketball at a lot of schools, there’s very few programs that are really good every season and built to win 20 games every season. It’s hard.

“Having said that, I’m not going to put a limit on our team. I have a lot of confidence in the guys we have. I have a lot of confidence in our coaching staff. I like the new players we’re bringing in. We’re working really hard to add a couple more pieces. I think our program’s in a really good situation. Our guys graduate. We do things the right way. We’re coming off two-straight 20 win season. I guess part of that question frustrates me because you’re not looking holistically at everything that’s going on, what’s happening in our program.”

Happy for Young

Former Wofford coach Mike Young accepted the head coaching job at Virginia Tech earlier this week, which was a move that Brownell was happy to see.

Brownell has known Young since the two were assistants with Brownell at UNC Wilmington and Young at Wofford.

“Happy for Mike. He’s a great guy. He’s a very good coach. I’m sure he’ll do very well. You always wanna see good people added to your league and good things happen to those people,” Brownell said. “He’s a class guy. He’s a friend. We usually talk half a dozen times a year. I think Virginia Tech made a very good hire. I’m glad to see a good guy get another opportunity.”