Clemson concluded their basketball season by losing seven straight games and 10/11. It was an ugly finish as halftime leads seemed to vanish with regularity. Now that Selection Sunday has come and gone with yet another Clemson-less field, the second in a row, attention is slowly turning the job security of Head Coach Brad Brownell. Clemson fans aren’t quite as twitchy about a bad basketball season as in football, but nobody is happy about the program’s downward spiral. Brownell won 22 games in his first year. In year two he won 16, and in his just completed third year, just 13. With the depressing state of the program, I asked Mark Gordon, a Clemson alumnus, to weigh in. He camped out for tickets and sat in our much deserved front row seats with me at nearly every basketball game during our years at Clemson. Basketball was good back then and it fun. Not so much anymore.
So, without further rambling here is Gordon:
Let me preface this by saying, I am a Brad Brownell fan. I love the low-tempo motion-offense he runs and the emphasis he places on the defensive side of the ball. To me, his system is a message to opponents that they are going to have to play Clemson Basketball and it forces opponents to beat them at Clemson’s game in order to win. That being said, I know that it has been a VERY short time since Brad Brownell took over at Clemson, but it is time to end the experiment and move on to the next era in basketball at Clemson University.
No matter how sound your system is and no matter how well you teach the game, it all comes back to recruiting, and Coach Brownell has shown that he is not ready for prime time Division I basketball. Let’s take a look at next years team and the bleak state of Tiger Basketball. Next year, Clemson will have to run a three-guard offense. Not because they want too, not because it fits the system, because they will be FORCED to by Brownell’s recruiting.
Next years roster has only four players who can play the Forward and Center positions and only one player over 6’ 8″ (Nnoko). Those players consist of Jaron Blossomgame (a talented freshman, who will start, but is coming off a SERIOUS injury) Landry Nnoko, and Josh Smith (Two rising sophomores recruited by Brownell who don’t even look like they could succeed in Division II basketball, let alone in the ACC) and Bernard Sullivan (a 4-star recruit brought in by Brownell who has shown me nothing to suggest that he is ready to be a reserve, let a lone a go to guy on a light roster). This type of recruiting might work in the SWAC, but not the ACC.
This brings us to the other side of the ball, and the guard situation. This is a position that Coach Brownell can and has recruited very well. In fact, both of Clemson’s 2013 commits (Patrick Rooks and Austin Ajukwa) are guards. However, saying that this roster is guard-heavy would be a drastic understatement, and as a result of this, you WILL see at least one, possibly two guards leave Clemson before the start of the season due to playing time. I see the Freshman Rooks getting key minutes with rising sophomores Adonis Filer, Jordan Roper and Rod Hall. Unfortunately, the odd man out of this rotation will be Sophomore Devin Coleman who will probably look to play his basketball elsewhere.
In the “pound them down low” ACC, I see this team winning about 10 games next year, and unfortunately, the future is no brighter with exactly zero forward/center commits in the 2013 recruiting cycle. The future is bleak and unfortunately, Brad Brownell has done this to himself. His inability to land Tar Heels forward Brice Johnson in his own backyard and his swing and a miss on Jerami Grant and Joel James have doomed Clemson to fate below mediocrity.
As much as I love his system and his attitude, Coach Brownell has put Clemson University in a position where it would take them 3-4 years just to recover from his guard heavy recruiting practice, and with his past recruiting practices, I don’t believe that he can fix the problem. In my opinion, It is time to move on and let another coach try to rebuild the shambles that this team has been turned into…Shaka Smart anyone?
… And the defense
Honorable Mr. Gordon, do you honestly believe we can convince Shaka Smart or any coach of his caliber to come to Clemson? Are you recommending we fire Brownell for past failures or because you think we can find someone who can take us back to the tournament more quickly and consistently? We’re working on facility upgrades, be it a new practice facility, renovations to Littlejohn Coliseum, or if need be a whole new arena. Let’s not throw him out before we give him the resources he needs.
I agree that recruiting has been a disappointment. I didn’t expect much out of this season, but I did expect at least one forward-center recruit to replace seniors Devin Booker and Milton “Milt Shake” Jennings. Next year may see Jaron Blossomgame (great twitter account) and Landry Nnoko earn starting spots which would seem like a downgrade from the graduating seniors, but hold on just a second. This is Brownell’s fourth year and he will have exactly zero seniors on the team next year. It’s not like he had great senior leadership this year anyway. He has his guys now, so the decline or “transition period” from 22 games in year one to 13 in year three absolutely has to turn around (just for kicks… Purnell’s DePual squad only earned 11 wins this year). He is out of excuses for sure.
I don’t expect a return to 20 wins, but Brownell deserves his fourth season to show that he can return the program to competitiveness. With Syracuse, Pittsburgh, and Notre Dame joining the league next year it’ll be even tougher. I am not sure what to expect, but instead of throwing the baby out with the bath water, and starting this process all over again, likely dooming us to another handful of painful seasons, how about we DEMAND 16 wins in much improved ACC. If he can show that kind of improvement with no graduating seniors, I will feel very comfortable awarding him more time to continue to lay the recruiting groundwork. If that’s the case we’ll have a lot to look forward to in 2015. But I concede this, more regression or a failure to improve next year and it is clearly time to move on.
Best wishes to Brad Brownell, I am a big fan.
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