Brownell: "I will fight for Clemson"

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Brownell's .663 winning percentage is ranked in the top 30 nationally among active Division I coaches. (Photos: fotoman)
Brownell's .663 winning percentage is ranked in the top 30 nationally among active Division I coaches. (Photos: fotoman)

Press Conference Audio | Brownell Audio | Clemson AD Audio | Tanner Smith Audio | Andre Young Audio | New basketball Asst Mike Winiecki Audio

CLEMSON – Brad Brownell was named the new men’s basketball coach at Clemson Tuesday afternoon, and he made it known from the beginning that his loyalties lay squarely in one place and one place only.

“I am here for Clemson, and I am going to fight for Clemson.”

Brownell, 41, was introduced at a 4 p.m. press conference. He replaces Oliver Purnell, who resigned April 6 to become the head coach at DePaul, and has a career record of 167-85, and the .663 winning percentage is ranked in the top 30 nationally among active Division I coaches. The percentage is third among current active ACC coaches. Only Hall of Fame coaches Roy Williams of North Carolina and Mike Krzyzewski of Duke are higher.

“This has been a whirlwind five or six days for me,” Brownell said. “When Clemson contacted me and asked me to come meet with Terry Don Phillips and Bill D’Andrea, it felt right from the start. I got into the room and talked to the two men, and it was evident how much I felt like I fit the Clemson family. I felt a connection to the two men, and how I felt the program should be run, and they felt and shared that passion.

“I am truly humbled by this opportunity. This is a wonderful university, and I am taking over a program that is in good shape and plays in the best basketball league in the country. We want our players to have a great experience, and winning to be part of it, and to do well in school and graduate.”

Brownell was accompanied by his wife Paula and daughters Abigail [12] and Kate [9], as well as two assistants that he is bringing with him from Wright St. – Mike Winiecki and Lucas McKay.

Brownell said that he understands the challenge of trying to compete in what he called “the best conference in America”, but also said there would be no backing down from the Goliaths by him or his players.

“I am going to fight for Clemson now, and I am going to fight tooth and nail for our players,” Brownell said. “I am not going to do anything to put our situation in a negative light, but there is no question that I will fight for us if I see something that is not fair or not right, on or off the court. I am not going to sit back and watch things happen and not take action.

“In talking to [current Texas and former Clemson head coach] Rick Barnes, he thinks that is why they had interest in me. They know I am going to be a competitor and fight for Clemson. It is tough, but you do what you have to do to keep your school out there, and I am more than willing to do that.”

Barnes said that he believes Brownell and Clemson are a great fit.

“This is a good hire for Clemson,” Barnes said. “He really wanted the job and that is important. His teams play a similar style to what we did at Clemson and I feel that style can be successful at Clemson. One of my current assistants [Rodney Terry] was an assistant with Brad at UNC Wilmington. He said Brad was will have his teams prepared [for the opposition] very well.”

Brownell said he is looking forward to coaching in the ACC and understand the challenges – but he also believes he can take the Tigers to new heights.

“The opportunity to coach in the ACC is wonderful in April and really challenging come January and February,” he said. “I want to compete against the best. The goal is to get this team to the Final Four, and I told them [the players] that was my goal. We certainly can compete with the best in the ACC.”

One of Brownell’s first jobs, if not the first, will be to begin recruiting – both new players and trying to persuade players on the current roster to stick in Clemson.

“I know that recruiting is the lifeblood of any team and the lifeblood of program,” Brownell said. “But I believe there are many ways of being able to recruit. I think sometimes that people get too caught up in rankings and the experts. At the end of the day, it’s how you collect those pieces and make the pieces fit. How you do that is by coaching, and I am confident I can do that.”

Brownell met with the Clemson players Tuesday morning, and he said he was excited about “his” players.

“They are my players and I told them that in the meeting,” he said. “They are Clemson players and I am the Clemson coach. Too many times there are stigmas when a player is recruited and they are associated with staffs and coaches. We won’t have that here. I am a Clemson man all the way. I believe in honest dialogue, and if I’m honest, the trust will come.”

The native of Evansville, IN served four years at UNC Wilmington from 2002-03 through the 2005-06 season and posted an 83-40 record, including a 52-20 mark against conference teams. In his four years at Wright State he posted an 84-45 record, including a 55-24 record against conference foes. That computes to a .663 winning percentage overall and a .708 percentage against conference teams. Fifty-three of his 167 career wins have been recorded on the opponent’s home court, an average of 6.6 road wins per year.

In each of his two previous head coaching stops he has taken the program to a school record number of wins as a Division I program. He had a 25-win season at UNC Wilmington in 2005-06 and a 23-win season at Wright State in 2006-07.

The 1991 DePauw graduate has recorded six 20-win seasons in his eight years as a head coach and has taken three teams to the NCAA Tournament. He has a 15-5 record in conference postseason tournaments, including three postseason tournament titles.

Brownell took UNC Wilmington to the NCAA Tournament in 2003 and 2006 and Wright State to the NCAAs in 2007. He is one of the few active coaches to take two different programs to the NCAA Tournament in consecutive years. Seven of his eight teams have ranked in the final top 100 of the RPI, quite an accomplishment at the mid-major level, including a #28 final RPI ranking for the UNC Wilmington team of 2005-06.

Brownell was named the Colonial Athletic Association Coach of the Year in 2002-03 and 2005-06 and the Horizon League Coach of the Year in 2006-07. Additionally, Brownell was one of 15 finalists for the Hugh Durham Coach of the Year Award for mid-major programs in 2007 and was the NABC District 10 Coach of the Year. also named him the Mid-Major Coach of the Year in 2006, his final year at UNC Wilmington.

Brownell was named the seventh head coach in Wright State history on March 31, 2006. His very first year, he led the Raiders to the NCAA Tournament for the first time since 1993. The team had a 23-10 final mark, and established a record for wins since the program became Division I in 1987.

That 2006-07 team finished with a 15-3 record against Horizon League competition, including two conference tournament wins that gave Wright State the league championship. The 23 wins included a pair of wins over a 27-7 Butler team that would reach the Sweet 16 of the NCAA Tournament. Brownell’s first Wright State team reached the NCAA Tournament where it was defeated by third-seeded Pittsburgh.

In 2007-08 he guided Wright State to a 21-win season and a second-place finish in the Horizon League. The season featured a 12-6 conference record, including a victory over Butler in the regular season, one of just four losses for the Bulldogs in 34 games that year.

The 2007-08 team finished 14th in the nation in scoring defense and 30th in he nation in three-point shooting at 39 percent. That year, he coached the Horizon League Player of the Year, a first-team selection, an all-league defensive team member and two All-Newcomer members.

His 2008-09 Wright State team finished with a 20-13 overall record and a 12-6 league mark. His club won the San Juan Shootout and reached the championship game of the Horizon League Tournament. This past year Wright State was 20-12 with a third straight 12-6 Horizon League record. The team finished second to NCAA Finalist Butler during the regular season.

UNC Wilmington posted a 25-8 mark his final season, 2005-06, including a victory over Final Four participant George Mason, and won the CAA Tournament. The Seahawks lost in overtime to George Washington, 88-85, in the NCAA Tournament that year.

His first UNC Wilmington team (2002-03) won 24 games and won the CAA postseason tournament. His club lost in the first round of the NCAA Tournament to defending national champion Maryland on a shot at the buzzer, 75-73.

His four-year Colonial Athletic Association record was 61-22, the best league mark during the period. Brownell was twice named the CAA Coach of the Year (2003 and 2006). He coached five All-CAA performers, one CAA Player of the Year, four All-Defensive Team selections, one Defensive Player of the Year and seven CAA All-Academic honorees.

Brownell began his coaching career as a graduate assistant at Evansville under Jim Crews in 1991-92 and he helped that program to a 24-6 record. He served as an assistant at the University of Indianapolis in 1992-93 and 1993-94.

He then started a 12-year-run at UNC Wilmington, eight as an assistant or associate head coach, and four as the head coach. He was an assistant for the Seahawks from 1994-95 through 2001-02. His final year as an assistant under Jerry Wainwright, UNC Wilmington posted a 23-10 record, including a 17-4 mark vs. conference teams. That team defeated Southern California in the first round of the NCAA Tournament in overtime.

Brownell earned his Bachelor's Degree from DePauw University in 1991 and completed his Master's Degree at the University of Indianapolis in 1994. He is a graduate of Harrison High School in Evansville, IN where he was a high school teammate of Calbert Cheaney, who later became the National Player of the Year in 1993 at Indiana.

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