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Brad Brownell addresses state of basketball program after AD’s open letter

Caleb Browder, Photographer

Clemson men’s basketball head coach Brad Brownell surveys the court during the Tigers’ matchup with Duke at Littlejohn Coliseum on Feb. 10, 2022.

Finishing last season 17-16, Clemson men’s basketball head coach Brad Brownell did not live up to his expectations, and on Wednesday, he addressed the state of the program nearly four weeks after athletic director Graham Neff released a public letter outlining next season’s expectations.
In his 43-minute press conference, Brownell discussed the program’s future and what he has accomplished since joining the Tigers in 2010. He acknowledged that he did meet his ultimate goals this past season and is aware of the criticism he and his program have faced. 
“I know there’s a level of some frustration with us and our program with wanting more, and wanting more, and believe me the guy who wants it most is me,” Brownell said. “Last season was an example of the kind of program we have. We’ve had one losing season since I’ve been the head coach at Clemson.”
Brownell mentioned that he is still not satisfied with the team’s recent success but believes his program should receive more appreciation in some areas.
“I think we’re closer than some people think, but there’s also a level of consistency and competitive spirit in our program that should be a little bit more admired by some people,” he said.
In his letter, Neff outlined what he expects from Brownell and the program, which did not receive a March Madness Tournament bid last season.
“This year’s Men’s Basketball season did not meet our expectations nor those of Head Coach Brad Brownell and student-athletes,” said Neff. “There were a number of reasons for the results, but we realize this is a bottom-line game.”
With multiple sit-down meetings with Neff before Neff released his letter, Brownell agrees with his assessment.
“I hear loud and clear from Graham [Neff], and I agree with it,” Brownell said. “I want to be as good as we can be.”
In Brownell’s 12 seasons as head coach, he has reached the March Madness Tournament three times. Although Neff expects Clemson to make the Tournament, Brownell stood firm that reaching that point is more challenging than most people think.
“It’s not easy to make an NCAA Tournament,” he said. “There are more and more schools that pay their coaches a ton of money, that fly on private planes.”
Brownell also brought up that schools that put significant money into basketball, as opposed to football, have an advantage in some ways. Although football is considered by most to be Clemson’s most prominent sport, Brownell believes he has instrumentally been a part of the basketball program’s increased financial support.
“I’ve helped raise a lot of money in this program and create a lot of interest to help us have some of the facilities and things that we didn’t have when I first got here, and I’m really proud of that,” he said. “I don’t think that’s been said enough by a lot of people.”
As the 2022-2023 season slowly approaches, Brownell and his team will look much more different than last season. The Tigers will be without guards Nick Honor and Al-Amir Dawes, who entered the transfer portal, and David Collins and Naz Bohannon, who have moved on to post-college pursuits.
However, the Tigers do head into next season with rising junior center PJ Hall and senior forward Hunter Tyson returning. Clemson also officially announced on Wednesday that the program added Princeton transfer guard Jaelin Llewellyn, who averaged 15.7 points per game in the Ivy League.
“As much as anything, he comes from a winning program at Princeton where they’re used to winning,” Brownell said of Llewellyn. “I think that resonated with me. A guy that’s used to winning, who expects to win, who makes winning plays.”
With his returning players and the addition of Llewellyn, Brownell has confidence that his team can live up to Neff’s expectations next season.
“I’m incredibly excited about next year, optimistic. I just think we have a chance to have a special season.”

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