CLEMSON -- Count Oliver Purnell among a rare company of coaches who admits listening to talk radio to gauge public opinion.
As evidence of his program's progress, Purnell noted Friday how fans are calling in to talk Clemson basketball on Dan Scott's radio show -- even if it's to vent over a third straight NCAA first-round loss.
Purnell said fans weren't calling before. To Purnell it is a measure of the new expectations Clemson continued to build in 2009-10, a campaign, despite the bitter conclusion, Purnell labels a success.
"Looking at the total of the program, it was another solid year," Purnell said. "Certainly we are disappointed we are not still playing. … It's another year to build fans' expectation level. Part of our plan was to have fans think we can compete (nationally)."
Still, Purnell knows new expectations are in place, namely, winning in the NCAAtournament.
His season wrap-up press conference took place a day after Butler defeated Syracuse to advance to the Elite Eight in the NCAA Tournament, the same Butler team Clemson defeated on a neutral court in Anaheim, Calif. earlier this season.
So went wrong in March?
Purnell placed most of blame upon offensive inefficiency. Clemson had more turnovers (480) than assists (453), ranking ninth in the ACC in assist-to-turnover ratio.
"More important than personnel and replacing (Trevor Booker), is we have to take care of the basketball better," Purnell said. "We just turned the basketball over too many times. Any time you turn the ball over it's a lost opportunity to score. Seven or eight more possessions and that's going to help us."
In Clemson's three-game losing streak to close the season, the Tigers turned the ball over a combined 49 times against 32 assists.
Also under the category of offensive inefficiency was the Tigers' 3-point shooting. Clemson shot 30.1 percent from 3 in ACC games, 10th in the conference
Purnell believes the answers to improve offensively are in-house, via developing the Tigers' young core. Purnell added he'd like to add one more signee, preferably a proficient shooting wing or another power forward.
Outside of focusing on ball security, Clemson Nation shouldn't anticipate much change.
Purnell isn't planning any major strategic shift, just some slight defensive and offensive changes. He also expects his team and staff to remain in tact.
He believes the team, like the fanbase, has a new expectation, which should help next March -- provided the Tigers again qualify for the NCAA tournament.
"They hear talk about (failing) to advance in the NCAAs," Purnell said. "I think that group coming back, it hurts them more than the first couple of years getting there, which was enough in some ways."
As Purnell probably knows via talk radio, getting there is no longer enough.
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