Brad Brownell, who was introduced Tuesday as Clemson's 22nd men's basketball coach, is a former Division III college basketball player with a lot of charisma and energy, and is a relatively young 41.
Brownell led Wright State and UNC- Wilmington to six 20-win seasons and three NCAA appearances in eight seasons as a head coach. The Indiana native received his first taste of coaching on the bench as a youngster next to his father, a high school coach.
Growing up in Big Ten country, Brownell was heavily influenced by Indiana's success under Bobby Knight.
Brownell sat down with The Post and Courier's Travis Sawchik this week to talk about his philosophies, personality and influences.
Many Clemson fans have never seen your Wright State or UNC-Wilmington teams play. Could you talk about your basketball philosophies?
"I like to teach my guys how to play. I don't want to have 4,000 plays and call a play every time down the court. … We play primarily man-to-man defense, vary our levels of pressure depending on personnel and who we play, in terms or how hard we will guard, how far we will extend the court. An occasional zone. I like to push the ball on misses and turnovers. Either run a quick hitter into motion or just straight motion."
You say Bob Knight is a large influence on basketball strategy, what about on your in-game demeanor?
"Ironically, I've been a head coach eight years without a technical foul. I've been close several times and I'm not afraid to get one if our team needs it. I try not to get crazy on the sideline because I think it detracts from your job of analyzing the game and figuring things out. I don't sit a lot. A lot of times I start seated, and then I'm quickly up and trying to coach on the move."
Aside from Knight, who are some of your other coaching influences? It's documented you started keeping statistical charts at a young age for your father who was a high school coach."
"He (Bob Brownell) was more of an influence on me as a man than as a coach. He's the most honest man I know. He's the only guy I know who might say he had a seven on a hole in golf when he had a six. But really there was Royce Walton, my college coach (at DaPauw). And Jim Crews (at Evansville), who I worked under for a year, worked his camps, talked basketball with he and his staff. That is the Bob Knight tree I kind of came from, those guys' knowledge of the game is incredible. Jerry Wainwright (UNC-Wilmington) was really the guy I learned how to run a program from, dealing with the media, with boosters to learning how to organizing recruiting, handling staff."
What about the challenges of leading a program in a conference with the likes of Duke and Coach K, and Roy Williams at North Carolina? You'll be running a similar system as they do, but they have McDonald's All-Americans.
"We are not going to be in awe of the situation, but at the same time we are going to respect those guys. They are the giants of the coaching profession. They have been doing this a long time. They are some of the best coaches in the game. But I think our staff will have our teams prepared well, and we'll play really hard and try to execute our game plan to give Clemson the best chance to win. When a game gets going you are not looking at them as much as you are looking at what you have do to win a game."
Could you talk about your recruiting philosophy? You indicated you believe you can find many undervalued prospects out on the recruiting trail.
"We are certainly going to go after top players. But we are not enamored with lists to the point a guy is not in the top 200 or 250 and so can't be a good player. I can tell you right now there are guys at Wright State that would be very good players at Clemson. So there are a lot of good players out there. You have to find guys that will fit your system."
You spoke to former Clemson coach Rick Barnes. What advice did he have for you?
"I got his assessment of Clemson and all those things. He loved his time here. He said you just have got to fight. It's hard and there are certain challenges because of the nature of the league and who is in it. But it's a great place and the people really support you. He thought it was a great spot for a young coach cutting his teeth at this level, he thought that is what you needed, a high energy guy."
What are you reading? What books have influenced you?
"I read a book by (former General Electric CEO) Jack Welch on winning. I read a lot of why-people-are-successful stuff. Coaching books. One of my favorite books is Bill Parcell's book 'Finding a Way to Win.' It's really old but I just think it's great. I love a little bit of that tough-style stuff. And I love the title. I think in this business it's about finding different ways to get things done."
Who are some of your favorite players, players who might illustrate qualities you are ideally looking for in players?
"I have a lot of respect for a lot of different type players. John Stockton. Different kind of guys that maximize their ability. I love Magic (Johnson) and his ability to make other players better. I grew up with Bird-Magic, so I love those guys. Those are the guys I watched."