Tigers' new staff getting to work

New Clemson basketball coach Brad Brownell's staff of assistants will be headed by associate coach Rick Ray.

CLEMSON -- While the air conditioning was out of operation in the McFadden Building during this week's heat wave, the men's basketball office operated at near full capacity with new faces forming a new basketball cabinet a month after Oliver Purnell's departure.

Assistant coach Earl Grant's cell phone constantly buzzed, a recruit's scouting report open on his Web browser. Dick Bender, the new director of basketball operations, rushed from office to office with paper work. Video coordinator Lucas McKay was occupied with learning a new video editing system, and assistant Mike Winiecki was settled in his new office already at work.

Soon, Rick Ray, a former Purdue assistant, will be in-house as the associate head coach.

In the corner office, head coach Brad Brownell has already defined the roles of his subordinates, saying his assistants "will do everything."

"I think too many guys get pigeonholed as recruiters or X and O guys," Brownell said. "The thing I'll try to do with my staff, much like at Wright State, I want to groom my guys to be head coaches."

Ray is slated to be the top assistant with his experience on a power-conference staff and familiarity with Brownell's preferred style of play: motion offense and man-to-man defense.

"He has ties to the Midwest, which will allow us to spread our recruiting base a little bit further," Brownell said of Ray. "He's got experience in one of the top conferences, having coached at Purdue. He's going to help our team win."

Bender is what Brownell calls his "chief of staff," a trusted sounding board having known Brownell since he was coaching Brownell at DePauw in the late 1970s.

"He's the guy, when you watch movies, that keeps the president in line, tells him what he is supposed to do, where he is supposed to go," Brownell said. "I'll work a lot of basketball ideas off him. He's going to have a hand in a lot of things."

Brownell said loyalty and familiarity were key factors when choosing his staff.

Winiecki and McKay came from Wright State with Brownell and also served on his staff at UNC Wilmington. Brownell has known Ray for years.

"I've never worked under him, but I've always been around him through different associations," Ray said. "He is a guy that's always on the right path, in terms of trying to do things the right way."

The assistant Brownell has the least experience working with is Grant, a Charleston native, whom Brownell hired from Wichita State.

"Earl is a guy I have kind of watched from a far from several years ever since I was at (UNC-Wilmington)," Brownell said. "Especially when he was coaching at Winthrop with Gregg (Marshall). I knew they were recruiting good players and he was from South Carolina."

Grant has energy and familiarity with recruiting South Carolina having also coached at The Citadel.

Brownell's recruiting philosophy focuses first on the region.

Brownell said Grant will a major role in recruiting South Carolina and Georgia, while Winiecki and Ray will split North Carolina. All three assistants will have recruiting responsibilities in South Carolina.

Grant will coach guards and Winiecki will work with Clemson's big men. One element Brownell said all his staff members share, a characteristic he said he targeted, and they'll need, is hunger.

"We're leaning to a little bit of a younger staff, just about every guy is 30 or in his 40s," Brownell said.

"We have enough experience, we have all been doing it long enough, but I also feel we are all pretty hungry. None of these guys that have come with a silver spoon."

Reach Travis Sawchik at tsawchik@postandcourier.com and check out his Clemson blog at postandcourier.com/blogs/tiger_tracks.