Brownell headed to coach at Clemson

Updated: April 14, 2010, 10:56 AM ET
By Andy Katz | ESPN.com

Clemson hired Wright State's Brad Brownell to replace Oliver Purnell, the school announced Tuesday morning.

Brownell

Brownell is familiar with the region after coaching at UNC Wilmington for four seasons, including an NCAA tournament appearance in 2006. He was 84-45 in four seasons at Wright State.

"The opportunity to coach in the ACC is wonderful in April," Brownell said. "But it's probably challenging in January and February."

Brownell said Tuesday he hopes to build on Purnell's success, which includes trips to the NCAA tournament the past three seasons. Brownell says his expectations are high, although he needs to learn more about his players.

Purnell shocked Clemson when he abruptly left April 5 for Big East cellar dweller DePaul. Top assistant Ron Bradley was a candidate to replace Purnell and had remained at Clemson during the search for a new coach.

Bradley has a job waiting for him with Purnell at DePaul. Purnell is also expected to fill his assistant coaching positions with people familiar with Chicago-area recruiting. That could include members of the former Clemson coaching staff.

Clemson athletic director Terry Don Phillips hired Brownell after initially going through a list of candidates, including Mississippi State's Rick Stansbury, who received a quiet offer Monday. Stansbury decided against the move to stay with the Bulldogs. Other candidates included former Boston College coach Al Skinner and Wofford coach Mike Young, along with Bradley.

Brownell got nervous when he heard about Stansbury and wondered if he'd still be awaiting his major jump. But Phillips called Monday night and Brownell accepted.

It's the second straight time Phillips has gone to a mid-major school in Ohio for his basketball coach, plucking Purnell from Dayton after the 2003 season.

"I guess there are some similarities," he said with a laugh.

Clemson was 21-11 last season, 9-7 in the ACC. The Tigers lost to Missouri in the first round of the NCAA tournament.

At Clemson, Purnell was 138-88, including three straight first-round losses in the NCAA tournament.

Last season, Brownell coached Dayton-based Wright State to a 12-6 record, 20-12 overall -- six games behind Horizon League champ Butler. Wright State also lost in the conference tournament final to Butler.

He coached the Raiders to the NCAA tournament in his first season at Wright State in 2006-07, putting him in consecutive NCAA tournaments with two teams. Wright State won 20 games or more each of his four seasons at the school.

Brownell's move to the ACC is a major step on what has been a steady, but quiet, career climb. But if any coach out of the Horizon League was going to make the jump to a higher-profile league, it was thought to be Butler's Brad Stevens.

Three days after the Bulldogs lost to Duke in the national championship game, however, Stevens signed a 12-year extension with the school.

"Brad Brownell is an unbelievable coach," Stevens said. "He has been a winner everywhere he has been. I am happy to see Brad go to a great school and a great program like Clemson."

Brownell inherits an inexperienced corps of players, and some challenges. Devin Booker, the brother of star Trevor Booker, has talked about leaving. The family of Tigers signee Marcus Thornton had asked the school for a release from his letter of intent after Purnell's departure.

Brownell says he'll talk with those he must about his core values and his plans to keep Clemson humming. He thinks he took a big step with Tuesday's meeting.

"I think he's really going to fit in here," said Andre Young, the team's top outside shooter last season.

Young thought Brownell eased a lot of concerns and expected everyone back for next season.

If not, that's OK with Brownell. He says he's the kind of coach who wakes up excited to face each day and expects that verve from those around him. It's an attitude he's already displayed at Clemson.

"I feel blessed to be at this school," he said. "I feel blessed to have these guys to coach."

Andy Katz is a senior writer who covers college basketball for ESPN.com. Information from The Associated Press is included in this report.

Andy Katz | email

Senior Writer, ESPN.com

ALSO SEE