NCAA Tournament Press Conference Quotes :: Clemson Coach Brad Brownell

BRAD BROWNELL: Excited to be back in the tournament. Couldn't be more proud of our team and what our team has had to go through here this season. Not much expected of us early in the year. Thought our guys just really bonded well on a trip to Spain this summer and just tremendous camaraderie. We do have some good experienced players back, so I was pretty confident that we would have a good team. Donte Grantham, Gabe DeVoe, seniors that have been with us for a long time and done great things for our program. Then Marcquise Reed, Shelton Mitchell and Elijah Thomas, three of our guys from the previous year. But our team had to readjust with Donte's injury that was challenging. But we've hung in there pretty well. I think we have continued to be a solid defensive team and offensively I think we're getting better. I think we're a team that's made adjustments. It's revolve around our guards. Our guards have played extremely well.

We're looking forward to a game against a New Mexico State team that's playing well. I have a lot of respect for Chris Jans. They guard unbelievably well. They are pesky and aggressive on defense and they rebound the fire out of the ball. I lived at the mid-major for a long time, and to win 28 games is difficult. This is a team that's used to winning, so we know we will have a competitive group on the other side.

Q. Coach, you mentioned off the bat that trip to Spain, how that brought the team together. When the bombing happened in front of the team hotel and there was a moment where you didn't know where the players were, do you think that kind of enhanced the process? I know part of the foreign trip is to get the guys to be bong and come together. But do you think going through that aided this team?
BRAD BROWNELL: I don't think obviously the terrorist attack necessarily did it. It certainly gave us pause and allowed us to take a step back, and, you know, maybe appreciate all the blessings that we have in our lives and to be thankful for a lot of things that sometimes we take for granted and to be that close to it helped in that way.

But for whatever reason I just think this team clicked right away. We have some freshmen on our team that have outgoing personalities and some characters that have really kind of energized our program and combine that with older players that are good players, mature, and I think there is just a feeling that guys like each other. There is a spirit with your team and in the locker room that is extremely positive. Our team doesn't take things too seriously, but we work when it's time to work and we prepare when it's time to prepare. I think it's one of those years where you're coaching the team and the pieces fit both on the court and in terms of what we ask guys to do and what they want to do and also off the floor with on you they get along with one another so well.

Q. National media picking a 12 to pick a 5 is an ever year thing. This isn't necessarily a Clemson thing, but this happens to be one. New Mexico State seems to be one of the trendy upset picks. Is there something about New Mexico State why people would latch on to this team being possibly a team that makes noise?
BRAD BROWNELL: No, absolutely, I think New Mexico State is a really good team, that's why. And you watch them play and you understand that. They beat Miami, beat Illinois at Illinois, beat Davidson, played USC to the wire in Hawaii. And, again, my respect for the mid-major basketball is because that's where I started and coached as a head coach for eight years and an assistant for eight years, and I know how hard it is to do that. It's not easy to be the favorite to win the league and then to go into the tournament, there is pressure there.

I really think, you know, the top two, three seeds in the tournament, the top ten teams in the country, maybe there is some separation, but I don't know that there is a lot of separation after that. To be honest with you, the 12s, the 5s, the 7s, the 10s, the 11s, I don't think there is a lot of difference. I think everybody has good players. There are better coaches than ever. New Mexico State has an older group that's used to win. They defend you. They rebound. They do the things that you need to do to be good so I don't think it's a trendy pick of it being 12-5. I think it's because New Mexico State has good players and coaches and they play well.

Q. Coach, I'm just wondering, after the years of working hard trying to get to this point to be back in the NCAA Tournament, what does it mean for you and then how do you help the players who most of them in your program have not experienced a moment like this?
BRAD BROWNELL: Well, it's rewarding, you know, for me personally, because there's been a lot of hurdles that we've jumped along the way to get to this point and we're optimistic that this isn't just a one-time thing because we've raised a bunch of money and renovated a facility, improved our program, improved our name. We've done a lot of good things in the meantime.

This is the first time we've ever kind of made it all the way through. But I think it's something that we can continue to do and that's what we're excite about. In terms of playing in the tournament, we're not trying to do anything different. But we are trying to really enjoy it. I want our team to enjoy this experience. I want them to have a good time. I want 'em to embrace it. I think because we are a loose kind of group that's good for us. And when it's time to play we'll go play. And hopefully we're good enough to do that. We've been that way all year. We haven't let things bother us from the outside. We haven't concerned ourselves with being 13th in the preseason. We haven't been too worried that they are picking New Mexico State to win. We just worry about us and what we're doing.

What we're doing is fun because we like each other a lot and we really appreciate what the other guy is doing. So we come to practice every day and have a great time together and put in our work and let the chips fall where they may.

Q. Coach, you talked about your time at the mid-major level. Obviously, I know you don't want to speculate too much on someone else's program, but what does it say about a program 3 NCAA tournaments in four years under three different head coaches. I feel like it speaks to a culture and it's larger than one coach, one player?
BRAD BROWNELL: I think it speaks to a commitment at a school, and that's hard. Some places have advantages when you don't have football because everybody's driving toward basketball and everything resourcewise is put into basketball. I lived that at Wright State and UNC-Wilmington. That's one of the hurdles, challenges we've had at Clemson is making basketball a big thing there. There's a lot of things that we've done to try to do that.

For that to happen at a school three out of four years I think shows a commitment by a university. It's not just a coach. It's a university commitment with athletic directors, board, presidents, it's a culture and that's how you have long-term success.

Q. What were the conversations like? What was it like years ago when you got Earl Grant from Wichita and what was it like when Charleston got him from you and all three of you together in one region?
BRAD BROWNELL: One of the biggest smiles our staff had was after we saw our name was to see Charleston and Auburn playing in our same region. You know, I didn't know Earl when I hired him at Clemson. He was out at Wichita with Greggg, but I knew I wanted a South Carolina guy and I'd heard a lot of good things about him from several different people. So he was somebody that I immediately wanted to talk to and I had a lot of respect for Gregg and the way he does things and knew if he was working for Gregg he was not only learning a lot, but he was a quality person.

So when I got the opportunity to talk to Earl he was excited about the opportunity to come back to South Carolina. He was a joy to work with every day. Unbelievable, positive person with great personality, beautiful family. Still talk frequently. Multiple times a month. Obviously, he talks with our staff, our staff with their staff all the time. So, you know, I'm just really proud of him to watch what he's done because I know when he took over in Charleston it was in not very good shape and in four years he's done a remarkable job, really. It doesn't surprise me in the least, and I think he will continue to be good much like the question I just got here about being in the tournament three out of four years. Wouldn't be shocked if that's what happens with Charleston. I'm a huge fan of Earl Grant, always have been and was blessed that he was able to work with me at Clemson for a while.

Q. Jemerrio Jones, obviously one of the best rebounders in the nation, what have you seen from him and what do you tell your guys going up against a guy like that?
BRAD BROWNELL: Really unique player, really unique. I mean, nose for the ball, that you can't explain, you can't coach. It's just guys have it. He's an igniter on offense because of his ability to dribble and pass after he rebounds it and that's what makes him extremely difficult to guard. You're not going to look at him or watch him on film and it's not going to wow you until you look at his stat line and then you look at games and he just keeps getting rebounds. I think there were six games where he had 20 rebounds. That's unreal. But his relentless pursuit for the ball and his nose for the ball, I don't think those are traits that are coachable. I think that's something unique that a guy has.

Q. Talk about the fact that five of the top seven scorers on the floor tomorrow night will be guys that have transferred into your program. Is that something you had to change your philosophy on from when you first got here to just the way basketball is played now? The guys all coming together from different backgrounds and meshing together?
BRAD BROWNELL: I think it's a combination, time, to be honest with you. We did several years ago start holding a couple of scholarships more for guys that we thought were transfers and where it started was we were losing out on some good players. We would get down to the final two and we lost a couple and we noticed that some of them were wanting to go -- weren't happy where they ended up going and wanted to come back. We felt like we needed to keep some scholarships available for guys like that.

So it just kind of happened. Then just some other unique ones, like Marcquise Reed was just a unique situation for us. We happened to play him and knew how good he was probably more than most people realized how good of a player he was. We thought his stats would transfer and obviously they have.

Then we've also taken guys like a David Skara. He just fits me and what I believe in and our team. He's not some high-powered scorer or anything like that, but he's a guy that helps your team win. So, yeah, we've kind of kept some scholarships, first time we've had a grad transfer with Marc and he's been terrific for us in terms of a blend with Eli. But I don't think that's easy and it's not easy to plan that way. But it's not something we just have planned, hey, we're going to take transfers all the time. Some of it's worked out. We did plan on taking a couple, but I do think now with how many transfers there are. There are so many now that you're probably silly if you don't have at least one scholarship sitting around for somebody because that's just the nature of it. You're probably going to end up with one because to be honest you're probably going to lose somebody. Kids these days -- I don't think there is anything wrong with it, when I was a younger coach I did, but now I think we ask so much of them and we can work 'em in the summer, we can do all these things with them, take all their time and kids play 8, 9, 10, 11 minutes as sophomores and juniors, I can understand if a kid wants to go somewhere and start and play 28 minutes when he's done all the things we ask them to do in any program in college at this level. That's why so many more kids are leaving and that's why there are so many more available.

Q. You talked about the disadvantages of being at such a prominent football school. What about the advantages? I think Clemson brand has been hot because of football has that helped you at all?
BRAD BROWNELL: Absolutely. There are advantages and disadvantages in a lot of things. Tremendous advantage being at Clemson, because of the success under Coach Sweeney, and what that's meant nationally for our school and our athletic department as a whole. I'm a huge Coach Sweeney fan. He has left me messages multiple times this week, and sounds more excited than I am that we're in the tournament. He is a huge basketball guy. He played high school basketball.

When we have football games, we've got our best recruits going to that environment, Death Valley, on a Saturday. It's an incredible experience. It's an incredible weekend, and whenever we bring a recruit, people that aren't from the area, they're shocked, because it's special.

And at the same time in the middle of January when we're playing a big-time ACC game, Coach Sweeney is expecting six or eight tickets right there behind the bench for some of the best high school football players in the country. Obviously we are happy to deliver. So it's an unbelievable experience; it's a shared experience, and I know schools talk about family, and I cringe because I've been at other schools and I hear other people talk about it. At Clemson we live it. We are a town of 12,000 people. There are six football coaches that live in my neighborhood. We just are around each other all the time, and it's real.

We actually really do spend time together. We want the best for all of our athletes, we want the best for our students. A big part of that is the athletic department and what that means to our community. It's special and I think when you come to Clemson that's what you see.

Q. Coach, in regards to the two seniors you've talked about, with Donte, how has he been able to impact the team despite he can't play and with Gabe what has he meant for his program from freshman year to now?
BRAD BROWNELL: He and Donte have both grown tremendously as players and people. Gabe wasn't highly recruited. He had some good offers but I don't know if he had another ACC offer, but I thought he was going to be what he is now and it was just going to take a little time. He's an extremely bright guy, over a 3.0 in our business school. He's going to be successful playing basketball for another 10 years and he's going to be successful for the next 30 years. Some of that has shown with Donte's injury. Gabe has raised his level of play and also his level of leadership. The first couple of weeks were hard for Donte, the injury, the surgery, the rehab. It was challenging.

But in the last month, he's been much better. I don't know if I've met a more genuine young man than Donte Grantham. His personality is really our team. That's the biggest change is that our team has taken on his personality and his personality is unselfish. He's given up more in his career than almost anybody I've coached for a guy who was as talented as he is. A lot of times he's a guy that will sit back and take a backseat to another good player because he wants that guy to have success, he really does.

So he's as happy for our team even though he's not playing as anybody I can imagine and that's one of the reasons why I love him.

Q. What's the final message you want to leave your team with before they take court tomorrow?
BRAD BROWNELL: We're not going to do anything different, be who we are, enjoy this experience. We're putting in our preparation all week, and we're going to be prepared. Being prepared and playing well is good enough.

But we've got to play well. Let's go out there and do what we've prepared all year to do and especially this week and then let's smile and have a good time and enjoy this experience.