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Clemson Basketball

'We did what was right'

April 9, 2020

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Under normal circumstances, the next few weeks would be spent reflecting on a basketball season that just hit the rearview mirror. Instead, we've now been without sports for a month, but it feels like it's been an eternity since the Clemson men's basketball team was set to face No. 1 seed FSU at the ACC Tournament.

Clemson's season featured a historic win at North Carolina, the first in Chapel Hill in program history. They also topped three top-six teams in Duke, Louisville, and Florida State in Littlejohn Coliseum. 

At the ACC Tournament, the Tigers were just moments away from another shot at the Seminoles, and that opportunity was stripped from them as the sports world began coming to a halt due to the COVID-19 outbreak. 

"We had a good win against Miami in the first round. We wanted nothing more than to play against a team that we had just beaten, and felt good about our chance to win again," Brownell told

In fact, at the time, Brownell admitted he was already "surprised a little bit that the game hadn't been called earlier".

Here's how it all took place.

Atlantic Coast Conference Commissioner, John Swofford, gathered the coaches and administrators from both schools in the locker room and told them that the games were off and that Florida State would be honored with the regular-season championship.

© Jeremy Brevard-USA TODAY Sports
An overall view of the arena prior to the game between the Clemson Tigers and the Florida State Seminoles at Greensboro Coliseum.

Brownell went back to his team and told everyone in the room that the Tigers would "be out there and support them (Florida State)."

So the 2020 Clemson squad ventured back to the court to witness the Seminoles getting the league title. 

Watching on television, you could see the fight and the pain in the players' eyes. Clemson wanted a shot to prove themselves against the top-seeded Seminoles at the ACC Tournament but that opportunity was taken away agonizingly before tipoff.

"I think it sent a good message to our players. And certainly, it was the right thing to do by Florida State. Hopefully, in some small way that motivates our guys a little bit, but more important was just trying to teach your guys how to handle things in a difficult time. Our guys were upset because they wanted to play, but we did what was right."

As critical as people have been of Brownell during his decade at Clemson, he doesn't get enough credit for the type of program he's built when it comes to the character of the team and the types of players he's bringing on campus. 

"I think it sent a good message to our players. And certainly, it was the right thing to do by Florida State. Hopefully, in some small way that motivates our guys a little bit, but more important was just trying to teach your guys how to handle things in a difficult time. Our guys were upset because they wanted to play but, but we did what was right."
- Brad Brownell

It's a staple of conversations behind Dabo Swinney's football success, but not heard enough when discussing coach Brownell in this observers opinion.

Brownell, like Swinney, is also venturing into new territory when it comes to the offseason by staying in touch with his team using multiple video conferencing software and applications.

"We've got about 16, 17 guys that we're keeping track of. We talk to them every week. I just finished our postseason end-of-the-year meetings last week, FaceTiming everybody for about an hour. Just discussing what went well, what didn't go well, where do we get better."

The staff is also focused on making sure that the players are getting the job done in the classroom from a virtual perspective and that everyone is safe.

"The most important things for us are to make sure that everybody's healthy and that their families are well and that they're well. Then the second thing is to make sure that they're doing okay in school, and that the new e-learning is taking hold, and we've got the kind of support form that they need." Brownell said.

Clemson's been recognized nationally for their academic support for student-athletes, and according to Brownell, that has helped players adjust.

"We seem to be off to a great start. We have tremendous academic support at Clemson, I think it's a second to none. I think that'll be evident by the way that we're going to handle this and the high graduation rates we have at the school, in regards to all student-athletes."

As for his time now, Brownell, like many of you, has been missing basketball and the exciting games that take place during the NCAA Tournament. He hasn't had a chance to watch many of the classic games that CBS has been airing, but he still holds onto some of those great games from the past.

"We all have games or two that we remember kind of where we were and teams we were following. Obviously, I was an Indiana fan growing up, so I remember a few of the Indiana national championship games and tournament games that we used to see. Obviously the NC State miracle comeback run with Valvano's team. Villanova over Georgetown and the perfect second half or, or whatnot. So there certainly are some memorable games that you get a chance to kind of take a peek at and reflect."

Even amid the strangest times in most of our lives, Brownell sees some positives that could potentially come from all of this.

"I think this is one of the few times when we all, can kind of reflect on a lot of things in our lives, not just the sports aspect and relive some great games or memories that way, but certainly family," Brownell told us. "I'm hopeful that the good that comes out of this is that we'll all be a little bit more appreciative of some of the many blessings we have."

We will provide more notes and the full audio from our interview with Coach Brownell tomorrow on for our premium subscribers. Join today for just $1.00.

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'We did what was right'

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