Terry Don Phillips Interview (Part III)

CLEMSON - In the third and final part of his interview with CUTigers.com, athletic director Terry Don Phillips discusses basketball, baseball and his legacy at Clemson.

Your decision to hire Brad Brownell- there were plenty of folks out there who were saying, ‘Why did you hire this guy?' I'm sure lots of opinions have changed, now. I imagine you still feel good about it?
Phillips: A guy coming out of Wright State. ‘My gosh, can't you do better than that?' Then, after the season, it was, ‘What are you going to do, to keep him?' I'm very proud of what Brad's done since he's come in here. Brad's a great fit, a great coach. I feel very good about what he's doing.

But, again, personnel decisions are not 100 percent. If everybody was 100 percent correct on the personnel decisions, there wouldn't be any turnover. That's why you see in great programs, you've got people that make decisions, and it simply doesn't work out. Personnel, you'd like to think it's a science, where you go from a, to b, to c and to d, and you're going to get the results you want. It's not a science. Of course, it's based upon the background that people have. A lot of people, [it] is being subjective and instinct. Is this the right fit for this particular program, at this point in time? So long as there's things in the background, particularly when you hire an assistant, that would suggest to you that this person's got a good opportunity to be successful - you'll make your decision and go forward.

I've always said that I've never seen a great head coach start off as a great head coach. They've always started off as an assistant. I was very fortunate, as a player, to come through a program that's produced some great head coaches. I'm talking about Super Bowl champions, national champions, who were all assistant coaches at one time. That's why coach [Frank] Broyles has got that award for assistant coaches that's named after him. He had a great skill in bringing in exceptional assistant coaches who leave his program and go on to be great coaches.

When you take into consideration Clemson is obviously a football school, how tough is it for a basketball program to take the next step, like Brownell is confident he can do here?
Phillips: There gets to be a mindset. That mindset is based upon history. They always tell the story here when coach [Frank] Howard -- they got an invitation to play postseason…they were in spring training and he wouldn't let them go. There's something that, generally, triggers that in the past. Are you a football school or are you a basketball school? Sometimes, that mindset is hard to turn around. If you have a history that would suggest your emphasis is not in basketball, it's hard to shift that mindset. The challenge we have, I think, we've got a coach who's an excellent fit.

"We need to do everything we can for him to have a level of success so that he feels good about being here and wants to continue here. Someone needs to be the catalyst that stays with it and not just jump from Clemson, once they've had some success in basketball."

We need to do everything we can for him to have a level of success so that he feels good about being here and wants to continue here. Someone needs to be the catalyst that stays with it and not just jump from Clemson, once they've had some success in basketball. We've seen that here. We've had some excellent coaches. A lot of that depends on what we do, administratively, in support of that particular program -- there's no question in the coach's mind that basketball is highly valued and we are going to keep it as a highly valued part of our program. That's why this facility project, even though, keep in mind, the facilities at Littlejohn, they had broken ground prior to my arrival. It took us a couple of years to finish Littlejohn, so we've only been in Littlejohn for seven years.

The annex and the facility itself, it's not that old. But, by the same token, with regard to people we compete with in this league, it's lacking in some areas. It's not a bad facility, as it sits. It needs to be improved so that we can schedule our practices properly, between the men and women, particularly with the class schedules that they have now. We just don't need to let that lay. If you do let it lay, you're going to frustrate good coaches and have turnover.

Is it as simple as providing facilities, infrastructure and showing financial support? Is that all it comes down to?
Phillips: You've got to be comfortable living in a college environment. There's very few places like Clemson, with regard to living and the ambiance that surrounds this particular area, and the environment here. I think it's a terrific positive, in particular for someone like Brad. You've got a young family and an opportunity to put your roots down in a quality area. So, the area itself, particularly with raising your family, is a real plus.

Then, any coach worth their salt, they want to win. They want to have an opportunity to compete at the highest level. And, hopefully, have the opportunity to have those special years where you are capable and able to win a championship and move forward with your career. That's why you've always got to be trying to -- whatever it may be, whether it's facilities, what we do academically to assist kids, to give them a chance to be successful in that arena -- you've always got to be pushing the envelope in that arena. You can't afford to lay the hoe down. Because, every year there needs to be something done. We need to be vigilant. If we have a good year, that's your best opportunity to take your next step and continue to improve, as opposed to saying, ‘Boy, we had a great year, let's catch our breath.' There's no catching your breath. Again, your competitors are going to work and try to improve.

With the national championships South Carolina has won in baseball, is there a little extra pressure on the baseball program at Clemson, because of the rivalry?
Phillips: Anytime you have an in-state rivalry that's as tense as this one is. [You look] and say, ‘What is it they're doing that we could do, to get better?' We have a very good baseball program. I'll regress, and this goes a long way back. I was playing for coach Broyles. He was a great player at Georgia Tech. He was one of the last three-sport lettermen that they had there, an All-American. Of course, he had a great record at Arkansas. When Bobby Dodd retired, they tried to hire coach Broyles. It took him less than a minute to turn it down. And this is his alma matter. He said, ‘I'll never coach in a state where they have two strong universities. When you've got people going to church with one another, going to movies with one another, living next door to one another -- whatever your flaws are, it just amplifies them.' At the time, I didn't understand what he was saying. I think this past baseball season is a pretty good example.


"Jack has done an excellent job with baseball. We're one of the preeminent baseball programs, nationally. Sometimes, the ball just doesn't bounce your way…Jack's always in the hunt. We've got great kids. We've got coaches that represent us in a first-class fashion. We're a national program and we need to feel good about that." (AP)
South Carolina just had two great years. What they've accomplished is nothing short of tremendous. But, by the same token, it does not diminish that we have a very good baseball program here. Jack has done an excellent job with baseball. We're one of the preeminent baseball programs, nationally. Sometimes, the ball just doesn't bounce your way…Jack's always in the hunt. We've got great kids. We've got coaches that represent us in a first-class fashion. We're a national program and we need to feel good about that. We just happen to have two excellent programs in this state. Actually, we have more than two…you've got two coaches in the SEC. One won the SEC Championship. One won the East division and got beat by South Carolina for the College World Series championship. Those other programs don't come to Clemson to hire those coaches off of Jack's staff if they don't hold this program in really high regard. You just don't do that. I do understand what coach Broyles was talking about, after all these years.

Call it a minority or majority, there's a real vocal set of fans who are ready to see you move on. How do you respond to those detractors?
Phillips: You can't. They're going to believe what they want to believe. There's no response.

At the end of the day, when your career is done, what do you hope or think your legacy will be here at Clemson?
Phillips: Don't know. I hope that we will leave it in good shape. And we want to do a good job. I can't control what other folks think. I don't even want to attempt to try to put anything like that in perspective.

Did you learn at some point, when you're in a position of leadership, that you're going to have to deal with that? Did somebody explain that to you, at one point?
Phillips: You learn those things. What had occurred here, not here, but in our society, it goes back to the media that we find ourselves in. It's very accessible. It used to be, before someone would right something or say something, they would make sure they corroborate their stores, to ensure that it does not deal in hearsay and opinion. That's not necessarily the case any more.

What's your timeline for the rest of your career? Have you put much thought into that?
Phillips: I don't even need to get into this discussion…I think everybody knows you're not going to work forever. There's no need to even respond to that.


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