Clemson is and always will be a football school. To get butts in the seats at Littlejohn, wins are a must, and there were just 13 of them a season ago, many of which were grinders that weren't very aesthetically pleasing.
"We're three yards and a cloud of dust. We're old Danny Ford, so I don't understand why our football guys don't love us," Brownell said, while smiling after Clemson's 72-59 win over Duke.
"Nothing against Chad [Morris] and Dabo [Swinney], all the slinging it, that's fun to watch and it's great, it's been very successful, but right now, we're a little bit the other way. But, as we get more explosive, more, better players, we're going to keep shooting it.
"Right now, we don't shoot the ball as well as we like. We have to manage possessions, play physical and opportunistic with certain situations."
And that style tends to lead to lower scores, fewer highlights and lighter crowds, with an emphasis on lighter crowds at a football-first school like Clemson.
"One of the things I've always thought about this job, even when I was doing a little research on it," Brownell said, "There are periods of success in Clemson basketball. When there's success, the fans come out and support it. It's a tough place to play.
"I don't know that you can be consistently successful unless your fan base cares about your team. Clemson fans care about basketball, sometimes it takes a little longer for them to care about it, when it gets later in the season -- I'd like for them to care about it a little earlier, but that's one of the things that makes you successful, is having a difficult home arena to play in."
At stretches on Thursday night, the fans helped make life tough for Florida State. But the crowd of 8,000-plus didn't get much in return -- Brownell admitted as much after the game. Clemson struggled to muster any kind of life on the offensive end in the 56-41 loss to the Seminoles.
"I feel bad when we don't play well in front of our fans," Brownell said. "I feel bad. I know it's expensive. I know it takes effort to come over here and do all of this, fight through the rain. That's why I'm unbelievably appreciative when people come out and the students are terrific.
"I think our season ticket holders and core fan base has been pretty good, really, all year. We haven't had as good a student turnout, when they come out, it makes a difference."
The near capacity crowd on Saturday afternoon certainly helped. This time, they were rewarded with a very favorable result.
"Our job is to try to put an exciting product on the floor," Brownell said. "Now, I play differently than Oliver [Purnell] did. We don't run around and shoot a million shots and do all this things. As we continue to recruit better players, I think we'll start to play faster and faster. I am a defensive-minded coach."
That style paid off against Duke. As a team, the Blue Devils shot 34 percent from the field, the first time all season they'd been held below 40 percent. They also didn't make a field goal in the final 6:22 of the game.
"I'm so proud of our players and happy with our players, because they put in a lot of effort," Brownell said. "To show resiliency here the last 36 hours, to do things the right way, to play at a level, they deserve to have a game like this."
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