Clemson Basketball Growing Up

Cleaning out Ye Olde Notebook while counting the days until first pitch...


In the Alltel Stadium tunnel, outside the Clemson locker room, David Blackwell took the time to give me a one-on-one interview for the network's Fifth Quarter Show.

The Tigers had just lost the Gator Bowl to Nebraska, and Blackwell had been the man running the defense during the game. In the month following the resignation of Vic Koening, Blackwell and Ron West had been charged with coordinating the defense. Blackwell was given the responsibility of making the in-game calls.

In the days since Jacksonville, head coach Dabo Swinney has announced the hiring of Kevin Steele as the Tigers' new defensive coordinator.

Going outside the current staff for the hire wasn't unexpected. In fact, Swinney's pursuit of John Chavis and subsequent hiring of Steele were both poorly kept secrets.

But just because Blackwell didn't get the coordinator's job at Clemson this time around, don't think such an opportunity isn't headed his way.

Many have long thought Blackwell to be coordinator material. And now, so does Blackwell.

"One thing I did learn throughout this whole process... I know I can do this job," he said. "I know I'm ready to do this job. It may not be here this year, or in the future. But it will be somewhere."
Not that he ever doubted his ability to do the job. But this trial run at Clemson has reaffirmed Blackwell's belief that bigger and better things are on the horizon.

"One thing I did learn throughout this whole process... I know I can do this job," he said. "I know I'm ready to do this job. It may not be here this year, or in the future. But it will be somewhere."

One undeniable truth in coaching is that talented assistants are either going to move up or move on.

Blackwell is talented. His recruiting prowess has been well-documented. His linebackers are superbly coached. He should be classified as a rising star.

Clemson fans should enjoy his work while they still can.


A word about the men's basketball crowds at Littlejohn Coliseum.


Particularly impressive, at least to me, was the turnout for the East Carolina game shortly before New Year's Eve. With the students gone and the holidays in full motion, Littlejohn was still more than three-quarters full for a game against an average - at best - opponent.

A 9 p.m. game for Alabama? Sold out.

We know what the ACC season is going to bring:

Standing-room only crowds, meaning a great home-court atmosphere. Those are the no-brainers.

But to have that kind of turnout for East Carolina, and to follow it up with the capacity crowd for Alabama?

Those are signs that the basketball culture at Clemson is changing. And it's happening right before our very eyes.

Is there a coach on campus more worth his money than Oliver Purnell?


Speaking of basketball, it's worth noting that the Clemson women's program is showing some signs of life.

Christy McKinney's biggest issue in her previous three seasons has been getting her team to consistently play hard. Giving maximum effort for 40 minutes has been something hard to come by for the Lady Tigers.

But that appears to be changing.

In jumping out to a 10-5 start - the best of McKinney's career so far at Clemson - her team appears to finally understand the whole effort thing. In the comeback win last Monday at Miami, and in taking No. 2 North Carolina to the mat Thursday night, it was easy to see the difference in the way this team is playing compared to previous years.

Not that they're the most talented. Not that they have alleviated the mistakes.

But those things can all be fixed and/or improved with hard work.

Finally, it appears that message has sunk in. And maybe, just maybe, there's light at the end of the tunnel for this struggling program.

Let us just hope the light isn't attached to an oncoming train. Top Stories