NORTHWESTERN COMMAND – Brad Brownell spoke about basketball emotion following Clemson’s 77-70 win over Virginia Tech on Sunday, and no he wasn’t talking about the first technical of his 11-year college career that came with 10 minutes to play in the second half.
No, Brownell was talking about the importance of reading emotions as a college coach. He indicated it was empathy that played a role in Sunday’s victory, something that started with a Friday team meeting.
Following tough back-to-back road losses at N.C. State on Tuesday and at Florida State on Thursday, Clemson was schedule to practice on Friday.
Brownell looked at his team filing in the cramped video room at the basketball facility, looked at their faces and examined their body language, and called off the practice session. He explained why on Sunday.
“Part of coaching is teaching the physicality of the game, the physical skills. It’s also coaching the mental part of the game. But it’s also understanding the emotion of where your team is. It’s really three parts,” Brownell said. “And the more I coach the more I realize the emotion part is critical, maybe as important as anything.”
“We all forget about this week about how well we played. We were tied with NC State with two minutes to play. We really outplayed Florida State and lost. The problem with sports is we lose twice so everything thinks you’re bad. My job is to build them up and tell them how much better we got last week.”
We are an outcome society. We like simple labels: winners and losers
But the problem is, it’s not that simple in sport. There are quality losses, and not all wins are created equal, which is why advanced statistics weigh strength of schedule and value road wins over home wins.
After losing back-to-back road games Brownell said all his players heard about is how bad they were. Eventually perception bends reality.
So in the film room Friday, Brownell scribbled seven areas on a white board where the team had improved over the last week. They talked for 45 minutes and Brownell called off practice.
“That was a big part of what we were doing: get our guys to feel good and then we recharged.”
You’ve probably become much more familiar with the word “process,” and the psychological approach it relates to, than you ever wanted to be.
“Process” is the bedrock of the Nick Saban/Bill Belichick coaching philosophy, which boils down to not worrying about the scoreboard, rather practicing and performing to personal and team standards and the desired outcomes will eventually follow.
While Brownell label his Friday chat as part of the emotional part of the game, I’d label it more as the psychological “process” type thinking.
Brownell believes his team is progressing even though the scoreboard does not always reveal such strides. Clemson is below .500 in ACC play. Of course the process is eventually supposed to create desired outcomes. Brownell hopes Sunday is a step toward process and outcome joining hands.
STARTING FIVE (THOUGHTS) …
*We documented Milton Jennings’ extreme home/road splits earlier this week and he didn’t let us down, positing career-bests in points and rebounds in an effort coming at home vs. Va. Tech: 28 points and 14 rebounds on 50 percent shooting from the floor. His 16 free throws made were the most by a Clemson player since 1969.
I asked Jennings about these home/road splits: he’s averaging 13.4 ppg and shooting 56 percent from the floor at home. He’s averaging 6 ppg and shooting 23 percent on the road.
He said he feeds of the crowd’s energy, he says he’s emotional player. He said he also feels more comfortable shooting Nike-brand balls over the brand used by some other schools.
Whatever the reason, he should perhaps become college basketball’s first home/road platoon player.
*Clemson made 10 of 21 3-pointers Sunday but they came mostly on open looks against Virginia Tech’s zone defense as the Hokies attempted to take away flu-ridden Devin Booker. These are the types of “rhythm” shots Brownell said his team must make, especially since Booker has become a player defenses will game plan around. N.C. State also went to a zone late on Tuesday and kept Booker scoreless for the final 6:44.
*Damarcus Harrison had a breakout performance, 19 points on 3 of 7 shooting from 3. This is the type of player Brownell though he was adding as a transfer from BYU. Harrison has been working on adjusting his shooting mechanics. While Harrison has been an offensive disappointment until Sunday, his defense has kept him in the starting lineup. The 6-4 guard has a 6-10 wingspan and leads the team in deflected passes. He helped limit Va. Tech guard Eric Green to 7 of 17 shooting. Green is perhaps the best scoring guard in the ACC.
Harrison has value even if his shot doesn’t come around. If it does come around, Clemson could have a poor man’s K.C. Rivers on the roster.
*K.J. McDaniels can jump over my Honda. Now can his consistently shoot like he did Sunday?
*Clemson has consistently kept opponents’ leading scorers under their season averages. Brownell has proven to be one of the better defensive coaches in the ACC.
HE SAID IT
Brownell on his first career technical foul (impressive 11-year streak, how is that even possible?): “I was so far away from Jamie I’m not sure why he got all upset with me. I had some things running through my mind that I probably deserved it. But I don’t know that I said a lot. I’ve never made a big deal about not getting one.”