CLEMSON, S.C. -- New Clemson coach Brad Brownell understands he's not at Wright State anymore.
When his 9-year-old daughter Kaitlyn asked if their new school played football, her dad answered like a longtime Tiger booster. "Do we have football? Yeah, honey, we got about 80,000 [fans] at Death Valley," Brownell said.
Now, as the Tigers new basketball coach, it's up to Brownell to keep those people showing up at Littlejohn Coliseum, too.
Brownell, 41, came to campus Tuesday to meet his players, visit with athletic administrators and take control of a program that's gone to the past three NCAA tournaments.
He replaced Oliver Purnell, who left after seven successful seasons to rebuild DePaul. As soon as Brownell heard that stunner, he knew he was the man for the Tigers.
"I think they sensed a passion from a guy in search of an unbelievable opportunity," Brownell said.
It's an opportunity Brownell earned at Wright State and UNC Wilmington.
Brownell went 84-45 in four years at Wright State, leading that program to the NCAAs as Horizon League champions in 2007.
"Brad Brownell is an unbelievable coach," Butler coach Brad Stevens said. "He has been a winner everywhere he has been. I am happy to see Brad go to a great school and a great program like Clemson."
Brownell also coached at UNC Wilmington, leading the Seahawks to the NCAAs in 2003 and 2006. That was where, the Indiana native said, Brownell learned about ACC basketball and the passion it stirred in the region.
"The opportunity to coach in the ACC is wonderful in April," Brownell said. "But it's probably challenging in January and February."
Clemson didn't figure to be in the market for a coach after Purnell reached his third consecutive tournament and talked about plans for more in the future.
However, Purnell surprised athletic director Terry Don Phillips with a 1:30 a.m. phone call about leaving last week and the search was on.
Phillips spent the week vetting candidates that included former Boston College coach Al Skinner, Wofford coach Mike Young and Tigers interim coach Ron Bradley.
The most serious appeared to be Rick Stansbury of Mississippi State. He said Monday he and his wife met with Phillips and considered jumping from the Southeastern Conference before deciding to remain with the Bulldogs.
Brownell got nervous when he heard about Stansbury and wondered if he'd still be awaiting his major jump. But Phillips called Monday night and Brownell accepted.
It's the second straight time Phillips has gone to a mid-major school in Ohio for his basketball coach, plucking Purnell from Dayton after the 2003 season.
"I guess there are some similarities," he said with a laugh.
Brownell's salary and contract length won't be made public until approved by Clemson trustees, Phillips said.
Purnell had earned more than $1.3 million this past season. He accepted a seven-year deal worth $15 million at DePaul.
Brownell inherits some challenges with the Tigers. He has experience in point guard Demontez Stitt and forward Jerai Grant, but also a group of four freshman from this past year Purnell had built the future around -- some who were not too happy about their coach leaving.
Devin Booker, the brother of star Trevor Booker, has talked about a transfer. The family of Tiger signee Marcus Thornton had asked the school for a release from his letter of intent after Purnell's departure.
Brownell says he'll talk with those he must about his core values and his plans to keep Clemson humming. He thinks he took a big step with Tuesday's meeting.
"I think he's really going to fit in here," said Andre Young, the team's top outside shooter last season.
Young thought Brownell eased a lot of concerns and expected everyone back for next season.
If not, that's OK with Brownell. He says he's the kind of coach who wakes up excited to face each day and expects that verve from those around him. It's an attitude he's already displayed at Clemson.
"I feel blessed to be at this school," he said. "I feel blessed to have these guys to coach."