Brad Brownell is a good basketball coach.
He proved it at UNC Wilmington and Wright State, and he proves it every day while coaching up a Clemson team that has a lot more cubs than it does full-grown Tigers.
He’s also honest and straightforward.
Ask him a simple question and you might get a complex answer, but he’ll always call it the way he sees it.
So when he looks at his 2012-13 squad as it heads into Sunday's home game with Virginia Tech, what, exactly is he looking at?
Brownell probably summed up things best back in early January, just before his team played Duke on the road.
“It’s kind of what I’ve talked about all year with this team,” Brownell said on Jan. 7. “As soon as you think you’ve got something solved you kind of move on to other things, and then one of these things comes right back out and haunts you.”
We’ll find out soon enough if Brownell and his Tigers are still haunted by Thursday night’s gut-wrenching loss to Florida State.
With 10 minutes to go in that one it seemed that a team with a couple of veterans and a lot of young ‘uns was headed for its finest hour – a dominating road victory that would get it back to .500 in Atlantic Coast Conference play and put it firmly in the pack chasing Miami.
Then it all unraveled.
Foul trouble and missed shots on the part of the Tigers - combined with 18-of-20 free throw shooting and one fortunate bank shot by the Seminoles - tore down everything that had been built up over 30 minutes.
Instead of what was potentially a season-altering victory, it was a mind-numbing defeat.
“Our guys are down and disappointed,” Brownell said. “The locker room, as you can imagine, was not good (Thursday).”
This year’s team has been all over the map through 18 games, winning 10 times and standing at 2-4 in the ACC.
The Tigers’ game against Florida State at Littlejohn saw them get off to a horrible start, only to rally late and fall just short.
The second time around in Tallahassee, a great beginning went for naught because of an inability to finish at the end.
In many ways the 60-57 loss to the Seminoles summed up the entire season to date.
Clemson shot 52.2 percent from the floor in the first half and drained a trio of threes, but was 32.3 percent from the field over the final 20 minutes and 0-for-8 from beyond the arc.
Senior Devin Booker had 15 points and one turnover, while senior Milton Jennings had 4 points (1-for-7 from the floor, 0-for-3 from 3-point range) and five giveaways.
The youngest players had moments of brilliance and other moments where they looked every bit like Division I novices.
It’s frustrating for a coach – and for fans, too, of course – but when a roster features just two seniors to go with six sophomores and five freshmen, what you see is what you get. What Brownell sees is a team that has multiple personalities so what he gets varies from contest to contest - and sometimes possession to possession.
These Tigers pose the kinds of questions that require complex answers and Brownell will keep searching for them.
That’s what good coaches do.