Radakovich turns his focus to basketball, baseball, whole-program success

On Littlejohn decision: 'I think we’re getting real close on a recommendation to the Board of Trustees about where we want to go'

Clemson AD Dan Radakovich welcomes Audra Smith as the new head coach for women's basketball

Photo by Mark Crammer

Clemson AD Dan Radakovich welcomes Audra Smith as the new head coach for women's basketball

First-year athletic director Dan Radakovich says he’s ready to help all Clemson programs succeed, not just football.

The Tigers football program has taken off in recent years, in part because of improvements to facilities such as the WestZone project at Death Valley and an indoor practice building christened last December.

“There’s some opportunity here as it relates to continuing to build the infrastructure of the program, as it relates to facilities,” Radakovich told The Associated Press in a recent interview about Clemson athletics.

Radakovich believes it’s no coincidence the Tigers rise in going 21-6 the past two years came after several upgrades were completed. Now, Radakovich wants other teams like basketball and baseball to enjoy the same advantages that come from having top-level facilities.

“It opens the doors for people to consider that if we did this at other facilities we might be able to see some similar success,” he said.

Chief among that is basketball, where both the men’s and women’s programs have struggled in recent years to hold on to past success. Clemson has worked the past 15 years at keeping Littlejohn Coliseum modern and useful, however the Atlantic Coast Conference is adding four high-quality schools in Pittsburgh, Notre Dame, Syracuse and Louisville the next two years that have top-flight basketball programs and could threaten to move the Tigers further down in a super-sized ACC.

Radakovich, who took over in December, has worked since then on whether it’s better to renovate Littlejohn or construct a brand new facility.

“I think we’re getting real close on a recommendation to the Board of Trustees about where we want to go,” Radakovich said.

While athletic director at Georgia Tech, Radakovich oversaw a $45 million renovation to Alexander Memorial Coliseum, renamed the McCamish Pavilion when it reopened last fall. Radakovich and men’s basketball coach Brad Brownell both have basketball arena studies in their offices, although neither are ready to speculate what direction the school might take.

Brownell says he’s talked with football coach Dabo Swinney over what the improvements have meant to football. “I don’t think we’ve done the same thing in basketball and I think everybody realizes, ‘Hey, it’s time.’ ”

Radakovich isn’t just locked onto basketball. Clemson’s baseball field at Doug Kingsmore Stadium has been taken up to improve the surface, fix some low spots in the outfield and move home plate about 10 feet closer, something baseball coach Jack Leggett thinks will help hitters. The construction will also add about 100 luxury seats behind home plate.

Radakovich hopes he can effect similar change for other programs when need arises.

He’s spent much of his time since arriving getting to know Clemson, its leaders, coaches and fans to better understand what to do next. It hasn’t all gone smoothly. Lawrence Johnson resigned as director of track and field in January after Clemson reported program violations to the NCAA.

Radakovich fired women’s basketball coach Itoro Coleman, one of the school’s most popular players during her time with the Lady Tigers in the late 1990s, when her teams went just 25-68 over the past three years.

He hired the energetic Audra Smith from UAB to revive women’s basketball. He says the school will have a permanent leader for track later this summer.

The athletic director has also filled key vacancies on his team brought on by retirements. Davis Babb came over from TCU to become the first-ever CEO of IPTAY, Clemson’s athletic booster group that got its name from “I Pay Ten A Year.”

One thing that’s gotten easier for Radakovich is not having to update the questions he’d get about possible ACC changes after the member school’s agreed to the grant-of-rights’ deal that ties them to each other and the league through the current TV deal expires in 2027. He’s continually be asked what was happening by faculty, students, athletes and coaches about potential conference realignment

The media rights’ decision “kind of closed the conversation,” Radakovich said. “And we wanted to close the conversation.”

That also lets Radakovich concentrate on keeping Clemson moving ahead in the ACC.

“I can’t tell you right now that we have everything tied up in a bow. We’re not there yet,” Radakovich said. “But we continue to zoom in on whether it’s programmatic changes, policy changes, fundraising changes that we want to take forward.”

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Comments » 1

rsb8931#286014 writes:

Until the day arrives that a basketball arena sits 80,000 and tickets sell for at least $50 a seat, basketball will never be the priority football is and should not be. While basketball at Clemson has had success on a limited basis over the years, football drives Clemson University and it always will. They might as well go back and play basketball games at Fike. At least there wasn't much wasted space over there. Sorry to be so negative but can't help remembering last season. I do think things will get better in basketball but...?

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