Shawn Poppie walking into a good but challenging situation with Clemson Women’s Basketball

Clemson's new Women's Basketball head coach will have to rebuild the roster in the wake of recent departures.

Graham Neff, right, poses with Shawn Poppie
Graham Neff, right, poses with Shawn Poppie / Ken Ruinard / USA Today Network / USA

Clemson Tiger Nation is not accustomed to basketball dominating headlines this time of the year. By early April in most years, the fanbase’s attention has swung completely to the upcoming Spring Game.

Things have been different in 2024. Clemson Men’s Basketball broke a lot of brackets (including mine) by making an unexpected run to the Elite 8 of the NCAA Tournament.

Just a couple of weeks ago, many fans (including me) weren’t sure if Brad Brownell was the right man to be in charge of the program. Much of that sentiment has dissipated. This week I have mused about how Brownell might be the perfect person to lead the Tigers in the new age of transferring talent and NIL.

Clemson had one more piece of basketball business to handle before allowing our gaze to focus on the Orange vs White game this Saturday: the introduction of Shawn Poppie, the new leader of the Clemson Women’s Basketball program.

One can’t canvas all opinions, but I saw very few people celebrating when Amanda Butler was dismissed as the coach for the Tigers, and rightfully so. Butler did her absolute best with the program and was well-liked by anyone I ever heard speak up. That said, this season was a disappointment considering the expectations that preceded it.

I was still caught off guard by Butler’s exit because she had a solid recruiting class coming in, highlighted by Imari Berry, one of the top-ranked players in the country. Once Butler was out, the Tigers’ leading returning player, Ruby Whitehorn, announced that she was entering the portal and Berry re-opened her recruitment.

The success of Brownell and the men’s team this spring has reinvigorated the belief that any sport at Clemson, even those that aren’t traditionally considered the strongest, can be successful with the right people and the right resources. One of those resources that Brownell has used well that wasn’t available to him when he started with the Tigers is the transfer portal.

Poppie had a stellar track record in charge of the UT Chattanooga program, so there is a lot of enthusiasm for his future with Clemson, but this first season will be a challenge. He will have to jump into the portal quickly to rebuild a roster that will not have the two best talents it was expected to have under Butler.

Brownell's success in 2024 came with the combination of developed talent like PJ Hall, Chase Hunter and Ian Schieffelin, with the addition of transfers like Joe Girard and Jack Clark.

With the exits of Whitehorn and Makayla Elmore and the loss of Berry, Poppie won't be able to fuse the deveoped with the transfers like Brownell did, at least not right away. He will need a couple seasons to build the foundation for the program to get where he and everyone else would like it to be.

Then again, considering the Tigers finished 12th in the ACC this season, an immediate improvement is not off the table if Poppie can find the right players in the portal, the way Brownell did.