Brad Brownell never brought it up with his players or even his staff. But as spring turned into summer and summer turned into autumn, everyone around the Clemson program realized what was likely on the line for this 2022-23 season: Brownell's job. 

Brownell's one of a handful of coaches believed to be working under an unspoken decree to make this year's NCAA Tournament in order keep their gig into next year and beyond. Brownell opened up to CBS Sports this week and acknowledged the elephant in the room.

"Hecklers and hot seats and people on your ass," was how he described the part of the job he almost never talks about. 

To the surprise of many, 19th-ranked Clemson is 15-4 and rates as a tournament team (for now). Not just that, but a Tigers squad that was picked 11th in the ACC is in the rare position of sitting atop the league standings in the second half of January. The Tigers, who didn't have key starting point guard Chase Hunter in their Tuesday night 87-77 loss at Wake Forest, nonetheless register as one of the good stories through the first half of the season.

Brownell, 54, has been at Clemson since 2010 and he's made it through a few of these win-or-else campaigns before.

"It happens a lot at this level, has happened at Clemson before, I'm at the point now where I'm just trying to pour everything into my kids, enjoy it as much as I can and enjoy the coaching aspect of it," Brownell said. "I've been a head coach for 21 years, been at Clemson for 13 years. It's hard to be at a place that long. I get it. Occasionally does it rub you the wrong way? Sure it does, because you think you've done a pretty good job, but you understand the nature of the business, put your head down and keep going at it. You can't consume yourself with what's going on around you."