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Familiar place, unfamiliar feeling

Steve Robinson has walked into the Tallahassee-Leon County Civic Center countless times, but tonight he might feel as if he's in unfamiliar territory.

He has never been there as the former Florida State men's basketball coach.

But that's his situation as he enters the arena for the Seminoles' game against No. 7 North Carolina. Robinson is a Tar Heels assistant.

"Certainly, there'll be some (emotions)," he said.

Time probably won't allow him to renew many old acquaintances, but he looks forward to seeing players he recruited and coached: senior forward Michael Joiner, senior center Mike Mathews, junior forwards Anthony Richardson, Andrew Wilson and Adam Waleskowski and sophomore point guard Todd Galloway.

Familiar faces.

Strange setting.

"I can say I've played it out in my head a bunch of times," Joiner said of his first face-to-face with Robinson in nearly two years. "It'll feel weird."

Like his teammates, Joiner's last contact with Robinson was correspondence shortly before the start of the 2002-03 season.

"He said to finish up strong in the classroom and finish up strong on the court," said Joiner, who finally answered that card with a note before this season, writing simply:

"Coach Rob. I appreciate all you've done for me and good luck on your season."

Will the fans echo such sentiments tonight? Robinson's five-year run in Tallahassee saw him improve the off-the-court performance of the team but not the on-court. After reaching the NCAA Tournament second round his first season, Robinson's teams were a combined 46-72.

"I tried hard; I tried to do the best job I could do and sometimes things just don't work out," Robinson said. "I had a great experience, not always the easiest experience, but I wouldn't trade that experience of coming there and being the head basketball coach there. I think I learned a lot."

That's why coach Roy Williams brought his former assistant back to Kansas last season _ together they helped the Jayhawks reach the NCAA Tournament final _ and wanted him to follow to Chapel Hill this season.

"He sees the big picture much better than he did when he left Kansas the first time (in 1995 after seven years)," Williams said, praising Robinson's "beyond reproach" character, his teaching and his loyalty.

"From a basketball standpoint, I certainly couldn't be happier," Robinson said. "I just feel that I'm very fortunate to have the opportunities that I've had over the last couple of years."

The familiar and unfamiliar ones alike.

NO. 7 NORTH CAROLINA AT FLORIDA STATE

RECORDS: North Carolina 11-3, 1-2. Florida State 12-5, 1-3.

COACHES: North Carolina _ Roy Williams (first season; 429-104 overall). Florida State _ Leonard Hamilton (26-20, second season; 226-230).

KEY PLAYERS: North Carolina _ Rashad McCants, F/G, 6-4 So. (17.8 ppg, 4.8 rpg); Sean May, F, 6-9 So. (16.5 ppg, 10.2 rpg); Raymond Felton, PG, 6-0 So. (11.7 ppg, 8.1 apg, 3.7 rpg). Florida State _ Tim Pickett, G, 6-4 Sr. (13.8 ppg, 3.8 rpg, 2.3 spg); Anthony Richardson, F, 6-7 Jr. (10.2 ppg, 4.5 rpg).

_ Compiled by Brian Landman.

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