FSU, be glad Leonard Hamilton is your coach

He has no national titles, but he puts together teams that consistently compete.
Florida State coach Leonard Hamilton gestures during an Elite Eight loss to Michigan in the NCAA Tournament. (Associated Press)
Florida State coach Leonard Hamilton gestures during an Elite Eight loss to Michigan in the NCAA Tournament. (Associated Press)
Published March 29, 2018

At a recent Tampa Bay Times sports department meeting, a mini-debate began: Would you rather have your favorite team in any sport win it all in one glorious season and not be competitive for years to come, or give up ever winning the national title in return for a team that is consistently good? If Florida State basketball fans  prefer the latter, be glad Leonard Hamilton is your coach.

Hamilton hates having Florida State referred to as a football school, but that's what it is. Basketball won't get the same fervor, or funds, or yearly influx of the nation's best recruits.

But consider: Since Hamilton, who turns 70 in August, took over at FSU in 2002, he has a record of 327-208, with only two early losing seasons. He just took a team that was a popular pick to lose in the first round of the NCAA Tournament to the Elite Eight.

His team didn't feature a lovable nun and wasn't highlight-reel-fun to watch, but he got the Seminoles to buy into playing "junkyard defense" and playing hard, and came within four points of a Final Four appearance. No, we can't ignore the bad meltdown in the final minute of a very winnable game against Michigan, but does that overshadow the overachieving to get to that point?

And don't forget the regular-season beatdown of Florida in Gainesville, which sometimes would have been the highlight of the year for FSU.

Hamilton has a terrific background in coaching. Assistant at Kentucky from 1974-86. Head coach at Oklahoma State, Miami and the NBA's Wizards (okay, maybe he wasn't cut out for the pros with that 19-63 record) before arriving in Tallahassee. Unless the next Wooden or Coach K somehow decides that FSU is his dream destination, Hamilton is as good as it gets.

Given the choice, I can live without the one memorable season. I'll always want a team that is unselfish, plays hard, is competitive year in and year out, and is fully capable of staying with the Dukes and North Carolinas. That's what Hamilton gives FSU. What do you think, 'Noles fans? Is that good enough for you?

John Strickhouser is a Times sports copy editor. Contact him at