What is most ironic about the title of this article is that most people’s reaction might be: “It’s not that difficult to evaluate Leonard Hamilton”. Obviously, I disagree. When it comes to looking at Leonard Hamilton as the Head Basketball Coach at Florida State University, many people believe without question that he is an absolute savior of a previously dead end program, where basketball would always take a backseat to football. Others feel he has reached his ceiling as a coach and the FSU program has more potential than what he’s capable of accomplishing. they’d even argue that the team reaching the Sweet 16 for the first time since 1993 is a bit of a fluke, a welcome and appreciated fluke, but a fluke nonetheless and they hope it doesn’t lead to a knee-jerk lucrative contract extension offer by FSU.
As you can see, two very different schools of thought are circulating in regards to Mr. Hamilton. What confuses me most is the fact that I can understand, respect and agree with both schools of thought. Let’s be sure to establish this point before we go any further: The FSU Men’s Basketball team could make the Final Four three years in a row and Football would still be king in Tallahassee. So with the knowledge of FSU being considered a “Football School”, what are reasonable expectations of Coach Hamilton at Florida State? Has he done enough? Going into Friday night’s Sweet 16 match up against VCU, Leonard Hamilton’s career record with the Seminoles is 176-117 (60%), now three straight NCAA Tournament appearances. In the nine years prior to Hamilton’s arrival, the Seminole program amassed a record of 122-141 (46%) and made one NCAA Tournament appearance.
Leonard Hamilton has recruited several NBA draft picks that are still performing well on NBA teams as of today and has been able to consistently have Florida State Men’s Basketball in the discussion for best defense in the nation. Keep in mind, that Hamilton’s accomplishments have come in what is consistently considered one of, if not the best conference in College Basketball. There is no questioning the tangible change and turnaround the Men’s Basketball program has made in his tenure at FSU, so with that fact being clear how can anyone question his job security? What more can you ask for?
All that may be well and good and his accomplishments are very impressive, but as far as some fans are concerned Hamilton seems to have placed an invisible ceiling and stunted his own potential as a head basketball coach at the college level. In the process of recruiting great classes and coaching absolutely amazing team defense he has also managed to place an offensive product on the court that is more often than not . . . well, offensive. To be frank, it is painful to watch the Florida State Seminoles on the offensive end of the floor, especially when you consider the type of overall success the team could have if they were more offensively efficient and sound. The team practices terrible fundamentals, makes terrible decisions that lead to an abundance of unnecessary and infuriating turnovers and very rarely play with the attacking and penetrating mentality that best suits their skillset and athleticism. A lot of the blame for this should probably be placed squarely on Associate Head Coach Stan Jones, who has been coaching under Hamilton since 1996 at the University of Miami. Much of the offensive coaching and game planning responsibility lies on the shoulders Jones. Unfortunately, it has become routine for things on that end of the floor to be extremely subpar and inconsistent. It is obvious that Leonard Hamilton has no plans or intentions of getting rid of Stan Jones and will remain loyal, but you have to question if and when either of them would ever admit or recognize that a change in coaching philosophy and technique needs to occur. It is blatantly obvious to the average basketball fan that FSU’s offensive performance is embarrassing, so you would have to imagine that as professional coaches, they are well aware of the problem.
By the same token, without Hamilton and Jones in particular the Seminoles’ rise in recruiting over the past several years would have never taken place. This is a strong point for both coaches. Here in lies the problem my friends: What good is nearly elite level recruiting if the player development and offensive game planning is far below par? A lot of fans are questioning why one has to be sacrificed in favor of the other and whether or not Florida State Basketball can ever make it over the hump with things as they currently are. Before you go citing this year’s Sweet 16 as your evidence that it’s possible, keep in mind that the precedent has been set for a coach with marginal long term potential to take a team on a deep run into the tournament, only to be revealed as a dissatisfactory candidate for the job in the following years. (See Georgia Tech’s Paul Hewitt).
What I want to ask Seminole Nation is, should you be satisfied with the trajectory of Hamilton’s success simply because FSU Basketball isn’t considered an elite program or even the major athletic priority at its own school? Sure, the pigskin is king but does it mean that the basketball fans should settle for just getting a consistent sniff at huge success as opposed to potentially being a legitimate elite program? I don’t know about you, but for me Leonard Hamilton’s resume looks a lot better than the product I watch on the court at times and I consistently question if THIS is as good as it can get. There’s no sarcasm there, I’m genuinely torn.
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