Newspaper article The Florida Times Union

FSU Jumps to Hire 'Perfect Coach' Hamilton Turned UM into Winner

Newspaper article The Florida Times Union

FSU Jumps to Hire 'Perfect Coach' Hamilton Turned UM into Winner

Article excerpt

Byline: Bob Thomas, Times-Union sports writer

TALLAHASSEE -- One day after a meeting with the Florida State men's basketball team to gain an idea of what the players wanted in their next coach, athletics director Dave Hart hired a man who fit their profile.

Leonard Hamilton, 53, who turned Miami and Oklahoma State into perennial postseason participants before spending one season as coach of the NBA's Washington Wizards, was introduced as the Seminoles coach yesterday.

Only eight days after Steve Robinson's dismissal, Hart described his replacement as a "proven winner with a tremendous reputation as a program-builder."

"His teams are fundamentally sound, disciplined and mentally tough," Hart said.

"This is perfect news and the perfect coach for this team," FSU freshman forward Anthony Richardson said. "The team is going to work hard and it has to work hard if we're going to make it. We didn't know it was going to be this soon, or exactly what we asked for."

Hamilton has a track record for building winners, despite a 200-210 record in 14 seasons at the college level.

"I've always enjoyed those programs that needed a little fixing up," Hamilton said.

After 12 seasons as an assistant at Kentucky, Hamilton turned around Oklahoma State in a four-year stint that included the school's first back-to-back postseason appearances in 35 years.

He followed that with a 10-year run at Miami, transforming the Hurricanes into a program that advanced to the postseason in five of his last six seasons and a 64-28 record from 1998-2000.

Twice he was named Big East Coach of the Year.

"I don't think you could make a better choice than Leonard Hamilton," Syracuse coach Jim Boeheim said. "He's a tremendous defensive basketball coach. He did an unbelievable job building the program at Miami. His Florida ties should help him."

It's no small coincidence that Hamilton's success has come at schools better known for their football prowess, which doesn't bother him in the least.

"I embrace football; football is going to be an asset for us," Hamilton said.

Hamilton signed a five-year deal worth $775,000 annually, not including incentive bonuses for an Atlantic Coast Conference title, postseason appearances or graduation rates. FSU, which was 64-86 in five seasons under Robinson with four consecutive losing seasons, must replace its top three scorers.

"We will get this done and we will get this done as soon as we possibly can," Hamilton said. "In the game of sports it's, 'What have you done for me lately?' I fully understand that."

Hamilton's hiring was applauded by several observers.

"Leonard Hamilton is a perfect fit for Florida State," ESPN analyst Dick Vitale said. "Having worked at a football school like Miami, he's smart enough to embrace the football program of Bobby Bowden and utilize it as a recruiting tool. …

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