Newspaper article St Louis Post-Dispatch (MO)

Florida State Coach Hamilton Has Rocky History with Mizzou, Better with Martin

Newspaper article St Louis Post-Dispatch (MO)

Florida State Coach Hamilton Has Rocky History with Mizzou, Better with Martin

Article excerpt

COLUMBIA, MO. * When Missouri plays Florida State in the NCAA Tournament's first round Friday night in Nashville, Tenn., Tigers coach Cuonzo Martin will look down the sideline at Bridgestone Arena and see a man he considers a mentor in the coaching industry.

He'll also see someone with history against Mizzou.

It was 30 years ago when Leonard Hamilton unleashed an epic tirade at Hearnes Center, a scene he remembered vividly in an interview Monday.

It was Feb. 21, 1988, and Hamilton's Oklahoma State Cowboys were playing coach Norm Stewart's Tigers. Hamilton picked up two technical fouls in the first half then got ejected when a young assistant coach named Bill Self yes, that Bill Self was slapped with another technical, meaning Hamilton had to leave the court.

With The Antlers taunting him from the student section, Hamilton took his sweet time to leave.

"I thought I was going to get arrested because I didn't want to leave the floor," he said Monday, cackling at the memory. "It took me about 15 minutes to get from my bench to the locker room. Every time I would take a step, I'd stop and the fans would boo me. I'd look around and take another step and stop and the fans would boo me.

"I always thought that Missouri had some of the best college basketball fans in the country. Norm had built such a following. He was like a legend there. The atmosphere there with the, I think the group is called The Antlers, and they were boisterous and enthusiastic and created a lot of excitement when you came up there.

"I have a lot of fond memories of Norm and the atmosphere in Columbia and how passionate their fans were and how they supported their program."

Hamilton's thoughts weren't so fond that day, when he later accused Stewart of giving game tickets to one of the referees.

Time since has soothed any wounds and when Mizzou and Florida State landed on the same line in the NCAA bracket, Hamilton's thoughts quickly shifted to his new Mizzou counterpart.

"I've known Cuonzo for a long time," Hamilton said. "I know his program is already solid. He's been successful everywhere he's been. He gets his kids to play hard and they buy in to this system. He has the ability to relate to his kids and get them to believe."

Hamilton, 69, has 524 Division I head-coaching victories in 30 seasons spread over stops at Oklahoma State, Miami and Florida State, where he's been since 2002. Martin was just 15 years old when Hamilton began his first season as a D-I coach. He's since grown close to the head Seminole.

"If there's such a thing as a mentor in this profession, he'd be one for me," Martin, 46, said. "I've talked to Leonard for years. A lot of respect for him and the way he goes about his business."

The feeling is mutual.

"I always try to make myself available to coaches who I admire and respect," Hamilton said. …

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