Praise for Leonard Hamilton

Coach Ron Meyer: Praise for Leonard Hamilton

Before we get too deep in the hoopla of March Madness, I wanted to reflect on one of the best coaching jobs of the year in college basketball. You don't hear much talk about Leonard Hamilton at Florida State. He's one of those guys who's been around forever...but rarely makes much of a dent in the NCAA Tournament. This year, he made quite a dent in the ACC...which is the most storied conference in college hoops.

  • Florida State went 2-1 against powerhouse North Carolina, absolutely obliterating the Tar Heels in a game in Tallahassee.

  • Florida State went 2-1 against powerhouse Duke, including a rare ROAD win at Cameron Indoor.

  • Florida State's wins last weekend over those two teams in Atlanta powered the Seminoles to the tournament championship in the ACC. It wasn't North Carolina or Duke cutting down the nets. It was FSU.

And, it's not like Hamilton pulled all of that off with a team of superstar athletes who carried him along for the ride. Florida State wins with DEFENSE. And, any team that wins with defense is well-coached by definition. That's the hallmark of success in all sports. Offensive coordinators may earn guru status for putting points on the board. Head coaches win with defense.

Does that make Hamilton the COACH OF THE YEAR?

Tough call. There are a lot of great success stories out there. And, there were teams who moved further in growth from last year to the present. Florida State did reach the Sweet 16 last year thanks to a defensive dismantling of Notre Dame. Maybe they won't even get that far this month because of the obvious letdown challenges after the ACC tournament. I'm not going to endorse any one coach this year as COY because all the success stories deserve to be celebrated.

But, I did want to take some time to focus on Hamilton because he's been too overlooked in my view. There are several reasons for that:

  • Hamilton will turn 64 this year. Old coaches who continually go deep in the Dance are treated as legends. Otherwise, you have to be a young up-and-comer to get any attention. Hamilton has been coaching basketball at football programs his whole life (Oklahoma State, Miami-Fla, and Florida State), which makes it tougher to build a basketball dynasty.

  • Hamilton coaches in the ACC, where the head men at North Carolina and Duke get all the run. In fact, they get much of the run that should be going to coaches in other conferences! The entire league is in the shadow of Roy Williams and Coach K.

  • Hamilton has a long term track record of gradually turning struggling programs into borderline Dance teams. Oklahoma State was 8-20 in his first year. They were 17-14 when he left. Miami was 8-24 in his first year. They reached the Dance twice in a row (including one Sweet 16) in his last two seasons. Florida State was 14-15 in his first year. The Seminoles have now made the NCAA's four years in a row. Fast and big earns the headlines in this sport. Slow and steady up to "pretty good" just doesn't crack through.

If you had been handicapping this season based on coaching, you would have found several spots where FSU made a lot of sense because of their great defense, and a few spots where fading them was logical because of the particular matchup. I want to make sure you're thinking that way THIS WEEK as you handicap all the NCAA tournament games.

Many of you are backing all the favorites because you figure the powers are due to have a good year (only three top seeds combined have reached the Final Four the past three years). If you're picking Cinderella's, you're picking the OBVIOUS Cinderellas that you hear the studio guys discussing on TV. How many of you are visualizing every battle as a chess game...then picking the better chess player? How many of you even know who the best defensive coaches are? How many of you can't even name more than 15 coaches in the whole tournament? It gets tough for the casual fan once you past the first few teams in every conference.

You've probably read about my amazing run in basketball the past several weeks. Nobody thought a football coach could win like that in basketball. Well, let me tell you, the fundamentals of winning are the same in all sports. And, COACHES OFTEN DETERMINE WHO WINS AND WHO COVERS! If you're not looking at the game from that perspective, you're missing the element that may matter more than anything else.

You can purchase my top college basketball plays every day right here at the website with your credit card. I'll try to find value for you Wednesday in the play-in games for the Dance as well as the NIT and the other tournaments. Then, we have day and night sessions Thursday and Friday when the NCAA's really get rolling. If you'd like to sign up for the full postseason based on my recent record, the number to call is 1-877-540-8787.

The pressure is on...and you have to produce NOW. That means it's time to put A COACH IN YOUR CORNER!

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