The Florida State Seminoles are known for their football program. Guys like Bobby Bowden, Peter Warrick, Danny Kanell (rapper extraordinaire) and others have all helped establish that program as a historic, traditional powerhouse. The Florida State basketball program, on the other hand, isn’t as highly regarded.
That doesn’t mean it hasn’t had its fair share of success or a bright future ahead of it. The Florida State basketball program, though, is not exactly to be confused with Duke’s or North Carolina’s. Not to say there is anything wrong with that — as the hoop’s program isn’t a bottom feeder in the ACC either.
How you look at the program as it is now, however, probably depends on what you think of current head coach, Leonard Hamilton. It does seem like most people who casually follow the program or the folk who have humorously high expectations for it, do think that Hamilton isn’t the right man for the job nor will he help lead the Florida State basketball program in the right direction.
There is another group of people. A group that likes Hamilton and has tempered expectations. These people think that Coach Ham is doing an admirable job in the tough ACC. That he is doing a good enough job recruiting that Florida State has been able to stay relevant in a conference where the top is heavy and the middle just got a lot deeper with the addition of some former Big East Conference programs.
I side with the group who think Hamilton is doing just well enough. I don’t think he is the right man for the job in the long haul, but I am not naive enough to think there is currently another coach available who could handle this situation any better. The ACC is in transition with conference realignment — taking the risk of bringing in a new coach to navigate the nation’s toughest hoops conference could prove detrimental to FSU’s health.
Parlay that with the importance of what the perception is of a program during recruiting being what it is, just adds to now being the wrongest of times to fall to the bottom of the ACC — or at least perceiving to be on the way towards that.
In his previous 11 seasons with the program Hamilton has a 219–143 (.605) overall record with a 89–89 (.500) in-conference result. Those numbers don’t scream excellence, although, it is much better than a slew of the lesser hoops programs in the ACC. It is also proof that Hamilton is never going to get the basketball program to a perennial elite level. What he will do, however, is occasionally take the team on a deep run in the NCAA Tournament (one Sweet Sixteen appearance with FSU. Another one of those when he was with Miami).
The ACC is about the haves and the have-nots. Duke, North Carolina, Syracuse, Pittsburgh and Notre Dame are all firmly entrenched as the programs who are the haves. The rest of the league, though, is completely up for grabs. Some programs bubble up for a season or two, but then quickly disappear. Others never seem to amount to anything more than being firmly implanted at the bottom of the league. All while a few others seem to have had their best seasons well behind them and searching to redefine their hoops program on the run.
Florida State is nowhere near the bottom of the league as far as what people think of the hoops program. On the same token, they are nowhere near considered as a top-tier program either. The Seminoles aren’t going to compete for a ACC Title this season. Heck, they probably won’t even make a run at making the NCAA Tournament. Those are normally things programs would consider failures, but — believe it or not — as for this current moment in history, that’s just fine.
With Hamilton being 65-years-old (experience! Or just, you know, senior-citizen-y), the ACC going all “toughest league in the nation” and a slew of other factors (suspensions) all going against Florida State, having a veteran like Hamilton is a solid move. Extending his contract (like they have) is also a smart decision to keep recruits interested in the program.
Sure, the expectations for the basketball program have never been on the same level as the football one. Sooner rather than later, though, that will change. There is no reason a program that calls the state of Florida home cannot be a top-tier program in the country — all while playing in the toughest league that may have ever existed.
If the program was to take the next logical step towards ACC and national dominance, however, it won’t be up to how badly the fanbase wants it or if someone like myself thinks it is possible. It will be up to the athletic department putting enough money into it, looking for a “name” coach to replace Hamilton down the line and/or possibly taking some big risks along the way.
Duke didn’t become Duke because it knew Coach K was going to be the greatest thing since sliced-bread (by the way, what was the greatest thing before sliced-bread?). It took a young coach from the Bobby Knight coaching tree, got a little lucky and road Coach K’s and the ACC’s success to nation prominence.
I’m not saying Florida State can or will use that same (un)strategic formula to get there, but I’m just pointing out how much luck and foresight goes into making a historical power. Duke wasn’t always Duke in the same way UConn wasn’t always UConn before Jim Calhoun made them into what they are today. The Huskies used the same formula as Duke. They took (most importantly) on a very talented, albeit young coach at the time and road him to success in a very good league.
Florida State already has the “very good league” part of the formula in place. And yes, I get it, I’ve been sitting here saying Hamilton is the right man for the job and yadda yadda yadda, but that is only for right now — not in a few years (fast-forward a few years and Hamilton is likely gone — either to retirement or getting the heave-ho).
If the FSU athletic department wants to be good on a national level they can be. All they need is the right conference (check), money (check), foresight (unknown) and luck (I mean, I have my rabbit’s foot) to get this type of thing done. Until then, for now, there is nothing wrong with being a middle-of-the-road program while the ACC has just transformed itself into the Hulk Hogan (1980s version, of course) of basketball leagues.
I’m witless on Twitter @JosephNardone