Leonard Hamilton has coached for 33 years and is regarded as a top head coach, but one thing holds him back: tournament success.
In these 33 years, Leonard Hamilton has only taken one of his teams to the Elite 8 once, and that was in his 30th season. That means that in 30 seasons, he wasn’t able to take a team past the Sweet 16 despite coaching for respected schools in Oklahoma State, Miami, and Florida State.
For any team in any sport, tournament/ playoff success is the most important thing, and that’s why we’ve seen great coaches get fired despite being successful in the regular season. Take Mark Jackson, David Blatt, and Doc Rivers as examples. Now, this article by no means is advocating to get Leonard Hamilton fired, but how many more years can Florida State fans deal with a Sweet 16 peak finish?
In the regular season, Hamilton has been great the last 15 years, finishing with 20 wins or more in almost every season. With all these successful regular-season records, you would assume that this means that Florida State fans can celebrate regular season and conference championships since they can’t celebrate tournament success right? This is not the case, as they’ve only won one regular season and one conference championship in his 19 seasons with the team. The Maryland Terrapins have the same amount of ACC regular-season championships as Florida State in the last decade, and they left the conference in 2014.
Now you can argue that Leonard Hamilton hasn’t had the talent to lead a team far and that’s why Florida State can’t go far. This is not true. Terrence Mann scored 39 points in a Game 6 victory against the Jazz to send them to their first-ever Western Conference Finals. Jonathan Isaac was a top defender in the league before his injury. Malik Beasley and Dwayne Bacon are both starters for their NBA Teams.
Scottie Barnes is regarded as one of the top prospects for this draft. The only pass he gets is that last year he had two great players in Patrick Williams and Devin Vassell, but the pandemic didn’t allow us to see what he could have done with them. With his tournament success, it wouldn’t be absurd to assume an Elite 8 is the absolute best they could have done. The talent has been there, every year, they just haven’t been able to capitalize on it.
So with this being said, what does Florida State do with Leonard Hamilton? Hamilton is under contract until the 2024-2025 season, and at 72 years old, it wouldn’t be surprising if he called it quits when that contract runs out.
Mike Krzyzewski and Roy Williams, two of the best ACC coaches ever are retiring in their 70s, so the clock is ticking for Hamilton. He won’t make the hall of fame with his resume, and his strategy of his star recruit coming off the bench will probably backfire once again. Florida State fans will have to deal with another Sweet 16 finish (which isn’t bad by any means) and hope that the post-Leonard Hamilton stage will bring better tournament runs.
Should they fire him? No, it will be difficult to find someone better right now, and since he is so near to retirement that they should let him ride it out. It becomes interesting though if that contract expires and he still wants to coach. If Florida State hasn’t made an Elite 8 run in that time, do they keep giving him contracts? Hopefully, he can figure it out in his last years because college basketball fans want to see him succeed, and all he needs to make the hall of fame is a championship.
In the CBB Review way too early rankings, Florida State sits at 18, and they’ll probably finish 3rd or 4th in their conference. The talent is there this year, but we’ll have to see if he can elevate that talent like we’ve seen the great coaches do in recent years.