Leonard Hamilton, who led the Florida State men’s basketball team to the NCAA Tournament for the first time since 1998 and to the Atlantic Coast Conference tournament championship game for the first time in school history, has been named the National Coach of the Year by Basketball Times. It marks the second time in his career that he has earned the honor: he was named the UPI national coach of the year in 1995 when he led the University of Miami to a fifth place finish in the Big East and to the Hurricanes’ first post-season appearance in 31 years. He was named the 2009 ACC Coach of the Year by the Atlantic Coast Media Association for the first time in his career.
Florida State finished the 2008-09 season with a 25-10 record, was a No. 5 seed in the NCAA Tournament, finished in fourth place in the ACC standings with a 10-6 record, played in the ACC Tournament championship game for the first time in school history and had an All-ACC First Team pick (Toney Douglas) for the second time in three seasons. The Seminoles’ 25 wins is tied for second most in school history, while their 10 conference wins is the third highest in school history. It marked the first time since the 1992-93 season that the Seminoles had won at least 10 ACC games in a single season.
Hamilton, the 21st most winning coach in ACC history, has put the Seminoles on the cusp of becoming the next great program in the nation’s greatest basketball conference. Florida State is ranked as the fourth most winning program in the ACC in the last three seasons, with a cumulative record of 67-38 for a winning percentage of .638. During the last four seasons, Hamilton has elevated the Seminoles’ play in the ACC as he has guided Florida State to a 33-31 record (.516 winning percentage) — tied for the fourth highest win total in ACC play since the start of the 2005-06 season.
Under Hamilton, the Seminoles have won at least seven ACC games in a school record four consecutive seasons including a 9-7 record and a fifth place finish during the 2005-06 season and a 10-6 record and a fourth place finish this season. After winning just 36 percent of their ACC games under Hamilton in his first four seasons as the Seminoles’ head coach, the Seminoles have won 50 percent of their games in the last three seasons.
The Seminoles played in the ACC Tournament championship game this season to mark the first time in school history they have advanced past the semifinals of the event. Florida State is one of only seven teams to have played in the ACC Championship game in the last five years with only Duke and North Carolina having played in the game more than once since 2005.
Including its victory over No. 1/1 North Carolina (the ACC regular season champion and 2009 Final Four participant) the Seminoles have 15 wins over nationally ranked opponents during the first seven seasons of the Hamilton era in Tallahassee. The Seminoles have defeated two No. 1 ranked teams and five teams ranked in the nation’s top five under Hamilton. The Seminoles defeated four nationally ranked teams including North Carolina in the ACC Tournament, Florida and Clemson twice during the regular season.
In its history, Florida State has defeated three No. 1 ranked teams with two of those victories coming during Hamilton’s watch a the Seminoles’ head coach.
Hamilton has continued to recruit the nation’s top prep talent and has been one of the top coaches in the nation in developing that talent once the players arrive on campus. He has recruited and coached three of the four players (Tim Pickett, Al Thornton and Toney Douglas) who have earned All-ACC First Team honors in school history and two players (Thornton and Douglas) who have finished as the ACC Player of the Year runner-up in the last three seasons.
Hamilton’s current recruiting class contains two top-60 players (No. 11 Michael Snaer and No. 58 Terrence Shannon) to go along with a stable of current players who were ranked among the nation’s top 75 players during their high school careers: rising sophomore Chris Singleton (No. 12), rising sophomore Xavier Gibson (No. 43), rising junior Derwin Kitchen (No. 57) and rising sophomore Luke Loucks (No. 72). Both Snaer and Singleton were McDonald’s All-Americans during their senior seasons of high school.