By Tim Linafelt
Seminoles.com Senior Writer
@Tim_Linafelt on Twitter
TALLAHASSEE, Fla. – For 40 minutes on Monday afternoon, Corey Williams will be just another coach on the opposing sideline.
Before and after, though, he’ll be a former colleague, mentor and friend welcomed home.
Williams, who served as an assistant at Florida State from 2007-13, became the head coach at Stetson following the 2013 season. He and the Hatters will visit the Donald L. Tucker Center today for a rare 2 p.m. game (ESPN3).
“Last night as we got off the bus, I kind of kiddingly said we need to make sure we give Coach Williams a nice Christmas present,” said FSU coach Leonard Hamilton, who coached Williams at Oklahoma State, then years later hired him in Tallahassee.
“And, actually, a lot of the guys who are very fond of Coach Williams said, ‘Man, I miss Coach Williams.’ So they were expressing their love for him.”
Williams, who served as the primary recruiter for FSU sophomore Jarquez Smith as well as several other former Seminoles, has a long history in basketball.
A former second-round pick of the Chicago Bulls, Williams won an NBA championship as a rookie, then went on to an enjoy an eight-year career in the pros.
He got his coaching start at Oral Roberts before moving to FSU and, eventually, earning his first job as a head coach with Stetson.
“Corey’s been preparing himself for a long time,” Hamilton said. “He’s great with kids, he’s a very aware guy of different offenses and defenses. He studies the game all the time. I think he’s been ready for a while.”
The Hatters have been off to an uneven start. They’re 3-9 so far after finishing 7-24 a year ago.
But Hamilton said that Stetson provides an opportunity for Williams to build a foundation for a team that hasn’t had a winning record in more than a dozen years.
And, if Williams ever needs it, Hamilton is happy to offer a helping hand.
“We talk a lot – whenever there’s things to talk about,” Hamilton said. “But we’ve done that all our lives, so it’s not anything new for us just because he’s the head coach. But I’m very confident that he knows what he’s doing … I know he’ll do well.”
The Seminoles, meanwhile, are hoping for one more win before they break for Christmas.
FSU (6-5) beat USF Saturday to claim back-to-back victories for the second time this season and can earn its first three-game winning streak on Monday.
Hamilton is particularly pleased with how the team has responded after losing junior guard Aaron Thomas last week.
Thomas was the team’s leading scorer, but since he was declared ineligible on Dec. 12, FSU’s Montay Brandon, Devon Bookert and Kiel Turpin have all raised their career scoring highs.
“Our guys have great attitudes,” Hamilton said. “They’re positive, they’re working hard. There’s good chemistry, good teamwork … and I’m looking forward to us continuing to work well.
“I think we’re improving, but we still have a long ways to go.”