March 19, 2002 - by
FSU Introduces Leonard Hamilton As New Men’s Basketball Coach

March 19, 2002

Leonard Hamilton was named head coach of the Florida State men’s basketball program in a press conference held at the school on Tuesday. Hamilton, who brings 29 seasons of experience as a collegiate and NBA coach, takes over the FSU program after coaching the NBA’s Washington Wizards most recently and resurrecting the University of Miami’s program in 10 seasons with the Hurricanes.

Hamilton, 53, takes over an FSU program that has had four straight losing seasons following an NCAA Tournament appearance in 1998. The Seminoles return just two starters, forward Michael Joiner and center Nigel Dixon, but the roster includes eight returning players who have seen significant playing time. Hamilton becomes just the seventh head coach in FSU history.

Hamilton comes to FSU after winning a national search to become head coach of the Wizards for the 2000-01 season and posting a 19-63 record.
Prior to his NBA stint, Hamilton accepted the challenge of taking on the Miami Hurricane program, taking them to three straight NCAA Tournaments over his final three seasons and earning UPI Coach of the Year honors in the process. In his final season with Miami, Hamilton guided the Hurricanes to their second straight 20-win season, a share of the BIG EAST regular season championship and the school’s first trip to the Sweet 16 of the NCAA Tournament. The Hurricanes finished 23-11, including a 13-3 conference record, and concluded the season ranked 23rd in the nation by the Associated Press college basketball poll and 20th in the final USA Today/ESPN poll. Miami’s 23 wins matched the team’s 1998-99 total and, at the time, tied the school record for victories in a season.

Under Hamilton’s leadership, Miami became one of the nation’s up-and-coming programs, advancing to postseason play five times in his final six seasons including the three consecutive NCAA Tournament appearances from 1998-2000. Miami’s winning records in his final six seasons meant the ‘Canes joined Syracuse and Connecticut as the only BIG EAST schools to register winning seasons from 1994-2000. The Hurricanes’ 48-22 BIG EAST mark over his last four seasons tied Connecticut for the best conference

record over that period. Over his last two seasons, Miami registered a league-best 28-6 record.
Under Hamilton, the Hurricanes also became one of the nation’s top road teams. From 1998 to 2000, Miami registered a league-best 15-2 road record in the grueling BIG EAST conference. Dating back to the 1997-98 season, Miami had won 16 of its last 18 BIG EAST road games.

In 1999-2000, Miami defeated Connecticut in Gampel Pavilion for the second straight season becoming the first team ever to defeat the Huskies in their on-campus arena in back-to-back seasons.

Hamilton was also successful against ranked opponents, having recorded 17 wins over teams ranked in the nation’s Top 25. His 80-69 victory over 10th-ranked Georgetown during the 1992-93 season was Miami’s first over a team ranked in the Top 10 since the rebirth of the Hurricanes’ basketball program in 1985.

In his final season with Miami, Hamilton’s Hurricanes recorded three wins over ranked teams including a 74-70 home win over No. 18 St. John’s, marking the sixth straight season Miami had knocked off a ranked opponent in Miami Arena.

In the 40 seasons prior to Hamilton’s arrival, the Hurricanes reached the post-season just four times including one NCAA tournament appearance (1960). In his 10 seasons at Miami, Hamilton led the Hurricanes to five post-season appearances.

Along with the rise of the Hurricanes’ program, Hamilton’s players also continued to develop and win individual awards. In 1999-2000, guard Johnny Hemsley earned second-team All-BIG EAST honors while center Mario Bland was named to third-team All-Conference.

In 1998-99, Hemsley and forward Tim James were named first-team All-BIG EAST. The Hurricanes joined Syracuse (eight times), Georgetown (twice), Pittsburgh, St. John’s and Villanova as the only schools to have two players named first-team All-BIG EAST in the same season. In 10 seasons under Hamilton, the Hurricanes had 13 All-Conference selections.

In 1998-99, Tim James was named BIG EAST Co-Player of the Year, along with Connecticut’s Richard Hamilton, and Johnny Hemsley was selected as the league’s Most Improved Player.

Miami’s rise began in 1994-95 when Hamilton led the Hurricanes to the greatest single season turnaround in BIG EAST history. Picked to finish at the bottom of the BIG EAST Conference, Hamilton guided the ‘Canes to a fifth-place finish and a berth in the National Invitational Tournament – UM’s first post-season appearance in 31 years.

Miami set a BIG EAST record in 1995 for the greatest single-season improvement in league history. The Hurricanes’ nine-win conference increase tied Louisiana Tech for the best in the nation. UM’s eight-win overall improvement tied for the third best single season increase in school history.

At the conclusion of the season, Hamilton was named the United Press International National Coach of the Year. Hamilton was also recognized by his peers as the league coaches tabbed him BIG EAST Conference Coach of the Year for the first time.

In 1998-99, Hamilton took home even more hardware. Hamilton was named BIG EAST Coach of the Year for the second time joining Jim Calhoun, Lou Carnesecca, Jim Boeheim, John Thompson and P.J. Carleisimo as the only coaches to win the award more than once. Coach Hamilton was later honored as the Eastern Basketball Coach of the Year. And in 2000, he was named the Black Coaches Association (BCA) Coach of the Year.

Coach Hamilton understands that defense wins championships and under his tutelage the Hurricanes became one of the nation’s top defensive teams. Miami ranked nationally in field goal percentage in each of his last four seasons including a No. 1 national ranking in 1997-98. In his final season, the Hurricanes ranked 22nd in the nation in field goal percentage defense holding teams to 39.4 percent shooting. In 1998-99, the Hurricanes ranked 13th in the nation holding teams to 38.4 percent shooting. The 1997-98 Hurricanes ranked No. 1 in the nation in field goal percentage defense holding opponents to 37.9 percent shooting from the floor. The 1996-97 Hurricanes ranked No. 6 in the nation in field goal percentage defense holding opponents to just 38.0 percent shooting.

Despite all his success on the court, Hamilton never lost sight of his No. 1 priority: the student-athlete. His number one goal is to help prepare his players for the challenges they will encounter in life. In his 10 seasons at Miami, 26 of Hamilton’s 30 seniors received their degrees.

For his work both on and off the court, Coach Hamilton was honored as one of four finalists for the 2000 Coach Wooden “Keys to Life” Award. The award is given annually to a coach who best exemplifies Coach John Wooden’s philosophy of emphasizing the fact that impacting the life of a student is more significant than any winning percentage.

Hamilton arrived at Miami from Oklahoma State where he spent four years rebuilding the Cowboys. He led them to consecutive appearances in the NIT, which were the first back-to-back post-season appearances for OSU since 1953-54.

Prior to his stint at OSU, Hamilton served at the University of Kentucky where he spent 12 seasons with one of the top programs in the country. From 1974-80, he served as an assistant coach, and in 1980 he was honored by being named the first associate head coach in Kentucky basketball history.

During his 12 seasons at Kentucky, the Wildcats registered a 296-83 (.781) record, won eight SEC regular season championships, two SEC tournament titles, went to three Final Fours and won the national title in 1978.

Hamilton’s coaching career began at Austin Peay State University where he served as a graduate assistant from 1971-73 and then as a full-time assistant from 1973-74. The Governors won back-to-back Ohio Valley Championships in Hamilton’s last two seasons at the school.

Hamilton’s legacy extends across the nation as four of his former assistant coaches have moved on to become head coaches at the Division I level. Included on the list are Tim Carter (Texas San Antonio), Dickey Nutt (Arkansas State), John Phillips (Tulsa), and Bill Self (Illinois).

Hamilton was born August 4, 1948 in Gastonia, NC. He went on to star at Gaston (NC) Community College where he set a school-record by scoring 54 points in a game, and later at the University of Tennessee-Martin where he is a charter member of the school’s Hall of Fame. At each school he served as a team captain. Additionally, while at Tennessee-Martin, Hamilton received both the team Most Valuable Player Award and the Best Defensive Player Award.

He earned his Bachelor of Science degree in Physical Education from Tennessee-Martin in 1971, and later received a Master’s Degree in Physical and Health Education from Austin Peay State in 1973.

2000-01 Head Coach, Washington Wizards
1990-00 Head Coach, University of Miami
1986-90 Head Coach, Oklahoma State
1980-86 Assoc. Head Coach, Univ. of Kentucky
1974-80 Assistant Coach, Univ. of Kentucky
1973-74 Assistant Coach, Austin Peay State
1971-73 Grad. Assistant, Austin Peay State

1969-71 Two-year letterman, University of Tennessee-Martin
1966-68 Two-year letterman, Gaston Community College

1973 M.A. Physical and Health Education, Austin Peay State
1971 B.S. Physical Education, University of Tennessee-Martin

Full Name: J. Leonard Hamilton
Born: August 4, 1948 in Gastonia, NC


Year School W-L Pct. Post-season
1986-87 Oklahoma St. 8-20 .286
1987-88 Oklahoma St. 14-16 .467
1988-89 Oklahoma St. 17-13 .567 NIT (2nd round)
1989-90 Oklahoma St. 17-14 .548 NIT (2nd round)
1990-91 Miami 9-19 .321
1991-92 Miami 8-24 .250
1992-93 Miami 10-17 .370
1993-94 Miami 7-20 .259
1994-95 Miami 15-13 .536 NIT (1st round)
1995-96 Miami 15-13 .536
1996-97 Miami 16-13 .552 NIT (1st round)
1997-98 Miami 18-10 .643 NCAA (1st round)
1998-99 Miami 23-7 .767 NCAA (2nd round)
1999-00 Miami 23-11 .676 NCAA (Sweet 16)
At Miami 10 seasons 144-147 .495
Overall 14 seasons 200-210 .488


2000-01 Washington 19-63 .231


  • Led Miami to three consecutive NCAA Tournament appearances for the first time in school history.
  • Led Hurricanes to back-to-back 20-win seasons for the first time since 1965.
  • Led Hurricanes to a school-record tying 23 overall wins and the school’s first NCAA Sweet 16 appearance in 1999-00.
  • Ended the 1998-99 season ranked 10th by the Associated Press – the Hurricanes highest AP ranking since 1960.
  • The Hurricanes ranked nationally in field goal percentage defense four straight seasons including a No. 1 national ranking in 1997-98.
  • 2000 BCA Coach of the Year
  • 1998-99 BIG EAST Coach of the Year.
  • 1994-95 BIG EAST Coach of the Year.
  • 1998-99 Eastern Basketball Coach of the Year
  • Joins Jim Calhoun, Lou Carnesecca, Jim Boeheim, John Thompson and P.J. Carleisimo as the only coaches to win the BIG EAST Coach of the Year award more than once.
  • Nine-win jump in conference wins from 1994 to 1995 – the largest increase in victories in BIG EAST history.
  • 1994-95 United Press International National Coach of the Year.
  • 26 of 30 seniors who completed their eligibility under Hamilton over the last 10 seasons earned their degree…two others are currently playing professional basketball.
  • Four Top 20 recruiting classes.
  • Led Oklahoma State to back-to-back National Invitational Tournament appearances (1989, 1990) – the first consecutive post season appearances for OSU since 1954.
  • Charter member of the University of Tennessee-Martin Hall of Fame.
  • First Associate Head Basketball Coach in Kentucky history.
  • Was an assistant coach on Kentucky’s 1978 NCAA Championship team.
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