Still, don’t be surprised if Hamilton finds time for a brief smile when the Seminoles meet the Oklahoma State Cowboys on Saturday afternoon at the Orange Bowl Classic in Sunrise, Fla. (2 p.m., Fox Sports South). Oklahoma State gave Hamilton his first opportunity as head coach in 1986, and he rewarded that faith by turning around a fledgling Cowboys program during his four-year tenure.
Saturday’s game will mark Hamilton’s first ever against Oklahoma State, and FSU’s first since 1964.
“I enjoyed my four years there in Stillwater,” Hamilton said. “We gained a lot of experience. I thought that we made progress in the program. It was a very important and meaningful part of my life and my coaching career, and I’m very appreciative to have had that opportunity.
“But it will be a business trip for me. I won’t be reminiscing about the good old days, and I’m sure they won’t either.”
Hamilton joked that most people now involved with Oklahoma State basketball won’t even know who he is, but that seems unlikely.
The Cowboys improved in each of Hamilton’s four seasons and laid the foundation for an extended run of success under coach Eddie Sutton in the 1990s.
Among Hamilton’s first assistants was former Oklahoma State standout and future Kansas coach Bill Self, as well as FSU video coordinator Dickey Nutt.
“I had a unique opportunity to come in there and be a part of reenergizing the program, and Coach Sutton came behind me and took them to a whole other level” Hamilton said. “So I felt that that was a fun time for me and my family, and I’m sure that I’ll always think of the fond memories that I had there and the players that I was able to coach.
“But this is a very important game for us at this time of year.”
The Seminoles are 9-0 and ranked 19th in the country with the start of ACC playing looming in about two weeks. The Cowboys, meanwhile, are 7-2 but with their only losses coming to No. 16 Texas A&M and No. 6 Wichita State.
Although Oklahoma State has had a bit of turmoil lately – the program dismissed two players yesterday – Hamilton still believes that the Cowboys will provide a welcome test as the Seminoles prepare to transition to their conference schedule.
OSU scores an average of 78.8 points per game, but Hamilton said that where the Cowboys really shine is on defense. Thanks to a variety of defensive schemes, the Cowboys hold opponents to an average of 40.2 percent from the field and surrender only 64 points per game.
“They’re going to overplay, they’re going to deny the ball, they’re going to mix their defenses up,” Hamilton said. “They’re going to run and jump, play zone defense. They’re going to use a three-quarter court press.
“This is going to be a different look for our players. And so we have to be prepared to recognize those things and then still try to play within who you are. So this is a good game for us this time of year.”
Added junior guard Terance Mann: “They kind of play like us on defense. (They get) in the gaps and pressure the ball, so it should be a good game.”
It will also be the Seminoles’ first game in nearly a week. Finals week at Florida State means a bit of a midseason break for the Seminoles, and while Hamilton doesn’t necessarily love the effect that the layoff has on his team’s practices, he also recognizes that having a little time to rest and regroup can be beneficial, too.
The Seminoles recently finished a stretch of three games in six days.
“That’s pretty tough stretch,” Hamilton said. “So we needed a little time off. It came at a welcome time. Plus, we’ve got exams, and that’s always a stressful time of year for these guys.”