Friday, October 11, 2002 Updated: October 12, 10:32 AM ET
Hamilton happy to be back in 'Madness'
By Andy Katz ESPN.com
Leonard Hamilton taught his daughter Allison how to drive. He went to her track meets. He took morning walks with his wife. He exercised more often. He even tried his hand at sports journalism, doing some radio and TV work during the 2001-02 college basketball season.
While the family man routine may have scored a few points at home and perhaps lowered his stress level, it wasn't enough to prevent him from being anxious about coaching again.
Leonard Hamilton led Miami to three straight NCAA appearances and to the Sweet 16 in 2000.
"I would squirm in my seat when I would watch games," Hamilton said. "I found myself not able to enjoy the games, looking at every possession and every call."
He needed to coach again. He finally gets his chance Saturday, less than two years after being sacked by the Washington Wizards, and three seasons removed from a glorious 10-year run at the University of Miami, where he transformed the Hurricanes from a Big East joke to a regular NCAA Tournament team.
Now coaching up in the other end of the state in Tallahassee, Hamilton is back where he belongs -- in the college ranks. He's building, or at least retooling, a program, and influencing young people. This is where he is at his best.
"I can't wait for practice," said Hamilton, who made a name for himself in the offseason once again by making recruiting headway in the class of 2003 with a commitment from Lisbon, La.'s Vakeaton Wafer. The Seminoles were on a coaches' retreat over the weekend, finally planning for practice after five months of focusing on recruiting. The experiment with the Wizards didn't work but few coaches probably could have won with the crew he was handed.
His return to coaching isn't about the money. Hamilton could easily live off the multi-million dollar payout he received from the Wizards. He simply wants to coach and try to make the Seminoles competitive in the ACC, which in turn usually means making deep runs in the NCAAs. He hasn't changed his approach, still pushing himself to extremes. He recruits endlessly and is a tireless coach, always looking for an advantage.
"My only pace is to be frantic," Hamilton said. "I was blessed with energy and the ability to put hours in at a high-level of concentration."
Hamilton is doing his best to forget his time spent on NBA sidelines. He's not talking about the NBA anymore. He's won't discuss any other job. He wants to see his latest task through and get Florida State into the discussion atop the ACC. This could be his last job, which would be fine for Florida State, because that likely means he's done what he was hired to do -- win.
He needed to take the past year off, to forget about the 10 months in Washington and 63 NBA losses. But after signing a five-year deal to coach FSU in March, he couldn't wait for Saturday to arrive -- the first day of practice, the day where he's back in control.
Getting to the first official day of practice is a benchmark for many others:
Stan Heath, Arkansas: Has there been more of a Golden Boy in coaching than Heath over the past two seasons? He coached in three Final Fours as an assistant at Michigan State, the last one in 2001. He then took the Kent State job in 2002 and went to the Elite Eight before landing the coveted Arkansas gig.
"I can't wait for practice," Heath said. Is there any wonder why?
"I went through the same thing with my first practice at Kent State last year, I was so excited because that was unknown territory for me. This is, too. We're really hungry, especially since the magazines don't expect much out of us."
Like Hamilton, Heath has been on the run since he arrived at Arkansas, trying to mend fences, meet people, recruit and get to know Nolan Richardson, who will be an influential ally for him in the state and beyond. Hamilton isn't dealing with as much of a style change at Florida State, where Steve Robinson stressed defensive principles like Hamilton. Health, on the other hand, will run on offense like Richardson, but won't gamble as much defensively. Since 1990, Heath and Arkansas have combined to play in six Final Fours, but never in the same year: 1990, '94, '95, '99, 2000 and '01. It's a meaningless stat, but it shows one thing. The school and coach have had a ton of success -- something both are keen on repeating.
Demetrius Hunter, UNLV: The former Georgetown guard transferred home to Las Vegas and is expected to be an impact player with Marcus Banks in the Runnin' Rebels backcourt. He patiently sat out last season as the Rebels nearly earned an NCAA bid. He's expecting to take them back to where he was last on the court -- in the NCAA Sweet 16.
"We were trying to keep him out of the gym so he could be ready for Saturday because he's so anxious," UNLV assistant Derek Thomas said.
Hunter improved his ball handling during his redshirt season and listened to Thomas about what he needs to do to get to the NBA. Thomas was a scout with the Atlanta Hawks and simply said Hunter has to be better with the ball and scoring off the dribble to play at the next level.
Robert Jackson, Marquette: Jackson couldn't convert layups on a consistent basis in a drill when he arrived as a transfer from Mississippi State. That's not the case after his redshirt season. Marquette coach Tom Crean said his fundamentals caught up to his intensity and work ethic and he's in the best shape of his life. That's good news for the Golden Eagles who need Jackson to complement Dwyane Wade and be an impact player in Conference USA. The goal is that with Jackson, Wade won't be double teamed as much.
"He's incredibly excited and focused," Crean said. "Last year was very hard for him. But he's hungry to get on the floor Saturday and play in front of his hometown."
Ben Johnson, Minnesota: It's rare for a player to transfer within a conference, especially when he was a hit at the previous school. But Johnson wanted a change from Northwestern and went to Minnesota where he will be counted on to play both guard spots. He went on the Big Ten all star team this summer and can't wait to get out for real for the Gophers.
"We have had to settle him down because he's so excited," Minnesota coach Dan Monson said. "He averaged double figures at Northwestern and it's not often that you get a player who has already been through the league for two years and knows every arena."
Johnson will help Kevin Burleson at the point and help shore up a green perimeter for the Gophers, who will lean heavily on forward Rick Rickert.
Carl Krauser, Pittsburgh: Krauser was ineligible last season and the Panthers aren't sure how much he'll help. But he's a must in practice.
Krauser will replace Brandin Knight while he rehabs his knee after offseason surgery, although Knight is expected back later this month. Krauser is not a mistake-free point guard, but he is one of the toughest competitors on the Panthers and assistant Jamie Dixon said he would get plenty of run in practice. Whether or not he gets in a game is up to Krauser once Knight returns.
Marin Bota, Ohio: Ohio coach Tim O'Shea said he Bota could be a star, although when he first saw the Auburn transfer last year he was closer to a bust. But the 7-foot, 260-pound center is as athletic a big man as O'Shea has coached. O'Shea sees NBA skills, and if that's the case, then the Bobcats have a shot to own one of the best mid-major frontlines with Brandon Hunter and Bota.
Bota used his redshirt season to simply become an offensive threat. He's still not as quick defensively, but he is imposing and O'Shea is billing him as one of the best-kept secrets, anxiously awaiting Saturday's practice.
General ready to lead Tech troops
Texas Tech coach Bob Knight recovered from his surgery for intestinal blockage and is ready to go for practice Saturday. Knight had to limit his schedule in the early part of September and couldn't go on as many home visits. But he's back to his old self and shouldn't be slowed by the surgery.
What he'll see on the floor Saturday is an even better Andre Emmett. Knight raved about him in the offseason and apparently he's gotten even better. Emmett (19 ppg, 6.7 rpg) worked on extending his 3-point range, drive and post-up games.
"He's so active and can create his own shots for himself," Texas Tech assistant Bob Beyer said. "He just has to pick up his defensive concentration, even when it's just 2 on 2."
The Red Raiders lost only one player off last season's surprising NCAA tourney team. But that one player was senior center Andy Ellis, who could stretch the defense with his face-the-basket game. The replacement -- 6-8 Robert Tomaszek out of Eastern Wyoming College -- is more physical and aggressive than Ellis but doesn't have the same shooting range. He can shoot from 17 feet in, but not 19 feet out.
But Tomaszek should help the Red Raiders become even tougher in the post. Tomaszek needs to have a productive season for the Red Raiders and, based on Knight's success with JC players in the last year, that isn't a reach. Texas Tech has tapped into the JC pool quite well with five on the roster and two more committed for next season.
"We needed quantity and quality and players who were ready to come in and play," Beyer said. "There are a lot of JC athletes who compete in our league. Coach Knight recognizes the need to recruit junior college players here."
Washington coach Lorenzo Romar has no plans to withdraw himself from the Basketball Issues Committee after the school announced more than 20 recruiting violations last week that occurred over the spring and summer since his staff took over for Bob Bender. Romar is one of a handful of coaches on the committee. And, because of the violations, mostly dealing with his assistant Cameron Dollar, Romar could actually address some of the summer recruiting restrictions that may or may not be tough to adhere to for coaches. Dollar is serving a one-month suspension without pay from the university, and as a result, won't be at practice Saturday. He won't be allowed to coach until Nov. 1. While the coaches in the Northwest won't be surprised to see the Washington series with Gonzaga and/or Eastern Washington get canceled because those coaches turned the Huskies into the NCAA, the Huskies don't see that occurring with Gonzaga. The series is too good and draws too much interest in the state to get out of the annual home-and-home series. Washington played Gonzaga with former Huskie Dan Dickau and will likely do it again with former Washington small forward Erroll Knight, now that he has transferred to the Bulldogs. The Eastern Washington game might get punted, but that game was a late pickup for Washington and isn't an annual series. Washington doesn't return the game like it does with Gonzaga. Playing Washington State, the third school that turned in the Huskies, is a must since both are in the Pac-10. Meanwhile, the Huskies won't have impact freshman guard Brandon Roy. Roy isn't enrolled in school after his qualifying test score was challenged by the NCAA clearinghouse. He has appealed the ruling and will take the test again this month. The hope is that Roy will be admitted to Washington in January.
Syracuse is waiting to see if Billy Edelin will have to sit games this season even though he already sat out last season after an alleged sexual assault. He could sit as many as seven games or it could be as few as three with the decision coming from the university. Edelin is on a mission to get out on the court after sitting out last season. He has apparently been a model student-athlete over the past few months and is doing everything he has been told. His play at the point and ability to mesh the Orangemen from the get-go is paramount to their success this season. So far the Orangemen staff is pumped about the team chemistry. Kueth Duany returned in his best shape and is shooting the ball as well as he ever has been at the school. Freshmen guard Gerry McNamara looks like he'll be even more of a contributor with his prolific shooting. And Carmelo Anthony is considered the real deal, a big-time stud at forward who could be Big East rookie of the year, let alone an All-American. Meanwhile, Syracuse is mourning the loss of Jeremy McNeil's mother after she passed away last week. McNeil went home to San Antonio and is on an extended absence. Coaches Jim Boeheim and Troy Weaver went for the funeral to represent Syracuse. McNeil had one of his best preseasons by losing 25 pounds and looking like another Etan Thomas with his ability to block shots and be a force in the Orangemen's zone.
Arkansas coach Stan Heath is on the verge of a major recruiting coup if he can land Flint (Mich.) small forward Olu Famutimi and one-time Georgia signee Julius Lamptey. Heath's reach into Michigan shouldn't come as a surprise since he was an assistant at Michigan State. Getting Lamptey away from Georgia would be a steal for an SEC rival. The Razorbacks have lacked a big-time post presence, even in the final few seasons of Nolan Richardson. The Hogs already have one commitment from Little Rock forward Vincent Hunter and are in pursuit of Fayetteville shooting guard Ronnie Brewer, who is considering leaving the area for schools like Kansas, Ole Miss, Oklahoma and Oklahoma State.
Ole Miss' sleeper in workouts has been 6-4 freshman Trey Pearson. Rod Barnes plucked the guard out of Tennessee, away from the rival schools in the state largely because he wasn't that highly thought of out of South Fulton High. "No one knew about him, but he's going to be a surprise," said Barnes, who needs another guard to be an impact player. Barnes can count on his team being stingy defensively, but he had to find another scoring guard before the season.
Wake Forest's sleeper looks like 6-8 Chris Ellis of Marietta, Ga., who Skip Prosser says will come in and help right away. His work ethic sold the staff on him being a player during individual workouts. The Demon Deacons have eight freshmen and sophomores and need players like Ellis to have standout seasons for the Deacons to be a player in the ACC race. Prosser, a former Xavier coach and Cincinnati rival, was one of the first coaches to visit Bearcats' coach Bob Huggins in the hospital two weeks ago.
The NCAA is about to get busy with its legislative agenda with an executive committee meeting Oct. 18; the management council meetings Oct. 21-22; and the Board of Directors meeting Oct. 31. The exempted tournament issue will likely be addressed. The NCAA is seeking more discovery in the case in which Judge Edmund A. Sargus ruled in its favor against a number of exempted tournaments. The exempted tournaments want the 2-in-4 rule removed because it limits teams from playing in their tournaments in a four-year cycle and they have run out of teams. But the judge left open the possibility that he could revisit his ruling in the spring. A number of coaches want the NCAA to allow schools to play in an exempted tournament every season, or like N.C. State's Herb Sendek said if they don't do that then, "just give us a set number of games say 30 and then you can play in them if you want and count them.'' Sendek's Wolfpack played in the BCA Invitational and won three games giving them two extra wins since two of the three games didn't count against their maximum 28 regular season games. The Wolfpack won 20 regular season games, but two of those occurred in the BCA Invitational and without those wins the record wouldn't have looked as good. N.C. State doesn't have an exempted tournament this season and will be pushed to get to 20 prior to the ACC tournament. Meanwhile, Reggie Minton of the NABC said there are no plans for the NCAA committees to change the 5/8 scholarships limitation rule in this legislative meeting. But the coaches association is trying to push the presidents and athletic directors to get rid of that rule, too. The scholarship limitation limits coaches to five scholarships in a given recruiting class, no more than eight after two. It went to 5/9 for one season before going back to 5/8. Men's basketball has a total of 13 scholarships. The NABC is looking at other ways to improve graduation rates instead of scholarship limitations which they say takes away scholarship opportunities for student athletes. Women's basketball doesn't have the same restriction on its 15 scholarships.
Andy Katz is a senior writer at ESPN.com. His Weekly Word on college basketball is updated Fridays throughout the year.