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March 12, 2020

Leonard Hamilton

Greensboro, North Carolina

LEONARD HAMILTON: This is really bigger than just from an athletics standpoint. This is a worldwide epidemic. We will have more opportunities to play basketball, but the down side of some of the circumstances that could happen as a result of us not being cautious, not being properly cautious, would be something that we don't want to have to deal with. I'm pleased that the leaders have thought things through with the information that they have and they have decided that we -- that it's best for the betterment of our student-athletes and administration and for the game of basketball for us to proceed with caution and not allow ourselves to get caught up with maybe the fact that this is something that we have to deal with, that we don't have all the information, and it's fluid, and we don't know what the outcome will be.

As a coach, you're always trying to prepare yourself for the unexpected, but this is truly one of those circumstances that we're preparing ourselves for what we don't really know what to expect the outcome will be.

Any questions?

Q. Your players were out there and they went in the locker room, then they came back, then they went back in. Can you walk us through what the situation was and how you found out what was going to happen?
LEONARD HAMILTON: Well, these conversations I'm sure have been going on with our commissioner, with the powers that be where he gets his information from, the NCAA, the other conferences, so in the background I'm sure that there's a lot of communications going on almost hourly, minute-ly as we were approaching the start of the game.

As a staff, we had talked about it earlier, anticipating that it was a pretty good chance that this could happen, that the games would be canceled, because of the nature of what we're dealing with. So we had gone in to talk to our players as in preparing for the game, our normal routine of going over the scouting report, the last-minute details, talking to the players about the game plan, and then our athletic director came in and motioned for me to come and visit with him over in the coaches' room, and I was prepared mentally for what I thought was getting ready to happen.

Then the commissioner came in and we had a discussion. I think the Big Ten and the SEC had canceled their games, and whatever the information that he got, I thought it was in the best interest for us to follow suit, which was probably the most logical decision to make. And as we talked about the details of how we would proceed from this point, that we bring the players out on the floor, give us the trophy and then acknowledge the situation to our fans and the media that was there.

At that time I went back over -- when our players came off the court, I thought that made it a little earlier so we could discuss what the circumstances were surrounding the situation, and they were disappointed when I told them that it had been canceled, but I challenged them to be mature and understand the challenges of what's going on in the world and that they had to be patient with the process, and I felt very confident that we were making the right decisions, and I want to assure them that whatever medical attention that was needed, whatever we could do to make sure that we made them secure and their parents secure, that we were doing the very best that we could to make sure that everything that we did was in their best interest and in their safety, and that we would do that.

I wanted to assure them that we had handled this in a mature way and move on, and that's how the process played itself out.

Q. As you were approaching today, do you speak on any hesitation of playing and the circumstances or did you reach out to the powers that be --
LEONARD HAMILTON: No, I felt that it was in my best interest not to be part of the confusion, that they were going through enough, and I trusted they were gathering all the accurate information that I would not have access to. I just wanted to make sure that we had enough information to explain to our players, because you have the players, you have their parents, and everybody is involved, and I just wanted to be sure that we assured everybody that we were doing the right thing by their children, the young men that we are responsible for.

Q. You mentioned that you kind of came into today knowing that this was a very real possibility and understanding that things change minute to minute, hour to hour. Right now can you anticipate there being an NCAA Tournament?
LEONARD HAMILTON: It would be out of order for me to start voicing my opinion and trying to look into making comments about decisions that would be made with a lot more information than what I have right now. That would be disrespectful to the people who are making those decisions. We're going to be prepared for whatever decisions that are made and in support of the process. That's the best thing for us to do.

I mean, I'm sure there are options all over the board. You could play it without having fans, you could delay it until maybe we get a handle on the epidemic and play it at a later time. I have absolutely no idea about how to go about this, but I'm just going to trust that we have tremendous leadership in the ACC with John Swofford, and I truly believe whatever decisions that are made, along with the other commissioners and athletic directors and presidents of the other schools around the country, that they will make the right decision.

Q. As of 11:00 the commissioner sat on that stage and said that the tournament was a go. Do you have any sense of what the tipping point was?
LEONARD HAMILTON: There again, for me to start commenting on something I don't know anything about would be disrespectful to the people that are making those decisions. It's challenging right now to allow your emotions and your feelings to get involved without having all the facts, and when you're responsible for the well-being of individuals, if you're going to err, you're going to err on the side of precaution. I'm sure that they made those decisions based on that. What the timing was I think is irrelevant. I just think that it's kind of a moving target all over the place.

I'm sure it was week by week, day by day, hour by hour, gathering information, and they come to the conclusion that I'm tremendously in support of.

Q. You have years of experience and maturity and wisdom to deal with all this --
LEONARD HAMILTON: Are you trying to say that I'm old?

Q. No, but the players, they've been training for these moments their whole lives. Did they ask questions? How have they been through this process?
LEONARD HAMILTON: We have not had any real detailed discussions because I didn't want to enter that into their mindset as we were preparing for the game. Our guys, I think, trust us and the information that we give them. I just wanted to assure them that the decisions that have been made would be in their best interests and that whatever the best approach was, I wanted them to have confidence that we would adhere to that, if there's testing, if there's anything that is in their best interest to help us through these circumstances, I wanted them to understand that that's how we operate, and that's what's going to happen. I wanted to ease their mind.

But we had to handle this in a mature way and not emotional. We had to understand that this was something that was going on that has come along. I don't know that we've ever had a situation like this. This is unusual. This is something that's different, and we have to handle it in a mature way.

Q. Other than just what we do from here and the longer term ramifications, how do you process that scene? What did you make of being out there, and how are you going to remember that moment, I guess?
LEONARD HAMILTON: I'm extremely proud of our players because we're in a conference with the best basketball teams, coaches and programs ever assembled in the history of college basketball. Most of the schools got 75, 80 years of successful success ahead of us. Florida State started out, I think we were an independent, we were in the Dixie Conference, we were in the Metro Conference, and then we were independent, while everyone else was in the SEC, the ACC, the Big Ten, having success in basketball, having established their legacy.

So we're kind of the new guys on the block, and we got invited to the party. So we try to carve our own niche out. That was significant for us today to be the regular-season champions. Our guys have worked hard for us, and it's allowing us to carve out this little niche for ourselves that we are in. We belong to an establishment of some of the best of the best, Hall of Fame coaches, Final Fours, NCAA Tournaments. I mean, there's a whole list of them.

So this moment is important. I'm not really sure our players understand how important it is, but they enjoyed the moment for what it is today. I'm looking at what has happened in the past and look where we're going toward the future, so it was important for us to have this accomplishment, and I'm proud of them because in order for us to be successful, we have to be a little different. We play more players than most people. We share more minutes. We share playing time. That's part of who we are. Our guys have developed the theme that we're 18 strong, we win games by committee.

In this day and time of the quick fix and everything wanting to happen fast and one-and-dones and two-and-outs, sometimes that's a little challenging for guys to accept, but our guys have bought in, and that was their reward. Being recognized and getting that trophy meant something to them, and I'm sure they'll remember this moment for the rest of their lives.

Q. Outside of the basketball and the decision making, was there a point this week where maybe you just started getting personally nervous about how this could affect your family, how this might affect the guys' families, this virus continuing to spread, dominating the news cycle?
LEONARD HAMILTON: Well, obviously I'm aware of taking precautions for your family, but the players, they are our family. So as I think about myself personally, I'm also thinking about what's best for our players. That's on our mind on a regular basis every day. Most of them, they say I'm germophobic. I use hand sanitizer, have to go to the dermatologist and see why my hands are cracking up so much. That's just kind of my nature. We have hand sanitizer at almost every stop, in the locker room, before games, after games, so our guys understand -- we talk about hygiene. We had our team doctors go over the information with them in the last week about how to proceed with caution from a health standpoint. We try to get them to eat right and drink a lot of water and do all the things that we know that can keep them healthy. But we really don't know how to deal with this. We don't have a cure for it. It's challenging, and so we do what we think is best, and we proceed with caution.

Yes, I feel a lot of responsibility. Every time I hear one of them cough, in my mind I'm saying, wow. But that's part of being a parent, in a parent situation.

Q. Have you or any of your players been tested for coronavirus?
LEONARD HAMILTON: I don't even know where the tests are, do you? Do you know where the tests are? So I think what I'm saying, from what I understand, we don't have enough tests available now, but we're going to start looking into that. I think that's the best thing for us to do is to make sure we don't have anyone infected by anything. But right now we're gathering information like everyone else, and this becomes real serious. I wish I could tell you that I could go in there and pick up about 100 tests, but I don't know how to do that now. But we have already started making calls trying to figure it out.

Q. I know this is all happening so fast and maybe you'll get more clarity soon on the NCAA Tournament, but if you don't have a decision or know what's going to happen, will you guys just go back home and start practicing and preparing for games?
LEONARD HAMILTON: Well, what we're going to do is we're going to gather all the information. I would love to keep all our players together from a safety standpoint. I'm not reassured that I want them doing a lot of traveling and being in large crowds. That's just off the top of my head. But we're going to sit down. We are going to discuss it with our athletic director and our medical staff, and we're going to try to make sure that we make decisions based on all the information that we can gather. But my initial thought was that we get back and prepare ourselves as much as possible anticipating that there will be an NCAA Tournament until we are notified otherwise.

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