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October 16, 2013

Leonard Hamilton


JEFF FISCHEL:  We're joined by Florida State head coach Leonard Hamilton.
(Question concerning Sylvia Hatchell.)
COACH HAMILTON:  It means an awful lot to me because I've had several scenarios, battles with these types of dreaded diseases in my family.  I lost my grandmother to cancer, my father to cancer, my youngest brother Barry, my brother Willie, my mother this past April.
When a friend of mine is in one of those situations, my heart goes out to them.  I know the stress it puts on their families and friends and loved ones because I've lived it for a number of years.
My heart goes out to Sylvia.  She's loved by anyone.  One of the best coaches in the history of women's basketball.  We wish her well in this battle.  We lift her up in prayers.  I'm sure that I along with the Florida State family, people who know here, wish her a very speedy recovery.
JEFF FISCHEL:  We'll take questions.

Q.  When you have someone that you care about that's going through a tough go with a disease, how does that bring everything front and center to you to go off the court and see the bigger picture about life, what truly matters to you?
COACH HAMILTON:  I probably live my life all the time and try to teach our players that things are much more important sometimes than just the game of basketball.  It's the game of life that is so much more important.  The game allows you to be exposed and it teaches you.  You have to be aware of that.
Not a whole lot we can do except raise the consciousness of our peers and young people.  I think Sylvia was detected as a result of going to get a health checkup, which is positive from the standpoint that it didn't get a chance to grow a whole lot more because at least it was detected at some earlier stage.  We have to encourage that.
We also have to keep working hard to raise money for research so that hopefully in the future we have a cure for it.
JEFF FISCHEL:  She is as tough and feisty as any coach, man or woman, in the ACC, that is for sure.
Let's talk about the team this year.  Give me your sense of what you've seen after a couple weeks of practicing with the guys.  They need to fill a big void left by Michael Snaer.
COACH HAMILTON:  The biggest void we have to fill now is the gap where we have been on the defensive end and where we were last year.  We did a difficult time with our guys understanding defensive principles that we put in place and have been successful with over the last 15 or 20 years.  It was having seven first‑year players accepting the fundamentals that go along with playing the kind of defense that we played was more challenging than we expected.
On the offensive end, I think we've improved in our potential offensively because the ability of these guys, attack the basket off the dribble.  They've all improved the perimeter game.  My three big guys have improved tremendously.
I'm encouraged by the skill development of our team.  I think the success of this team as I look toward the year will have a lot to do with our maturing, maturation process coming full circle with them being consistent with our defensive principles.  They're going to give us tremendous effort, they've shown they're capable of doing that.  I think we're going to be much better offensively.
I'm encouraged.  It's whether or not we can win it with a sophomore‑dominated team.  A lot has to do with the maturity and how much progress they make from the mental and emotional standpoint.  Physical, we came light‑years from where we were last year.
JEFF FISCHEL:  Do you think they need to get they have to play defense?
COACH HAMILTON:  When you take over programs like I have over the number of years, rebuilding projects, I think we've done a good job at Florida State over the last eight years doing that.  You don't always get the elite offensive players or elite players, but you have to find a way, something that everybody can do that doesn't necessarily require the quickness, speed or athleticism.
We've tried to develop a defensive scheme that allows us to be successful while we're developing our offensive skills or improving our talent level.  Maybe because you're not as talented as someone else doesn't give you an excuse not to be successful.
Now that we're getting better players, we still maintain that same level of defense.  It's just that sometimes it's more difficult for a freshman and first‑year players to learn that defensive system than it is more experienced players.  I think that's what we went through.  Hopefully we'll be further along this year and the learning curve won't be the same.

Q.  With the newcomers, Syracuse, Pitt, Notre Dame making the transition, can you talk about the identity of ACC basketball, the kind of transition those teams will have to make in order to fit into what this conference is all about?
COACH HAMILTON:  In the first place, I don't think there will be much of a transition challenge for those teams.  They're well‑coached, all have talent.  From a basketball standpoint, there are so many more similarities than there are differences.
I think the main thing as I see, what's getting ready to happen, when I say 'we,' I mean me, the coaches, the media, to really understand what has been happening in the ACC.
There has never been a conference of consistent, competitive programs assembled in one conference.  North Carolina is the third winningest program in the history, Duke is fourth, Syracuse is five, Louisville is 14, North Carolina State I believe is 25, Pittsburgh might be 49.  Along with that, Georgia Tech has played in the Final Four, Wake Forest has played in the Final Four, Virginia has been to the Final Four.  Now you're talking about a collection of basketball programs now where every night is going to be exciting.
You're going to have Final Four‑type atmospheres in a competitive nature unlike what you've seen.  It's going to be elevated to what we've seen in the past because of the nature of those four, with Louisville, coming to our league.
What has happened over the years, I think sometimes the two consistent flagship programs in our league, Duke and Carolina, when they have stumbled against some of the other programs who have been inconsistent, that has been conceived as a negative.
Now it's going to create a competitive scenario.  Now the success gets spread around, it's going to elevate the status similar to what happened in the Big East.  I think they got more teams in because of the image protected by so many of their programs being rich, traditional programs, some of them basketball only.
I think the new teams bring that aura to our league that is going to make a great conference amazing.
JEFF FISCHEL:  When we had the guys in here earlier, they talked about the trip to Greece.  You had a little smirk there.  What were you laughing about?
COACH HAMILTON:  I think it was a tremendous educational experience for us from a cultural standpoint, seeing the birthplace of civilization, all the things that happened.  It was worthwhile from that standpoint, evaluating their culture, eating their food, adjusting.
But we had an eye‑opening experience playing against the Greece national team every day.  That was unlike any experience I've ever had.  Normally when you go out of the country, you play against some lower‑division club teams that you're successful against.  That was not the case here.  This is their Olympic team.  This is their EuroCup team.  High level of competitiveness.  Obviously it being their national team, preparing for the EuroCup, they didn't want a college team to come in and overshadow them.
The first encounter, we were kind of close because of our athleticism, size.  The second encounter, they put us in our place.  They showed us how European basketball is played.
Our guys learned from that.  They were making six, seven, eight passes in a 24‑second shot clock.  The third encounter we adjusted.  We practiced.  We only played one public scrimmage, but had five or six competitive practice sessions that I really thought helped our players learn how to play, which I really felt was extremely beneficial.
JEFF FISCHEL:  You talked about how you exposed them to the culture.  They said they resorted to burgers the last few days.
COACH HAMILTON:  They enjoyed the food.  Those were the kids hamming it up again.  I have never eaten such good food in my life.  If you take a trip to Greece, you won't starve.  Their culture has the most tasty food I've tasted in a while.
JEFF FISCHEL:  They also brought up you don't agree on your taste in music.
COACH HAMILTON:  Well, see, the only hobby I have is I collect old‑school DVDs, a lot of the music that their parents used to listen to.  I have a collection of about 500 of them that I can go all the way back to Frankie Valli in 1964 with The Four Seasons, to some of the most modern people you know.  Sometimes I think our players, they want to hear all the hip hop and the rap music.  I don't have that in my collection (smiling).
JEFF FISCHEL:  Florida State head coach, appreciate it.  Thank you.

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