Tom Sorensen

Valuable lessons found in FSU’s comeback win, Seminoles coach’s advice about ribs

Florida State coach Leonard Hamilton’s Seminoles are not elegant, but the ninth-seeded ACC squad beat No. 1 seed Xavier Musketeers in Monday’s second round NCAA tournament game. Next: Gonzaga Bulldogs in Sweet 16 Thursday at Staples Center in Los Angeles.
Florida State coach Leonard Hamilton’s Seminoles are not elegant, but the ninth-seeded ACC squad beat No. 1 seed Xavier Musketeers in Monday’s second round NCAA tournament game. Next: Gonzaga Bulldogs in Sweet 16 Thursday at Staples Center in Los Angeles. AP

Lost in the frenzy of the little schools that beat NCAA men’s basketball tournament favorites is a big school that beat a favorite – Florida State.

Xavier, the top seed in Nashville, led Florida State by 11 points with 12:50 remaining. Xavier scores the way some boxers box, in flurries. The Big East once was a grind it out, knock ’em down conference. But the Musketeers play above the fray, running and scoring almost elegantly.

The Seminoles are many things, but elegant is not among them. They play consistently tough defense, and they play with poise. A No. 9 seed, they trailed Xavier by 11 points with 12:50 to play.

But the Seminoles were true to what has for underdogs been the theme of this tournament. They refused to panic. They forced 18 turnovers, and scored 18 points off them. The tighter Xavier became, the tougher Florida State played.

By the end, it was as if the Musketeers sought permission to take a decent shot. Permission denied.

Leonard Hamilton, 69, is Florida State’s head coach. He spent nine seasons as head coach of the Miami Hurricanes. He spent most of one working for Michael Jordan as head coach of the Washington Wizards.

This is Hamilton’s 16th season at Florida State. Hamilton has more victories than any basketball coach in Florida State history and is eighth all-time in the ACC.

Hamilton is from Gastonia and played basketball, baseball and football at Gastonia’s Highland High. He played college basketball at Tennessee-Martin.

He was a longtime assistant and then associate head coach under Joe B. Hall at Kentucky. He coached there from 1974-86. I met him in Lexington, and instead of talking in his office I asked him if he wanted to grab something to eat. He thought about it and said that he never gets out, so yes, let’s eat.

Hamilton enjoyed being out. Fans enjoyed seeing him.

This was the early 1980s. We went to a rib joint and I used a knife and fork. He looked at me and said he had never seen anybody eat ribs that way.

I was new to the South, and I respect the man. So I put down the silverware, and have not picked it up in a rib joint since.

Tom Sorensen is a retired Charlotte Observer columnist. Sign up for his newsletter, and follow him on Twitter: @tomsorensen

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