The most successful coach in Florida State history, Leonard Hamilton is the Seminoles’ all-time winningest coach and is the fifth all-time winningest coach in ACC history.
He became the Seminoles’ winningest coach as Florida State defeated Pittsburgh on March 7, 2015 and became the fifth all-time winningest coach in ACC history as he guided the Seminoles past Syracuse on February 15, 2020. He is the fifth winningest all-time coach in ACC history with 360 wins and the fifth winningest coach in ACC history (ACC regular season and ACC Tournament games) with 170 ACC wins.
Hamilton is Florida State’s all-time winningest coach with 360 career victories. He has 124 more wins than Bud Kennedy, who coached the Seminoles from 1949-66; He is Florida State’s all-time winningest coach with 170 ACC victories. He has 125 more ACC victories than Pat Kennedy who coached the Seminoles from 1992-97; He is Florida State’s all-time winningest coach with 13 ACC Tournament victories. He has seven more ACC Tournament victories than Kennedy; He is Florida State’s all-time leader with seven NCAA Tournament appearances. He surpassed Pat Kennedy with the Seminoles’ appearance in the 2018 NCAA Tournament.
Hamilton won his 300th game at Florida State and his 500th overall in Florida State’s 81-79 overtime win over No. 11 ranked Clemson on Feb. 14, 2018 — one of 54 wins over nationally ranked teams during his tenure in Tallahassee.
In 2020, he led Florida State to the first ACC Regular Season Championship in school history. The Seminoles finished ACC play with a 16-4 record — the 16 wins in ACC play established a school record for ACC wins in a season. He was named the ACC Coach of the Year in 2020 for the third time in his career.
In 2019, he guided the Seminoles to a school-record 29 victories. The Seminoles’ 2019 team also defeated six nationally ranked teams, advanced to the ACC Tournament championship game and to the Sweet 16 of the NCAA Tournament. Coupled with the Seminoles’ appearance in the Elite Eight of the 2018 NCAA Tournament, the 2019 season marked the second time in school history the Seminoles had advanced to at least the Sweet 16 of the NCAA Tournament in consecutive seasons.
In 2018, Florida State advanced to the Elite Eight of the NCAA Tournament for the first time under Hamilton and for only the third time in school history. The Seminoles finished with a 23-12 record, a 9-9 mark in ACC play, won the Jamaica Classic and played in the NCAA Tournament for the second consecutive season and for the sixth time in the last 10 years. Florida State was one of two ACC teams which advanced to the Elite Eight of the NCAA Tournament, defeated a near school-record six nationally ranked teams and three teams seeded higher than them in the NCAA Tournament for the first time in school history.
Under Hamilton and since the start of the 2005-06 season, the Seminoles are the fourth winningest overall program in the ACC with 311 wins and are one of only four teams that have won at least 60 percent of their games. Florida State is one of only four teams in the ACC that averages more than 22 wins per season and is one of only three teams that has won at least 20 games in a season 11 times in the last 14 years.
Under Hamilton, the Seminoles have won at least 20 games in 12 of his 18 years and have advanced to the postseason in 14 of his 17 seasons at Florida State.
Hamilton has earned three National Coach of the Year awards, three Atlantic Coast Conference Coach of the Year awards, two Big East Coach of the Year awards, has led his teams to nine NCAA Tournament appearances and 20 postseason appearances, to the 2012 ACC Championship (as the head coach at Florida State) and to the 1978 National Championship (as an assistant coach at Kentucky). He is the only person to earn Coach of the Year honors multiple times in both the ACC and the Big East. He was named the Clarence “Big House” Gaines National Coach of the Year in 2018 by the National Sports Media Association.
Hamilton led the Seminoles to the first ACC basketball championship in school history in 2012, is among the leaders in the ACC and the nation in recruiting and coaching NBA talent, has made appearing in the NCAA Tournament an expected part of the Seminoles’ schedule each season and made the program one of the nation’s tougher teams to prepare for on a nightly basis.
In 2012, Hamilton led the Seminoles to a school-record fourth consecutive NCAA Tournament appearance, to a 12-4 record in ACC play, to a third consecutive third place finish in the ACC standings, to two wins each over Duke and North Carolina (two of the top four winningest programs in college basketball history), to wins over an ACC-leading six nationally ranked teams and to victories over each of the four Tobacco Road teams in the ACC (Duke, North Carolina, NC State and Wake Forest) for the first time in school history. The Seminoles finished the 2019 season ranked No. 10 in the final Associated Press poll and No. 15 in the final ESPN/USA Today poll.
Hamilton was named the ACC Coach of the Year in 2012 for the second time in his career as the Seminoles solidified their position as one of the top teams in the ACC. With their 3-0 record in the 2012 ACC Tournament, the Seminoles won a single-season school-record 15 ACC games. With wins over No. 4 North Carolina and at No. 6 Duke to begin the ACC 2012 schedule, the Seminoles spent the majority of the conference season in first place in the ACC standings.
“Leonard Hamilton has done a brilliant job at Florida State,” said the Duke Basketball Report.
Hamilton was the Washington Wizards’ head coach in 2001, the head coach at Oklahoma State University (1987-90), and the head coach at the University of Miami (1991-2000) and before he was named the seventh head coach in Florida State men’s basketball history on March 19, 2002.
In a recent Athlon Sports ranking of the ACC’s top coaches, Hamilton was an easy choice among the top ACC coaches.
Said Athlon’s editors: “Leading one of the stingiest defensive teams in the country, Hamilton coached Florida State to one of the best four-year runs at Florida State from 2009-12. For the first time in program history, the Seminoles won at least 20 games and at least 10 ACC games in four consecutive seasons. A one-point loss in overtime to VCU in 2011 prevented the Seminoles from reaching the Elite Eight. In 2012, the Seminoles became only the second team not named Duke or North Carolina to win the ACC Tournament since 1996. Hamilton has proven himself capable of building consistent basketball programs at football schools by leading Miami to three consecutive NCAA Tournament appearances to wrap up his 10-season tenure with the Hurricanes in 2000. The coaches were ranked on a mix of past accomplishments with consideration for career trajectory over the next five seasons or so. Rankings take Xs and Os acumen and recruiting prowess into account along with success in the regular season and postseason.”
More important in Hamilton’s eyes than the championships, the NCAA Tournament appearances and the wins, is the overwhelming success that his players have achieved in the classroom.
Florida State enjoyed its best year ever in the classroom in 2017. The Seminoles earned a team grade point average of 3.034 – the highest during Head Coach Leonard Hamilton’s 17-year tenure at Florida State and the highest among all men’s athletic teams at Florida State. The Seminoles had nine players earn a 3.0 or better GPA during the fall semester and 13 players finished with a GPA of 3.0 or better during the spring semester when they earned a team GPA of 3.222.
Florida State was one of nine teams who played in the 2017 NCAA Tournament and earned an NABC Team Academic Excellence award. The Seminoles were joined by Butler, Gonzaga, Princeton, Purdue, Kansas, Louisville, Notre Dame and West Virginia on that select list. The Seminoles were one of three ACC teams with cumulative GPA’s at 3.0 or above and nine Seminoles were named to the ACC Honor Roll (Brandon Allen, Dwayne Bacon, Phil Cofer, Trent Forrest, Justin Lindner, Will Miles, Michael Ojo (graduate student), Harrison Prieto and CJ Walker), while Forrest was named to the 2017 ACC All-Academic Basketball team.
For Florida State under Hamilton, the academic achievements of his players is a long standing tradition of classroom success. During Hamilton’s tenure as a head coach at Florida State, Miami and Oklahoma State dating back to 1988, more than 94 percent of his players have earned their degrees. Under Hamilton, the Seminoles were one of seven ACC teams credited with a perfect Academic Progress Report score in 2016 and are among the ACC leaders in that five-year period.
The APR, which was developed in 2003, holds institutions accountable for the academic progress of their student-athletes through a team-based metric that accounts for the eligibility and retention of each student-athlete for each academic term.
Hamilton is the first coach to lead Florida State to nine consecutive postseason appearances as the Seminoles participated in the 2009, 2010, 2011 and 2012 NCAA Tournaments and played in the NIT in 2006, 2007, 2008, 2013 and 2014. Hamilton has guided 14 of his 17 Seminole teams into postseason play.
Under Hamilton, Florida State has developed and lived up to its reputation as the nation’s best defensive team.
The Seminoles led the NCAA in field goal percentage defense in both 2010 and 2011, becoming one of only six teams in NCAA history to lead the nation in field goal percentage defense in consecutive seasons. The Seminoles’ .363 field goal percentage mark in 2011 was the best in the ACC since 1960 (a span of 52 years). Florida State led the ACC in field goal percentage defense during each of the four consecutive years (2009, 2010, 2011 and 2012) it played in the NCAA Tournament under Hamilton. It marked the first time in ACC history that any team led the league for four consecutive seasons in the field goal percentage defense category. Florida State led the ACC in blocked shots and steals in 2012 in becoming only the fourth team in history to lead the ACC in both blocked shots and steals in the same season.
The Seminoles have also earned great success against ranked teams under Hamilton. The Seminoles defeated No. 1 ranked Duke in Tallahassee on Jan. 12, 2011 to mark the third time under Hamilton that Florida State has defeated the nation’s top ranked team. Hamilton has guided Florida State to wins over No. 1 ranked Duke twice (Jan. 12, 2011 and March 1, 2006), as well as No. 1 North Carolina on March 14, 2009 in the semifinals of the ACC Tournament.
Under Hamilton, Florida State has defeated 50 nationally ranked teams during his 17 years in Tallahassee. Included in those wins are seven victories over nationally ranked Duke teams. With two victories each over nationally ranked Duke, North Carolina and Virginia teams in 2012, the Seminoles led the ACC with six victories over nationally ranked teams in winning Florida State’s first ever ACC Championship.
Hamilton annually attracts the nation’s top talent to Tallahassee and helps those players reach their goals of not only playing at the next level, but also excelling academically and earning their degrees.
At Florida State, Hamilton has recruited and coached three of the Seminoles’ four all-time All-ACC First Team selections: Tim Pickett (2004), Al Thornton (2007) and Toney Douglas (2009) as well as the only two players in school history to earn ACC Defensive Player of the Year honors (Toney Douglas in 2009 and Chris Singleton in 2010 and 2011). Hamilton has coached 18 All-ACC selections in his first 17 seasons (only 15 Seminole players had earned All-ACC honors in Florida State’s first 11 years in the ACC), 12 selections to the ACC All-Defensive Team, six members of the ACC All-Rookie Team, seven members of the All-ACC Tournament team and the 2019 ACC Sixth Man of the Year.
Following Florida State’s victory over North Carolina in the 2012 ACC Tournament Championship game, Michael Snaer was named the Most Valuable Player of the Tournament (a first in Seminole basketball history) while Snaer and Luke Loucks were named to the All-Tournament First-Team. Dwayne Bacon (five) and Malik Beasley (three) won the ACC Rookie of the Week award a combined eight times during the 2015-16 season.
Hamilton has also coached two All-Americans at Florida State – Thornton in 2007 and Douglas in 2009. Thornton and Douglas were both All-American Third-Team and All-ACC First-Team selections during their Seminole careers.
With 14 NBA Draft selections under Hamilton since 2004, the Seminoles are fourth in the ACC for the most draft picks since Hamilton was named the Seminoles’ Head Coach in 2002. Six Seminoles have been selected in the first round (Al Thornton in 2007, Toney Douglas in 2009, Chris Singleton in 2011, Malik Beasley in 2016, Jonathan Isaac in 2017 and Mfiondu Kabengele in 2019). Isaac was the third Draft Lottery selection in school history and the second highest overall pick in school history. Only Duke (28), North Carolina (23) and Syracuse (18) have as many or more NBA Draft picks since 2004 than Hamilton and Florida State among the current 15 ACC Teams.
Hamilton attended the 2017 NBA Draft as he celebrated with both Jonathan Isaac and Dwayne Bacon as they were both selected and appeared on stage at the draft at the Barclays Center in New York. He was also at the 2007 NBA Draft to watch as Al Thornton became only the second Draft Lottery selection in school history as he was picked with the 14th overall selection by the Los Angeles Clippers. He was with 2009 NBA First Round selection Toney Douglas when his name was called by the Los Angeles Lakers. Hamilton watched as Solomon Alabi and Ryan Reid were selected in the second round of the 2010 NBA Draft and reveled when Chris Singleton became the first round pick of the Washington Wizards in 2011.
Hamilton watched with great pride as All-ACC selection Bernard James was selected in the second round of the 2012 NBA Draft. James arrived at Florida State in 2010 after serving in the United States Air Force during three tours of duty in Iraq, Afghanistan and Qatar and only two years of junior college basketball at Tallahassee Community College. He left Florida State after two years with his Bachelor’s Degree in Social Science and an ACC Championship to begin his professional career with the Dallas Mavericks.
Florida State has had at least one player selected in the NBA Draft in 11 of the last 15 seasons. Under Hamilton, the Seminoles have been represented in the NBA Draft by Mfiondu Kabengele (2019 by the Brooklyn Nets and traded on draft night to the Los Angeles Clippers) and Terance Mann (2019 by the Los Angeles Clippers), Jonathan Isaac (2017 by the Orlando Magic), Dwayne Bacon (2017 by the New Orleans Pelicans in the second round and traded on draft night to the Charlotte Hornets), Malik Beasley (2016 by the Denver Nuggets), Bernard James (2012 by the Cleveland Cavaliers in the second round and traded on draft night to the Dallas Mavericks), Chris Singleton (2011 by the Washington Wizards), Solomon Alabi (2010 by Dallas in the second round and traded on draft night to the Toronto Raptors), Ryan Reid (2010 by the Indiana Pacers in the second round and traded on draft night to the Oklahoma City Thunder) and Toney Douglas (2009 by the Los Angeles Lakers and traded on draft night to the New York Knicks). Douglas was a member of the Miami Heat’s NBA Eastern Conference Champions and NBA Finals runner-up team in 2014.
Hamilton has continued to stock the Seminoles’ program with the nation’s top talent, with the Seminoles’ recruiting class was ranked No. 3 in 2015 and No. 8 in 2016. Florida State’s 2015 recruiting class included 2017 NBA Second Round selection Dwayne Bacon, 2016 NBA First Round selection Malik Beasley, 2019 NBA Second Round selection Terance Mann and center Christ Koumadje who will play in the Philadelphia 76ers organization during the 2019-20 season. The Seminoles’ 2016 class was just as loaded with NBA Draft Lottery pick Jonathan Isaac, one of the leading all-time scorers in Florida prep basketball history in Trent Forest and junior college All-American Braian Angola, who is currently a member of the Orlando Magic organization.
Hamilton came to Florida State after 10 seasons at the University of Miami.
In his final season at Miami, Hamilton guided the Hurricanes to their second straight 20-win season, a share of the Big East regular season championship and the school’s first trip to the Sweet 16 of the NCAA Tournament. The Hurricanes finished 23-11, including a 13-3 conference record and were ranked 23rd in the nation in the final Associated Press poll and 20th in the final USA Today/ESPN poll.
Under Hamilton’s leadership, Miami became one of the nation’s top programs, advancing to postseason play five times in his final six seasons with three consecutive NCAA Tournament appearances in 1998, 1999 and 2000. Miami’s winning records in his final six seasons resulted in the Hurricanes joining Syracuse and Connecticut as the only Big East schools to have an overall winning record from 1995-2000. The Hurricanes’ 48-22 Big East mark over his last four seasons tied Connecticut for the best conference record over that period. Over Hamilton’s last two seasons, Miami registered a league-best 28-6 conference record for an .824 winning percentage.
During the 1999-00 season, Hamilton’s Hurricanes recorded three wins over ranked teams including a 74-70 home win over No. 18 St. John’s, marking the sixth straight season Miami had defeated a ranked opponent in the Miami Arena. In the 40 seasons prior to Hamilton’s arrival, the Hurricanes reached the postseason just four times including one NCAA tournament appearance (1960).
Along with the rise of the Hurricanes’ program, Hamilton’s players also continued to develop and win individual awards. In 1999, Hemsley and forward Tim James earned All-Big East First Team honors. In 2000, guard Johnny Hemsley earned All-Big East Second Team honors while center Mario Bland earned All-Conference Third-Team honors. The Hurricanes and Syracuse (twice) were the only schools to have two players earn All-Big East First Team honors in the same season at least once during Hamilton’s tenure at Miami. In 10 seasons under Hamilton, the Hurricanes had 13 All-Conference selections.
In 1998-99, Tim James was named Big East Co-Player of the Year, along with Connecticut’s Richard Hamilton, and Johnny Hemsley was selected as the conference’s Most Improved Player.
Miami’s rise began in 1994-95 when Hamilton led the Hurricanes to the greatest single season turn-around in Big East history. Picked to finish at the bottom of the Big East Conference standings, Hamilton guided the Hurricanes to a fifth-place finish and a berth in the National Invitational Tournament – Miami’s first postseason appearance in 31 years. The Hurricanes’ nine-win conference win increase tied Louisiana Tech for the best in the nation. Miami’s eight-win overall improvement tied for the third best single season increase in school history.
At the conclusion of the 1995 season, Hamilton was named the United Press International National Coach of the Year.
Hamilton was recognized as the Big East Coach of the Year for the first time. He was named Big East Coach of the Year for the second time in 1999 and was honored as the Eastern Basketball Coach of the Year. In 2000, he was named the Black Coaches Association (BCA) Coach of the Year.
For his work both on and off the court, Hamilton was honored as one of four finalists for the 2000 Coach Wooden “Keys to Life” Award. The award is given annually to a coach who best exemplifies Coach John Wooden’s philosophy of emphasizing that impacting the life of a student is more significant than any winning percentage. He was named one of Tallahassee’s Top 33 citizens in 2004 by the Tallahassee Democrat, inducted into the Gaston County (N.C.) Hall of Fame in 2007 and was honored by his hometown of Gastonia, N.C. in 2012 for his accomplishments during his career.
Hamilton was one of three honorees celebrated at the 13th Annual Dick Vitale Gala for Cancer Research in 2018. He was honored along with ESPN’s Mike Greenberg and University of Michigan Head Football Coach Jim Harbaugh as a champion in helping raise funds to rid the world of one of the most dreaded diseases known to man. With Hamilton as a headliner, a record-breaking $3.7 million was raised for pediatric cancer research.
He played at Gaston College where he set a school record by scoring 54 points in a game, and later at the University of Tennessee-Martin.
Hamilton was inducted into the Tennessee Sports Hall of Fame in 2013. As one of the top players at the University of Tennessee-Martin during his playing career, Hamilton’s roots run deep in the state of Tennessee. A walk-on at UT-Martin, he served as a team captain during his senior season. Hamilton received both the team’s Most Valuable Player Award and the Best Defensive Player award his senior season and is a charter member of the school’s Hall of Fame.
Hamilton’s induction into the Tennessee Sports Hall of Fame marks the fifth Hall of Fame he will be a member of during his illustrious career. He is also a member of the Austin Peay State University, University of Tennessee at Martin and University of Miami athletic Hall of Fames. Hamilton received the 2015 Alumnus of Distinction award from Gaston (N.C.) College at its 50th Anniversary Gala on May 16, 2015.
Hamilton went to Miami from Oklahoma State where he spent four years rebuilding the Cowboys’ program. He led them to consecutive appearances in the NIT, the first back-to-back postseason appearances for OSU since the 1953 and 1954 seasons. While at Oklahoma State, he recruited and coached former Florida State assistant coach Corey Williams who, as the head coach at Stetson, led the Hatters to the cusp of the NCAA Tournament in 2016.
Prior to his tenure at Oklahoma State, Hamilton was on the staff at the University of Kentucky where he spent 12 seasons with one of the top programs in the country. From 1974-80, he served as an assistant coach, and in 1980 he was honored by being named the first associate head coach in Kentucky basketball history. During his 12 seasons at Kentucky, the Wildcats registered a 296-83 (.781) record, won eight SEC regular season championships, two SEC tournament titles, went to three Final Fours and won the national title in 1978.
Hamilton’s coaching career began at Austin Peay State University where he served as a graduate assistant from 1971-73 and then as a full-time assistant from 1973-74. The Governors won back-to-back Ohio Valley Championships in Hamilton’s last two seasons at the school. Hamilton recruited and coached James “Fly” Williams, the 1974 conference Player of the Year and two-time all-conference selection. Williams was a two-time consensus All-American in 1973 and 1974, the only two-time All-America in school history. The Governors won the OVC Championship and played in the NCAA Tournament in 1973.
Hamilton’s legacy extends across the nation as 12 of his former assistant coaches have moved on to become head coaches at the Division I level. Included on the list are Dennis Gates (Cleveland State), Corey Williams (Stetson), Tim Carter (South Carolina State), Andy Enfield (Southern California), Tony Sheals (Virginia Union), Mike Jaskulski (Cardinal Stitch University), Dwight Freeman (Norfolk State), Randy Lee (Tennessee Temple), Dickey Nutt (Southeast Missouri), John Phillips (Tulsa) and Bill Self (Kansas).
In 2016 he was the commencement speaker at Chipola College in Florida.
He earned his Bachelor’s Degree in Physical Education from Tennessee-Martin in 1971 and received his Master’s Degree in Physical and Health Education from Austin Peay State in 1973.