Florida State crushed ACC-rival Boston College 93-64 last night, continuing its dominance of the conference. Days earlier, head basketball coach Leonard Hamilton agreed to a five-year contract extension and everything is clicking in Tallahassee.
The fact that Hamilton is Black and has been at an ACC school for almost two decades and just signed a deal that will take him to a quarter-century with one university, makes Hamilton very much the exception.
The 72-year-old is one of the longest-tenured coaches in NCAA basketball and his new contract runs through the 2024-25 season. In his 19th season with the Seminoles, Hamilton has compiled a 395-225 overall record. His 596 career wins overall places him at 43rd all-time among all coaches in CBB history.
While Black coaches have come and gone and been overlooked or undervalued, Hamilton has been a rock in Tallahassee, leading the “football school” to seven NCAA Tournaments, including two Sweet 16’s and an Elite 8.
Before Hamilton arrived, Florida State made one NCAA Tournament in nine years. Consistency is his game and in that vein, this contract pretty much assures that he’ll retire a Seminole.
Over the past two decades, he’s taken the FSU program to incredible heights and is currently in the midst of the best stretch in school history. FSU is currently ranked No. 11 in the country and is also on the cusp of a second consecutive ACC regular-season title.
Hamilton’s age doesn’t matter as this is where he belongs, and this program he’s built doesn’t seem to be slowing down anytime soon. He’s not only constructed one of the best programs in the ACC but in the country. He’s put in decades of quality work from the ground up for this moment. That work…that culture he has branded with his bare hands has given the Noles a chance to win championships and cut down nets, competing in one of the toughest and most talented conferences in CBB.
Still A Bargain After Two Decades Of Success
In comparison to the coaches he competes against and routinely beats (like his Sunshine State rivals at Florida and Miami) Hamilton’s getting paid less than market value. Hamilton’s 2020 salary was $2.25M, which made him the 52nd highest-paid coach in the entire country. His salary ranks just 10th out of 15 ACC coaches.
Of the nine coaches who make more than Hamilton, only one is Black (Kevin Keatts at NC State).
Hamilton’s new contract also appears to be shortchanging him, but it is incentive-laden, so as Hamilton continues to rack up Ws, he’s going to clean up in the bonus department.
Bright Spot In A Bleak Black Coaching Landscape
The Hamilton extension is a bright light for a very bleak Black coaching landscape in college basketball as it pertains to Black coaches leading “Autonomy Five” programs. Right now there are only 13 Black men’s basketball coaches from six “Autonomy Five” conferences which make up 176 programs. Numbers get even worse when you account for every Division I program, where only 98 of the 354 programs (27.7%) have a Black head coach.
If you remove the Historically Black Colleges and Universities (HBCUs) from the total, the number then declines to (23.1%). The percentage has pretty much remained the same since 2012 when (25%) of Division I college basketball coaches were Black. The numbers have peaked twice but still only climaxing at a paltry (28%).
As a writer, I don’t know how much of if it’s intentional, but the percentage of Black players at these schools is (56%), which is more than double the number of Black head coaches. Maybe it was much more intentional in the past, maybe not. But I think now it’s more about the racial and cultural comfortability that drives these hires, which in my opinion, is a sign of ignorance and limits the talent pool and diversity within the hierarchies at colleges across the country.
They are basically saying, “this is how we’ve always done things and we don’t feel like changing.”
John Thompson, John Chaney and Nolan Richardson definitely didn’t have this in mind when they set the standard for Black head coaches.
They began the now-defunct Black Coaches Association, and the hope was there would be many more opportunities for Black coaches to lead power programs, while also being given the same amount of time to prove themselves as their white counterparts.
That hasn’t materialized much at all as you can see from the numbers, but it’s our job to never stop trying to make it happen.
That’s why Black coaches in all of the major college sports continue to come together and bring light to the systemic racism pervasive in the hiring process of head coaches.
Over the last three seasons, FSU is 69-17 and the Seminoles are 14-4 and ranked No. 11 this season. Leonard Hamilton has a tenure at FSU that is rare and unique but still incomplete. Maybe he gets that NCAA title this season.