Florida State athletic director Stan Wilcox took over at a time of relative prosperity for FSU basketball. When the current seniors were freshmen, the program appeared to be reloading after making its first ever back-to-back-to-back-to-back NCAA tournament appearances.
But in the three seasons that Wilcox been at the helm of the athletic department, Florida State basketball has now missed the tournament twice, and appears on the road to missing again this year.
The team was close two years ago, with the NCAAT committee naming them to the first four out. Then last year the hopes went out the window when Aaron Thomas was dismissed early in the season.
This year's team had the highest hopes since 2011-12, but they have lost four straight, and are now squarely on the wrong side of the bubble.
With this recent losing streak so fresh in mind, some fans were surprised when a report circulated that Coach Hamilton would be receiving a contract extension this week.
So what does this mean?
Is it happening?
We don't know. It was reported by Jeff Cameron, who is typically reliable with his information, but nothing has been officially announced. Later in the day the Democrat reported that university sources were confirming Cameron's scoop.
Is Wilcox competent to evaluate Coach Hamilton's position?
The short answer is that he better be if FSU hired him. The longer answer is that he has been around basketball all his life. He played at Notre Dame, he was was associate commissioner of the Big East for 11 years, and the deputy athletic director at Duke. This is important, as the dynamic of basketball coaching staffs (with just 3 assistant coaches) is very different from football. Football staffs are large enough to accommodate a CEO type at the top. In basketball, it's all-hands-on-deck. This means that if Wilcox has any issues with the X's and O's, it's probably a bigger deal in basketball than it is in football.
Why not wait until next year?
This is a legitimate question, considering Coach Hamilton has one year remaining on his contract. But if it were not extended now, then negative recruiting painting the picture of Ham as a lame duck would make it nearly impossible to recruit players. There are two options: fire Coach Hamilton at the end of this season, or give him an extension. Opposing staffs already use the "fan" opinion of the Ham in negative recruiting, and the AD certainly wouldn't want to stoke the flames, imaginary or otherwise.
Is he a lame duck?
That's for Stan Wilcox to decide. An extension could very well be signed, and then Coach Hamilton could still be fired at the end of next year. A smaller buyout could be negotiated rather than firing this year. Or, Wilcox could have evaluated Coach Hamilton's performance compared to whatever Wilcox expects of Hamilton, and decided that he's earned an extension. Or - most likely - it's a blend of complex inputs and Wilcox is just trying to find the right way to manage the program.
Why would Wilcox think Ham is doing a good job?
In the nine years prior to Coach Hamilton taking over, Florida State basketball never won more than 6 ACC games. They were one of the worst high major programs in the nation. Assuming FSU loses at Duke, that would place them at 6-10 in the ACC, which is the peak of the program for nearly a decade before Ham took over. Hamilton was able to guide FSU to the top half of the ACC, and despite a recent slip, is poised to bring in more talent next year and have what will arguably be FSU's most talented team since the 2011-12 squad which won the conference (slightly more top end talent, but less depth). Jon Isaac is the first NBA lock the Seminoles have had since Chris Singleton. Trent Forrest and CJ Walker should have an immediate impact. And they'll be joining what could be a veteran team (Michael Ojo, Jarquez Smith, Phil Cofer, Xavier Rathan-Mayes (?)) mixed with lots of talent that has been in the program 1-2 years (Dwayne Bacon (?), Malik Beasley (?), Terance Mann, Benji Bell, Chris Koumadje, Robbie Berwick).
Why would Wilcox fire Coach Hamilton?
Despite resurrecting the FSU basketball program from joke status to ACC contender, Florida State hasn't made the tourney in three years and appears on the way to adding another year to that streak. FSU isn't an easy place to win, but going an entire class without making the dance is not acceptable. Wilcox could be ready to roll the dice and hope the next guy can keep the talent in place so that it wouldn't be the complete rebuild that Ham faced.
Best case/worst case?
The best case scenario is that the talent joining the team next year helps to elevate this team back into the NCAA tourney, and that FSU is able to capitalize on the myriad top 100 recruits that are currently pretty high on the Noles. The worst case is that Dwayne Bacon, Malik Beasley, and Xavier Rathan-Mayes all bolt for professional basketball, and FSU suffers through another year where they neither contend in the conference nor make the dance.
What to do as a fan?
Nothing changes. Cheer for your team.