Leonard Hamilton deserves a ton of credit for leading ninth-seeded Florida State to the Elite Eight in the 2018 NCAA Tournament.
But the Seminoles head coach also deserves criticism for how he handled himself after his team’s 58-54 loss to Michigan in the West Region final Saturday night.
With just over 14 seconds remaining and FSU trailing by four in Los Angeles, Seminoles guard PJ Savoy missed a 3-pointer, which was rebounded by Wolverines forward Duncan Robinson with 11 seconds left. But instead of ordering his team to foul and send Michigan back to the free-throw line, Hamilton called off the dogs and conceded defeat.
Here’s the final play:
For many, Hamilton’s decision to not foul was more than a head-scratcher. This is March Madness, after all, where improbable, last-second victories are commonplace.
But Hamilton didn’t have any regrets after the game. In fact, when asked about the decision by CBS Sports’ Dana Jacobson, he reacted as if questioning him was without warrant.
Check out this cringe-worthy interview:
The game was over? What?
Listen: Is trailing by four and without the ball with 11 seconds left a steep mountain to climb? Absolutely — but it’s far from insurmountable. And if nothing else, Hamilton should’ve exhausted all options in leading his players to victory, as trips to the Final Four don’t grow on trees.
For the sake of argument, let’s play this out with some conservative logic:
— Florida State fouls with 11 seconds left.
— Robinson misses the first free throw and makes the second to give Michigan a five-point lead.
— Seminoles throw an inbounds pass to a player at halfcourt, who makes one pass to a player on the wing. That player drains a 3-pointer to cut the lead to two with 4.8 seconds left.
From that point, any number of things could happen: FSU could steal the inbounds pass and tie the game or take the lead, or they could foul again, watch Michigan miss another free throw and get one more chance to tie the game with a long-distance shot.
Again, this is the college basketball. We’ve seen far crazier things happen.
Plus, we’re not talking about the NBA — college players aren’t ice-cold free-throw shooters. Furthermore, Michigan is shooting 66 percent from the charity stripe this season, good for 321st in NCAA Division I.
Oh, and the Wolverines shot 66.7 percent (16-for-24) from the free-throw line Saturday night.
All of that is a long way of saying that Jacobson was in the right and Hamilton was in the wrong during the postgame interview. Should he get some slack for being emotional after what surely was a crushing defeat? Without a doubt. But as a coach, Hamilton’s job is to put his players in a position to succeed on the court, and to lead by example off it.
And Saturday night, for an admittedly brief amount of time, he failed at both.
Thumbnail photo via Robert Hanashiro/USA TODAY Sports Images