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Big name unlikely for FSU

Potential replacements for Steve Robinson include ex-Miami coach and mid-major coaches.

By BRIAN LANDMAN, Times Staff Writer
© St. Petersburg Times
published March 10, 2002

CHARLOTTE, N.C. -- For Florida State, the search for a new basketball coach might begin as early as Monday.

Barring an unexpected turn, athletic director Dave Hart will fire Steve Robinson, who has won praise for his discipline and commitment to academics but did not turn the program around.

Robinson's five-year record is 64-86, and the Seminoles have missed the postseason for four consecutive seasons. Hart had expected a "breakthrough" season and recently said, "There's an ever present expectation of reasonable progress."

But to whom can Hart turn to deliver that?

"There's not a lot of people out there beating the drum and saying, 'Boy, I wish that Florida State job would open,' " ESPN analyst Jay Bilas said. "That's not a knock on Florida State. It's a terrific school.

"It's in a really good conference. But it's universally accepted that that is a tough basketball job."

In some circles, FSU basketball is likened to Duke football, which is why Bilas suggests some of the big names -- and perhaps the usual suspects for any major-school job that opens -- such as Tim Floyd would look elsewhere.

FSU has made just one NCAA Tournament appearance in the past nine seasons, Robinson's first in 1998 after taking over for Pat Kennedy.

Since 1993, its second season in the ACC, FSU has failed to win more than six league games.

It finished 4-12 the past two seasons.

"I think Florida State's a sleeping giant," ESPN analyst Dick Vitale said. "Just like the situation was at Florida when Billy (Donovan) came in there. Because it's been down, it's been said it can't happen. So it's a real challenge.

"Are they going to get (Mike) Krzyzewski or Gary Williams? Of course not. But I think there's a lot of guys who would be excited about Florida State."

At the top of Vitale's list is former Miami coach Leonard Hamilton, most recently the coach of the NBA's Washington Wizards.

"He did it at a football environment at Miami. He set the table at Oklahoma State, and he can flat out recruit," Vitale said. "But he's more than a recruiter.

"The guy has a great basketball mind. To me, it's as natural as it could be."

Other possible candidates: Tim Welsh (Providence), John Beilein (Richmond), Oliver Purnell (Dayton), Jeff Lebo (Tennessee Tech), Bob McKillop (Davidson) and Florida's top assistant, John Pelfrey.

As he was five years ago, Hart essentially will be a one-man search committee.

And while he won't allow anyone to peek at his wish list for any job, his profile likely won't change much from the one that led him to woo Robinson away from Tulsa.

The coach must emphasize the players' academic performances and off-court behavior.

"Where we are with our program academically is not a lip-service priority here," he said recently. "In terms of how they represent us is important because they represent a great university.

"And it's easy to forget about this and put it out of your mind when things are done right. But compliance is a very, very important issue. I will not tolerate, and our coaches know that, doing things outside the parameters of the rules of our conference, of our university or of the NCAA.

"Believe me, there are examples across this country where programs are having success. But they're dancing in that gray area at the least and maybe not the kind of people you'd want. Is that a trade-out you want? I don't think it is. But you don't have to make that trade-out. You can have it all."

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