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Mr. Robinson's neighborhood: Hoop screams

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© St. Petersburg Times, published December 12, 2000

If you're a casual observer, you look with indifference, perhaps with compassion. If you're a Florida State fan, it's probably a little different. You probably look with hurt and bewilderment, perhaps with shame, and wonder what the devil is going on with your Seminoles.

No, not those Seminoles. Bobby Bowden's guys are doing just fine. It's Steve Robinson's basketball guys who make you do a double take, who make you wonder if what you read is true and what you saw is real.

Could they really have lost to Furman? I mean, did Furman just sign Kobe Bryant and Tim Duncan and nobody told me?

These certainly are curious times in our state capitol, and not just because of what's been going on with the election.

If you're an FSU fan, you can keep ignoring it in the name of Bobby Bowden and another national championship drive, but the condition isn't going away. These kinds of issues rarely do.

Let's just be real about this, shall we? The Seminoles stink. They may be world-beaters in the near future (have you seen their sweet freshman class?), but right now they reek.

They are easily the worst team in the ACC, a conference doormat for any and everyone to wipe their dirty feet on.

The 'Noles are limping along at 1-7, have lost four straight and are 0-4 at home including routs by South Florida and Florida.

Did I mention they lost to Furman?

Actually, FSU's record isn't that bad. I mean, if I've calculated this right, all the 'Noles have to do is win the rest of their non-conference games, then beat Duke twice, North Carolina twice and the Lakers twice, and they'll be assured of an at-large bid to the NCAA Tournament.

All jokes aside, folks ought to be at least a little concerned about the program. Granted, this is a football state and FSU is a football school, but look at the Gators and the Hurricanes. They've found a way to build successful football and basketball programs. Heck, the UF women's team is good too, ranked among the nation's Top 20.

When Robinson came to FSU in 1997 after back-to-back 20-win seasons at Tulsa, he was supposed to turn this around. FSU went 18-14 his first season, but some might argue (and they wouldn't be completely wrong) that he won with many of the kids Pat Kennedy left behind.

Since then, the 'Noles have gone 13-17 and 12-17. And now they're 1-7 with a murderous conference schedule looming like a shadowy figure at the end of a dark alley.

"Nobody envisioned we'd be where we are now," Robinson said by telephone Monday, two days after his team was clubbed at Vanderbilt.

If you're an FSU fan, there are two questions you need to answer before this discussion goes any further.

First, do you believe Steve Robinson is a good coach? Second, how long are you willing to wait for him to prove it?

In case you didn't know, rebuilding basketball programs takes time. It's an arduous ordeal like Leonard Hamilton went through in Miami. Years of pounding the recruiting pavement. Hustling to get more than just leftovers from North Carolina and Florida. Fighting school officials for more support. Taking a chance on kids who may never be academically eligible.

Robinson has had his struggles. His prized recruit from last season, Tony Bobbitt, didn't qualify academically. This season's heralded freshman, J.D. Bracy, only partially qualified. Randall Jackson went pro a year early. Karim Shabazz transferred to Providence two years ago.

And the list goes on.

"We haven't always gotten the best breaks," said Robinson, who should be commended for his emphasis on his players' academics.

"Things that could go our way haven't gone our way."

Hey, nobody is saying the 'Noles ought to be in the Final Four this season, but a few more wins would be nice. So would putting more than an occasional scare into Duke or North Carolina or Florida.

In essence, what you want to see is progress, intermittent affirmation that the program is going somewhere.

Anywhere except farther down.

"I'm doing everything I can to help this program be successful," Robinson said. "Sometimes you not only have to be good, but you have to be a little lucky, too."

What that means is this: If you're waiting for Robinson to make FSU respectable again, get comfortable. This could take a while.

But here's a tip for Robinson: Don't make us wait too long.

Oh, and about scheduling Furman next season?

Bad idea.

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