Of the NCAA Men’s Basketball Tournament’s “Sweet 16” teams, just three have Black head coaches. Unfortunately, two must match off for the right to move to the Elite Eight.
Veteran Florida State coach Leonard Hamilton and Michigan’s youthful Coach of the Year candidate Juwan Howard have a showdown at 4 p.m. Sunday (March 28) in Indianapolis.
Before this truncated season, Hamilton saw respective teams win at least 20 games five seasons in a row. Florida State was a favorite to make the Final Four in 2020 – a goal that has eluded Hamilton – but COVID-19 cost the team its chance.
Hamilton’s teams are known for their toughness, and the head coach is leading by example. He suffered a torn Achilles tendon while stepping off a team bus and is coaching with a boot for the remainder of his team’s tournament action.
“We have a job to do and we’re going to work through whatever challenges that we have,” Hamilton told reporters after his team’s first-round win over UNC-Greensboro.
“My guys depend on me. If I’m going to ask them to work hard and challenge themselves, then I have to do the same thing. I didn’t even know I had the boot on once the game started. There are more important things right now than me being in a little pain.”
Michigan dealt with a lengthy COVID-19 shutdown but was the class of the Big Ten throughout the season. The Wolverines closed with a 20-4 record and a No. 1 seed when the tournament began.
“I didn’t sit on my hands when I was an assistant with the Miami Heat. I sat there and I learned,” he told the media after a big win at Indiana earlier this season.
He said playing for coaches Jim Lynam, Bernie Bickerstaff, Jeff Van Gundy, Doc Rivers, Larry Brown, Don Nelson and Erik Spoelstra offered valuable insight.
“Those are some Hall of Fame coaches I just named. I picked up a lot of learning from how they coached me,” he said.
Houston’s Kelvin Sampson is an “either love him or hate him” basketball coach.
After landing the Oklahoma job, he was named National Coach of the Year in 1995 and the Sooners returned as a national power. There were whispers of impropriety on the recruiting trails, but Sampson rode his success to Indiana.
He was a big-time winner. But he lasted only two years before being forced to resign because of NCAA allegations.
He was an assistant NBA coach before Houston put its faith in him four seasons ago. It has been rewarded with a 104-23 record, two AAC regular season titles, a No. 2 seed in the tournament and a Sweet 16 appearance against Syracuse this weekend. Sampson was also awarded a contract extension through 2026-27.
“I am looking forward to continuing our journey of building our basketball program to the best it can be,” Sampson said. “The greatest joy I have in coaching is being with these young men every day. I look forward to continue developing them on and off the court and chase championships.”
The Reid Roundup
What the hell happened to Cuonzo Martin’s Missouri Tigers?...SLU’s early exit from the NIT was also quite disappointing…Had VCU been forced to withdraw from the NCAA Tournament a few days earlier, SLU would have replaced them. Oh well…E.J. Liddell of Ohio State and Kofi Cockburn of Illinois received racial insults and threats after their respective teams were upset in the NCAA Tournament’s early rounds…Fourteen women had sued Deshaun Watson for alleged improprieties while receiving massages as of Tuesday. Is it about the money or the alleged crimes?.. Elgin Baylor, an 11-time All-Star and 10-time All-NBA selection with the L.A. Lakers and a longtime L.A. Clippers GM died at age 86 on Monday, March 22.
Alvin A. Reid was honored as the 2017 “Best Sports Columnist – Weeklies” in the Missouri Press Association’s Better Newspaper Contest and is a New York Times contributor. He is a panelist on the Nine Network program, Donnybrook, a weekly contributor to “The Charlie Tuna Show” on KFNS and appears monthly on “The Dave Glover Show” on KMOX.