December 5, 2006
TALLAHASSEE -- Florida State basketball coach Leonard Hamilton is beside himself. Consecutive road losses to Pittsburgh and Wisconsin were troubling enough, but his biggest concern moving forward is his team's inability to take care of the basketball.
Through six games, there wasn't a single FSU player with a positive assist-turnover ratio.
"I have, since the beginning of the season, been disappointed that we can have guys who have good dribbling skills, good passing skills and good catching skills making as many unforced, rash turnovers that we're making," Hamilton said. "They are all avoidable. I no longer can make excuses that we're anxious or adjusting to the system. You can only categorize it as carelessness, with a tremendous amount of lack of concentration. That's a mindset I'm confident we can change."
Tweaks to the offensive scheme, designed to be effective without a back-to-the-basket post presence, have contributed to the inconsistent play. In their haste to get the running game going, the Seminoles appear to be playing too fast. Sloppy execution in the half-court, where some players appear reluctant to reverse the ball and consequently take too many quick shots, has been lethal.
"We're really beating ourselves," sophomore point guard Toney Douglas said. "This is a mental thing. ... We realize we have to calm down, settle down, move the ball and work the defense until the defense breaks down. That's what Wisconsin did to us."
Douglas, the only player on the team with fewer turnovers than assists prior to a 15-point loss at Wisconsin, joined that error-prone club when he logged just one assist to go along with five turnovers against the Badgers.
Barring an upset of defending national champion Florida, the Seminoles were facing the possibility of not authoring a single quality win -- the same factor that kept them out of the NCAA Tournament last season -- prior to the start of this season's ACC campaign.
BOWDEN COY ABOUT COORDINATOR
FSU football coach Bobby Bowden said he knows what he wants in an offensive coordinator to replace his son Jeff Bowden, but he's refusing to offer any hints or details.
"Let's just say that I know what I'm looking for," Bowden said, refusing to elaborate. "Y'all are trying to find out who is going to be the new coordinator. If I knew, I wouldn't want to give that information out yet."
What's left are rumors, and the names that continue to circulate include some intriguing possibilities. There are a handful who have college and NFL experience, such as Oregon coordinator Gary Crowton, who was the OC for the Chicago Bears after college stops at Brigham Young and Louisiana Tech, where he served as the head coach.
Others who fit that profile include Frank Cignetti, who was recently part of the purge at North Carolina, where he spent one year as coordinator, after coming in from high-scoring Fresno State. Prior to that, Cignetti -- whose father was on Bowden's West Virginia staff and succeeded him there -- coached quarterbacks for the New Orleans Saints.
One of the most interesting possibilities is Rick Neuheisel, currently the Baltimore Ravens' quarterbacks coach, after head coaching runs at Washington and Colorado. Neuheisel's name surfaced when Terry Bowden mentioned him as a possible candidate on his Orlando radio show.
Among the other potential candidates with collegiate experience, LSU coordinator Jimbo Fisher has been most prominently featured. He played for Terry Bowden at Salem (in West Virginia) and Samford before coaching his quarterbacks at Auburn. Fisher also is looking at some head coaching jobs.
The names of Oklahoma State and former Florida coordinator Larry Fedora, along with Division II Valdosta State head coach Chris Hatcher, also continue to circulate.
It's widely believed that the elder Bowden will hire someone who has a track record for developing quarterbacks, as well as having play-calling experience. That likely would mean the departure of Daryl Dickey.
Still, most believe that there will be a complete purge of the offensive staff -- including 30-year assistant and running backs coach Billy Sexton, and second-year line coach Mark McHale. That would leave tight ends coach/recruiting coordinator John Lilly as the lone offensive holdover.
Asked specifically if other staff changes were imminent, Bowden declined to comment, which could be telling in its own right. Bowden seldom takes the "no comment" path, as he usually answers every question. Starting over goes against his loyal nature, although Bowden repeatedly has expressed concern over quarterback development issues and an ineffective running game.
"I'm looking for somebody that, whatever we've been missing, will have it," he added. "And, no, I'm not going to tell you what that is. That points fingers again."
Most importantly, with the height of the recruiting season underway, and as the Seminoles prepare to meet UCLA in the Emerald Bowl, Bowden said he won't rush to a decision.
"I really have not set a date," Bowden said. "You'd like to say sooner than later, definitely. The sooner it can happen. My main concern is going after the right person, because if you go after the wrong person, then you are going to suffer on down through the years. ... I'd hate to set a deadline and say I've got to get him by then or I don't get him. A lot of guys are involved with their team going to a bowl."
EXTENSION COMING FOR BOWDEN
Contrary to popular belief, Bowden has never signed a contract that entitles him to coach the Seminoles for life. In fact, his current deal runs through the 2007 season, though many expect it will be extended in the next several weeks.
Jeff Bowden's resignation and $537, 500 severance package may have provided the opening needed to get a deal done extending his father's contract.
Reiterating his long-standing desire, Bobby Bowden said he intends to coach as long as his health holds up.
"The thing is, you sign these players, and I would hate to tell them that I'm leaving," he said. "I'd almost rather have them fire me than leave. How can I look these kids in the eye if I'm leaving? Now, one thing that would get me out is if my players didn't want me. If my players didn't want me, I wouldn't stay. ...
"If the university hinted that they didn't want me back, I'd listen to them. But, I don't know, I'm like those old fighters. You still think you've got another win in you. You still think Florida State can win a national championship. I know they can. But can I do it? Can I bring 'em back? I think so, and I'm going to find out."
Despite some insisting that it's time for the 77-year-old Bowden to retire, don't expect the university to push him out the door. Among other things, he's far too valuable to the school as a fund-raiser to send him away on bad terms and risk the chance at losing that advantage.