They may not be at the forefront of the program, but Stan Jones, Charlton “C.Y.” Young and Dennis Gates are worth knowing.
FSU men’s basketball coach Leonard Hamilton would be the first to tell you that his team wouldn’t be where it is now without the efforts of these three assistant coaches.
Jones is the associate head coach and has been Hamilton’s right-hand man for some time. He’s worked for Hamilton since he was at Miami in 1996 and is in his 23rd year as a member of Hamilton’s staff, making him the longest-tenured assistant coach in the ACC.
Young is in his sixth year on the FSU staff, joining the Seminoles in 2013 after four seasons as the head coach at Georgia Southern. Before that, he also spent time as an assistant at Auburn and Georgia Tech.
Gates is in his eighth year with the Seminoles as an assistant coach after he served as a graduate assistant at FSU for the 2004-05 season. He’s also been a skill development coach for the Los Angeles Clippers and worked as an assistant at Cal, Northern Illinois and Nevada before landing on Hamilton’s staff.
Hamilton handles almost all of the media obligations so none of them speak to the media often.
However, all three took the time to sit down with Wayne McGahee III and Curt Weiler of the Tallahassee Democrat for a group interview, which will be released in two parts.
Why did you get into coaching?
Jones: To me, there’s probably two factors that started me in coaching. One was I had a love for athletics and there were some coaches in my life when I was kind of a late developer, some coaches who really put some confidence in me, that kind of helped me find my way through my junior high and high school years. That always stuck with me.
The second thing was my father and my family grew up in the ministry and I never felt that was something I was called to do, but through athletics and the inspiration that coaches had done for me, I thought that was an avenue for me to try to serve a greater good in helping young people find their way. That’s kind of how I got the bug and the fever in me to try to make a difference as a coach like coaches did for me.
Young: Similar to Stan, I had some coaches that really had a tremendous impact on my life, really saved my life to be honest with you.
When I finished playing, it was almost a desperation to stay in the game because I love the game so much, but also an urge to help kids from the things that made me successful as a player, but also the things that made me unsuccessful, the things that I wish I would have done.
It gave me an opportunity to kind of live through some of these kids, to kind of help them through the things I didn’t do. I feel like the profession kind of chose me, it was a natural progression when I finished playing.
Gates: For me, it was more so the coaches that poured into my life at a young age. They saw the leadership skills or traits that I had and they would always say, ‘You’re going to be a coach.’ I didn’t know what level I would be a coach at, but they always said, “You know you should be a coach.”
As I grew older and obviously through college was able to be in leadership roles, post-college I got right into coaching. The way I got into coaching was there was an injury I think after my fifth NBA workout that I tore ligaments in my ankle and I found myself amongst my friends in (Los Angeles) and I couldn’t work out so I would just rebound for them toward the end of the workouts. I didn’t know I was being watched at that time and lo and behold, Alvin Gentry and Dennis Johnson were watching and they gave me my first coaching opportunity as an intern/assistant coach for the L.A. Clippers.
I didn’t know what the position entailed, but it was a crossroads of should I coach now or should I pursue and wait for my basketball dreams to take place. I made a decision not to delay the inevitable, got right into coaching. It started off with small responsibilities and by that year I was doing some scouts, preparing the team and helping prepare the coaches for upcoming games.
Once that took place, I ended up being a graduate assistant for Tom Crean at Marquette and that’s where I transferred all my credits to Florida State and became a grad assistant with coach Ham.
What moment from your time at FSU are you all proudest of?
Jones: I’ll be Captain Obvious on this one. Probably the moment that was the most rewarding for me was when we won the ACC Championship (in 2012) when most people never thought Florida State would ever contend for an ACC Championship.
We had come close in 2009 and for that group, from where they started that season to the way they finished their season, running through basically our three biggest rivals with Miami in the quarterfinals, Duke in the semifinals and then (North Carolina) in the finals, to be able to do that with a pretty big Florida State contingent there to watch us and to see coach Hamilton cut those nets down with our players was a great sense of satisfaction, gratification for me, knowing where we started in 2002 when we came here with coach Hamilton.
Young: To me, it’s a tie between two situations. For me, obviously, the Elite Eight run was phenomenal just to get past that barrier as a coach. I had been to the Sweet 16 twice at Auburn and never been past that level. Getting to the Elite Eight and being 47 seconds from the Final Four, it was very, very gratifying to know we’re at a point now where we kind of have our eyes set bigger.
The thing that sticks out to me also being at Florida State was I got here six years ago and as the staff, when we put together the recruiting class of (Dwayne Bacon, Malik Beasley, Terance Mann and Christ Koumadje), as a staff, we all worked very hard as a team to put that class together. That class kind of really started the basketball revolution here. That class really changed our level of recruiting, our thought process and everything.
Gates: To piggyback on both, I think ACC Championship as well as the Elite Eight, obviously you want to be known as champions and leave a mark of success and winning a championship does that.
The other part of it is trying to make a run towards the National Championship. It’s probably the single most exciting moment, but also the most hurtful moment to lose how we lost, when we lost, to be so close. Those are the two that stand out.
I think the recruiting piece, what C.Y. is talking about, of course that changed everything. That’s the lifeline of every program and I think that climb to excitement, also that climb to hurt, that still leaves a pit in my stomach.
Jones: I would add to that by saying that people don’t realize the elation of getting into this field of 68 and the abruptness of when you’re not playing anymore if you don’t win the last game. It’s a wave of emotions that if you’re not a competitor and been in those locker rooms, fans can’t relate to it.
It’s the epitome of if you haven’t been in the selection show meeting with your kids and then being in the locker room like it was in Los Angeles or any year you lose your last game of the NCAA Tournament. It makes you stay hungry to try to get where you get that good taste in your mouth on the last game. That’s what we’re striving for.
Competing against the college basketball bluebloods, how do you sell top recruits on Florida State as their destination?
Young: I think for us, we’ve got to recruit differently. We’re proud of the way we recruit because we recruit off relationships. We view ourselves kind of like farmers. We have to plant our seeds way early and pray our crop harvests and a storm doesn’t come.
Bacon was an eighth grader here on this campus when FSU beat UNC really bad (in 2012). That’s how long we’d been recruiting Dwayne Bacon. Most human beings buy with their eyes. We kind of scavenger the earth to find great players that kind of buy with their hearts and we can build relationships.
For us, recruiting is huge because it’s a totally different relationship than some of the kids that go to the bluebloods because they’re going because of the glitz and glamour. They may not really have a relationship with (the coaching staff). I’m not saying they don’t do relationships, but most people, they fall in love with those situations and they go. For us, it takes a little bit more of a grind.
Jones: When we first got here with coach, it was totally evaluate, develop, strategize before you could win because you weren’t going to get the guys that we’ve been able to get here lately.
There were a lot of things that were holding us back, but we did have the one thing. Everybody in the country knows Florida State as a brand and that helps you at least get some conversation going that has developed some relationships later in the process since coach Hamilton has been here.
The biggest turnaround that has helped us is the administration here getting behind us, us being able to get the Tucker Center into an arena that we can be proud of, that we can show people, that looks good and that our students the last two or three years getting behind our team with the kind of kids we’ve had on campus and making it an atmosphere where kids can now look and see Florida State isn’t just a football school.
They come to a game now and they’re excited when we take them back in the locker room after a game, win or lose, because they saw a really good team play and compete against another really good team with a crowd that was very, very excited. If we can continue to build on that, I don’t see why we can’t continue to get to our ultimate goal.
Gates: The change of our Tucker Center from the Skittles seats to the NBA arena. Once Florida State purchased it, it allowed for us to feel and our recruits to feel like it was a home advantage.
If you had a kid on their third or fourth official visit at Florida State, you were not getting them because they were comparing what they saw at previous Power Five schools with a multi-purpose arena which was owned by the city of Tallahassee.
Young: When you’d bring a big-time player in and you see the mother (make a face), it’s not a good sign.
Gates: Jonathan Isaac was the first kid we showed the (renovated arena) to.
Young: And think about the great players that have been here. Now that we’ve gotten to a Top-10 program, some of the great players that have been here get slighted, but there have been some bad dudes come through here. Al Thornton, Toney Douglas, Michael Snaer, Tim Pickett. These are some bad dudes.
Jones: Alexander Johnson, Von Wafer. Kids that never saw the inside of the arena until they played in it.
Young: Bacon, Mann and Beasley never saw the inside (of the Tucker Center). When they came here to register for school, that was the first time they’d seen it.
Jones: Bacon had seen it during a game, but the game was so exciting that day it didn’t resonate with him.
Young: He didn’t see the locker room and all that.
Gates: When you have digital flat screens and you have the ribbon boards, it feels like an NBA arena. It feels like you can really compete now. I think when they’re all said and done with the entire project, I think there’s some other things they may want to change. Whenever that takes place, it’s going to continue to allow it to compare.
Jones: Gives you a wow factor.
Gates: Through all that, the one person that every recruit and family relates to is coach Hamilton. He’s been as resourceful and been able to do more with less than any coach in the country.
When you have a boss like that, through osmosis, it teaches us how to do more with less. It makes you in a more resourceful state of mind where your mind is always turning and just because you may not have anything doesn’t mean you can’t get it done.
That’s where the relationships that coach Young talked about in terms of you get kids here, you have a relationship with them. We know our kids, it’s not a surprise who they are and that’s what allows us to coach them as hard as we do.
No. 10 Florida State vs. Southeast Missouri
When: Monday, 7 p.m.
Where: Tucker Civic Center
TV/Radio: WatchESPN (Online)/103.1 FM