The NCAA basketball tournament always seems to produce more than its fair share of stories and Florida State's involvement in The Big Dance on the men's side certainly fills that bill. During this first week of the tournament, we thought it could be interesting to take a brief insider's look at FSU's appearances since 1987...
Associate AD Rob Wilson shares his memories from the Florida State Seminoles NCAA Tournament runs.
My first association with the NCAA and FSU came in 1988 when Pat Kennedy's second Seminole team was selected for the Tournament field for the first time in seven years and the fifth time in school history. As background, Florida State played in the 1968 NCAA's losing in the first round to East Tennessee State. Our trip in the 1972 NCAA Tournament should be familiar to everyone as we just had a reunion of that National Championship runner-up team that accomplished so much. We lost in the first round of the NCAA in 1978 to Kentucky and were eliminated by the Wildcats again, but this time in the second round.
Dawn the Pat Kennedy coaching era. We must remember these were different times and our staff at that time might have been known for making sure we took full advantage of all the activities an away venue might have to offer. So when FSU was announced with Los Angeles as the site, the Moore Center was up for grabs.
The first round matchup against Iowa looked problematic on paper and proved to be just that for our wet-behind-the-ears Seminoles in vaunted Pauley Pavilion. B.J. Armstong, who would go on to a successful NBA career with Michael Jordan and the Bulls, was a relative nobody at point guard for the Hawkeyes who looked at one point like they were going to run us out of the gym.
Down big early in the second half, the Seminoles mounted a ferocious comeback that electrified the arena. Bucket after bucket starting falling for us, but as I looked down the bench during the bedlam I noticed Kennedy sitting quietly on the bench. Now, Kennedy talked about being a catcher in his youth and would almost always assume that squat when he wasn't berating an official - I mean encouraging his team. He NEVER sat down and in fact there was not ever even a seat left for him on the bench.
As we are racing up and down the court making play after play, I looked down the scorer's table trying to catch the eye of then trainer Kent Knisley who just shakes his head and gives me a throat slash motion. "Throat slash sign?" I think. 'Four minutes left in a tie game with all the west coach press you could muster and I get a throat slash sign?'
I race to the huddle during the next time out and am told not to worry but - "Pat is paralyzed" by an assistant coach doing all he can to stifle a laugh.
Fortunately, a head coach sitting on the bench albeit with a very weird expression on his face is not that unusual to national television and radio announcers, but FSU's radio crew of Gene Deckerhoff and Wayne Hogan were waving at me like Harry Potter's crew trying to catch a train.
"What the heck is up with Pat sitting down," they screamed.
"Not to worry," I said. "He's just can't feel his legs." A line I enjoyed delivering as much as one could hope.
For fans who attended FSU hoops games during those days, you might remember that Kennedy used to stomp hard on the court to get his players attention. We would find out later that he did that in the Iowa game and the force was so strong that he temporarily did lose feeling in the his legs.
So to cut the chase - FSU loses a heart-breaker to Iowa and I've got to go before a huge media throng and "down play" the fact that our coach couldn't make the obligatory postgame interview session because he was laying prone in the middle of our locker room convinced he was dying.
The end of that story is that the administrator in charge of the trip for FSU was furious by the time he reached the hotel because of the challenges of moving Kennedy and the team separately in LA rush hour traffic, yadda, yadda, yadda. And he demanded that we all be on the very first flight going east from L.A. the next morning. A front row table at the Comedy Club set up by none other than Burt Reynolds and an insider tour of Hollywood evaporated for a few of us in those frustrating few minutes. Oh well, there would be more.