TALLAHASSEE – Florida State’s head basketball coach, Leonard Hamilton, will be one of the honorees at Dick Vitale’s 13th annual gala to raise money in the fight against pediatric cancer this Friday. Hamilton’s immediate family has been devastated by this insidious disease, but what he has accomplished in its aftermath, reveals the true measure of the man.

Coach Leonard Hamilton has 527 wins in his head coaching career, 327 of those at Florida State, but it’s the losses in his life, and how he has dealt with them, that have made him the man he is today.

“My grandmother, my mother, father, and 2 brothers died after battles with cancer.”

In the wake of losing his parents, as a young man, he took drastic steps to ensure his siblings were in good hands. Well, drastic steps to some, but not to Hamilton.

“I was able to adopt my brother Willie, and he went to college. I was able to adopt my brother Barry, and he went to college”, said Hamilton with conviction. “I adopted my sister Pam, and she went to college, as well. My brother John was too old for me to adopt, but he went to college because I had gone to college. Now their kids are in college and getting their degrees.”

He has always impressed upon them the importance of not only taking advantage of the opportunities they were presented with, but creating their own opportunities.

“I wanted them to understand the importance of getting their degree, so they are able to put food on the table of their families, and have a better life”, Hamilton explains. “Statistics show that those who graduate college have more opportunities throughout their lives.”

His shaping and molding young lives did not stop there. It continues to this day. He is a basketball coach but basketball is just a portal to the grander scheme of things.

“In the absence of their parents, while they are in school, under our jurisdiction”, continues Hamilton. “I have a responsibility to give them every opportunity to be a success in life.”

Those 527 wins I mentioned earlier? That is not how Leonard Hamilton keeps score in his game of life.

“The most important thing we do is mentor young men”, continues Hamilton. “Obviously, in order to be successful, you have to win a certain amount of games, but I am more excited when I get invited to their weddings, asked to be a godfather to their kids. When they seek me out for advice because they know I care, and we have, not a 4 year relationship, but a 40 year relationship.”

“Having him in my life is amazing”, explains Braian Angola, a senior guard for the Seminoles. “I am so proud that I have made it to this point, and he is a huge part of why I am here. He is a special person, and I have no words to explain what he means to me. He is like my dad.”

The renowned Roman statesman, Seneca, once said, “It is a rough road that leads to the heights of greatness.” That statement can very easily be applied to Coach Leonard Hamilton.