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Interview with former FSU basketball coach Pat Kennedy

Pat Kennedy’s coaching career took him all over the country. From Pennsylvania to New York to Tallahassee to Chicago to Montana to Baltimore and then back to New York.

The best moments of that career, by far, took place in Tallahassee, where Kennedy led the Florida State men’s basketball team to five NCAA Tournaments — including two Sweet 16s — in his 11 years at school.

And now, after 25 years away, Kennedy is coming back to the Big Bend.

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The former FSU coach has agreed to be the basketball coach and athletic director at the Jefferson County K-12 school in Monticello. And at 70 years old, he is returning to the sidelines for the first time since 2015.

No. He’s not going to be coaching in front of thousands of people. Or on national television. But he’s genuinely excited to be returning to coaching after being “semi-retired” for the last seven years.

“I’m rejoining Jackie Pons, who is the principal there,” Kennedy said from his home in New York. “He was with me at Florida State when I took the Florida State job. … He and I have stayed in touch over the years, and he told me he was taking over a new high school, and we talked about any opportunities there .

“And when the idea of ​​the athletic director as well as basketball coach came along I said, ‘Man, this would be great for me.’ So, we started chit-chatting and it worked out.

Kennedy sounds genuinely excited about getting the opportunity to coach again.

But he also seems equally excited about returning to Tallahassee and being in the FSU community once again.

He took the Seminoles’ head coaching job in 1986 and left in 1997 to coach at DePaul.

While he was in Tallahassee, FSU’s program had its best sustained stretch in its history until the second half of the Leonard Hamilton Era.

From 1988 to 1993, the Seminoles made the NCAA Tournament five times in six years, highlighted by the 1993 team’s run to the Elite Eight.

Two of the players from that squad — Bob Sura and Sam Cassell — have their numbers hanging in the rafters at the Civic Center. And the starting point guard on that team has a Heisman Trophy in the Moore Athletics Center.

“Florida State is who I am,” Kennedy said. “I go through the airport and I still get people that come up and grab me and say, ‘Boy, remember that first team you had with Pee Wee Barber and Randy Allen? I loved those guys.’

“We had just a great, great run.”

Kennedy led the transition from the Metro Conference to the ACC during his tenure at FSU and famously won the first ACC game he ever coached in — which happened to be in Chapel Hill against the heavily favored North Carolina Tar Heels.

Afterward, Cassell referred to the environment as a, “wine-and-cheese crowd.”

Kennedy discussed his recruitment of Cassell, Sura and Ward during an extensive video interview with Warchant.com. He also ranked the toughest player he ever had to coach against during his time at FSU: Here’s a hint, he went to Duke.

But even though it’s been a quarter-century since Kennedy left, he always remained fond of the garnet and gold. And he’s been a longtime supporter of Hamilton.

“I’ve seen a ton of Leonard’s (games),” Kennedy said. “I told a lot of the boosters when he was hired that I was very excited about Leonard. He’s perfect for the job. He can recruit, he knows the Southeast, he’s a hard-minded defensive and rebounding coach. Probably more so than I was. I was a little more on the offensive side.”

And now that he’ll be back in Tallahassee, Kennedy hopes to be back in the Tucker Center watching the Seminoles in person.

“”Every time they suit up, I would love to be there cheering them on,” Kennedy said. “I told somebody the other day, I watch every single Florida State football game. If I couldn’t see it on TV, I would listen to Gene Deckerhoff. I don’t think I’ve missed one probably in the 25 years I’ve been away. I love FSU football.

“I’m going to try to sneak over to practice anytime Leonard will let me come in there. And certainly be courtside with our buddies and watch as many games as we can.”

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