Commentary | SCF makes people's choice by selecting Elliot Washington for men's hoops job

adell@bradenton.comJune 28, 2013 

Elliot Washington was the people's choice to take over the head men's basketball job at State College of Florida.

So excuse those who thought they saw people shouting from the rooftops Thursday when his hiring was announced.

Word came out in a 6 o'clock press release, a time usually reserved for doomed politicians.

That's how they are at SCF: a little sensitive, a little paranoid.

But they got it right this time, so they should be celebrating. It's time to put the past in the past.

It's time to look at a coaching hire and not see yellow caution flags. It's time to embrace the new man.

Washington will be the program's fourth coach in four years, and the merry-go-round should stop.

He grew up here, played at Southeast High and Manatee Community College and has strong roots. For SCF and the $10,500 stipend it was offering to coach the team, that's just as important as recruiting and the X's and O's.

They say point guards make good basketball coaches and quarterbacks make good offensive coordinators.

Washington was the point guard at Southeast for Clifford Rozier, the only Manatee County player ever selected in the first round of the NBA draft and an All-American at Louisville.

He was the starting point guard at Alabama along with five first-round NBA selections: Robert Horry, Latrell Sprewell, Roy Rogers, Jason Caffey and James Robinson.

Washington ran the show for legendary college coach Wimp Sanderson at Alabama.

"He told me not to shoot," Washington remembers with a smile.

Horry has seven NBA rings and, no disrespect to Ray Allen or Reggie Miller, but could be the greatest clutch shooter from long range in league history

"I am going to take bits and pieces of what I learned from them, but the main thing they had was an unbelievable love for the game and work ethic," Washington said. "I remember days at Alabama when we would practice for three hours, shower and eat dinner and then travel across town to play pickup games. A lot of people don't know how much time you need to put in to be a great player."

The dean of area basketball coaches, Washington will step down as Southeast head coach after 14 years.

In 2004, he took a Southeast team that had no right to be there to the Class 4A state final four. It was small without a lot athleticism or speed, but he got the Seminoles to play above their ceiling and knocked off powerhouse St. Petersburg Lakewood in the region final.

At SCF, he will face a multitude of problems, but Washington is the people's choice and that should help. His hiring has drawn high praise from Harry Kinnan, the best basketball coach in MCC history, and former head coach Chip Sines, who had a short, but successful run at MCC.

"Elliot is a wonderful choice. He knows the terrain," said Kinnan, who coached Washington for two years at MCC. "He was a very smart player. He understands local basketball and will do a great job of developing the high school pipeline that will get the programs in our area stronger.

"They needed to find someone who wanted to make a three-year commitment and is willing to build a program that will last a long time."

Washington was an assistant under Sines before he went to Southeast and was lauded for his recruiting, which is the backbone of any junior college basketball program.

"It's great. He deserves a shot. It's a tough situation being part time, but he proved to be very good recruiter for me. He knows how to do it," Sines said.

Coaching basketball at SCF is not for the timid. It's tough, especially with a part-time salary and a limited recruiting budget. You need someone who brings passion other than a desire to promote his individual career.

In Washington, SCF gets that. If he wanted to coach big-time college basketball, he could've done it a long time ago.

"I am excited about the opportunity to be back at my own school and have a chance to lead a program that I once had a lot of success with," Washington said. "I believe I am a well-connected guy and am going to use those resources to find great student-athletes. It's my hometown, and I am very proud of my area. We have a lot to offer kids who don't see the sun like we do. It's a great sale."

Alan Dell, Herald sports writer, can be reached at 941-745-7080, ext. 2112. Followhim on Twitter at@ADellSports.

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