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ncaa hartford notebook Florida State rallies around Cofer

March 23, 2019

HARTFORD — Florida State forward Phil Cofer learned of his father’s death late Thursday afternoon, after his team completed a victory over Vermont in the NCAA Tournament at the XL Center.

Cofer broke down in the locker room upon hearing the news about Mike Cofer, who passed away after a long illness. After a late-night meeting with teammates, Cofer and his family decided he should remain with the team.

Florida State plays Murray State Saturday night.

“It was very difficult for him and his teammates,” Florida State coach Leonard Hamilton said. “Our heart goes out to the Cofer family. They have been unbelievable Seminoles. We’ll be there for Phil in every way possible. We have a culture of our basketball team, I think, that’s healthy and we’re going to do everything we can to minimize the effect. But you don’t ever really know how challenging going through that experience would be on the individual.”

Cofer was not at the XL Center Friday. He did not play Thursday night because of an injury and his status for Saturday’s game is uncertain.

Mike Cofer spent 10 years in the NFL as linebacker with the Detroit Lions, making the Pro Bowl in 1988.

He was diagnosed with amyloidosis — an incurable disease that produces abnormal proteins in the organs — in 2007. Cofer was 58.

“Tremendous amount of character, loved and respected by everyone,” Hamilton said. “Not only the guys who played with him, teammates, but anybody who’s ever been around him after his playing career was over. He is a guy who had to endure an unbelievably challenging debilitating disease that mentally and emotionally was draining in itself, but the physical toll it took on his body is beyond anything that you possibly could explain. And he never complained. ... And Phil’s attitude has been as good as anyone that I’ve ever coached in my whole coaching career. He’s always positive. He’s always energetic. He’s a fun guy to be around, a great teammate. He’s a guy that uplifted other guys on the team when they were down. He’s had to deal with a lot of injuries himself during his coaching career.”

Talk of the Tournament

Murray State’s Ja Morant was scintillating Thursday night, posting the first triple-double in the NCAA Tournament since Michigan State’s Draymond Green in 2012.

Now Florida State is tasked with stopping him. Hamilton’s opinion of the sophomore point guard?

“What I notice is he’s one of the most exceptional players that I’ve had a chance to watch play,” Hamilton said. “He’s kind of a throwback to guys who have the ability to score points. But also has the passion and the excitement about creating opportunities for his teammates, guys like a Nate Archibald who can lead the NBA in scoring and lead in assists at the same time. A guy like Magic Johnson, who got so much joy making the game easy for his teammates. Even a player like Muggsy Bogues, who has an uncanny way of making things easy for his opponents”

On second thought …

A scheduling snafu left the XL Center nearly empty for the start of the Villanova-St. Mary’s game Thursday night. There was not enough time to clear out the XL Center after the afternoon session and open the doors for the night session, so fans arrived late.

After the game, Villanova coach Jay Wright lamented the lack of buzz for an NCAA Tournament game. “It’s bizarre,” he said.

On Friday, Wright said he felt bad about saying what he said after hearing an explanation.

“Everybody in the building’s been awesome,” Wright said. “The building’s been great. We have great locker rooms. Everyone treats us great. Everything’s set up. I just meant it was just shocking to the players who have not been in an NCAA Tournament, when you tell them how special it is. I know it was because of TV and the NCAA, but I didn’t mean to say anything bad about the people of the building. It’s not their fault.”

paul.doyle

@hearstmediact.com; @pauldoyle1