Andy Enfield emerged from the Florida Gulf Coast locker room last Friday night on the way to his team's Sweet 16 game with Florida. The world was watching – big game, big stage. The Gators were loaded with superior talent and experience.
Yet the look on the face of the first coach to ever lead a 15 seed this deep in the NCAA tournament was not of awe or fear, not of nerves or even concentration or deep thought.
Nah, Andy Enfield wore a slight smile, a knowing grin. It was the look of cocksure confidence.
"Let's get a W," an assistant said, and Enfield nodded slightly, like he was quietly certain FGCU was about to shock the college basketball world again.
Six minutes into the game, FGCU led 15-4.
The Gators wound up wearing down Enfield's team, winning 62-50. But to watch the 43-year-old over the last few weeks was to see a coach of intrigue, one who carried himself a bit different than the others, one who employed a freestyle, up-tempo offense in an era of coach-every-dribble, grind-it-out play – a true underdog who thought he and his guys belonged.
Maybe this was a flash in the pan. Maybe this was the start of something big.
The University of Southern California is banking on the latter, tabbing Enfield Monday to be its basketball coach, hoping he can bring the magic of "Dunk City" to "Lob City" and reinvigorate the program.
Yes, the caution flags were everywhere for USC athletic director Pat Haden. Enfield has been a head coach for just two seasons. FGCU didn't even win its conference's regular-season title – it earned a bid winning the Atlantic Sun tournament. FGCU lost to 12-18 Lipscomb this year – twice.
Meanwhile, the Pennsylvania native has few recruiting ties in California. He has experience on an NBA staff and did six years as an assistant at Florida State. Among L.A.'s powerful – and complex – summer basketball circuit, he's an unknown.
Except for that style of play. Everyone in basketball knows how Enfield wants to play the game.
"Andy has been successful in every area of his life," Haden said. "He has a consistent and proven record of success for more than 15 years in college and the NBA. He is a noted shooting coach, he is a relentless recruiter and he has integrity and great character."
The truth is USC was out of obvious options. It tried Pitt's Jamie Dixon. It tried Memphis' Josh Pastner. It lobbed a call into Iowa State's Fred Hoiberg. It threw out lines to all sorts of people. It even interviewed UTEP's Tim Floyd, who resigned from the job in 2009.
The Trojans weren't getting a proven guy without any question marks to replace Kevin O'Neill, who was fired in midseason.
So Haden gambled on confidence, style and the potential for excitement. When you're trying to catch lightning in a bottle, that's a pretty solid bet to take.
Time will tell on Enfield but from the start he'll bring the proper attitude to L.A., where USC shouldn't have to apologize for believing it can have a strong basketball program.
Yes, this is traditionally a football school, but the budgetary commitments, the top-line facilities, the excellent academics and the location in the heart of all that local talent has always left the question: Why not?
Enfield isn't going there expecting anything else than outrageous success. That's how he's wired. He's the guy who talked a Maxim model into marrying him. The promising assistant who rolled the dice on a new Fort Myers, Fla., school with no name recognition that was just moving to Division I. He's the guy who walks into the Sweet 16 with a No. 15 seed taking on the mighty Gators and is 100 percent certain he's about to win.
The juxtaposition of this hire with UCLA picking up Steve Alford over the weekend is intriguing. Alford plays a slower tempo, runs a more dour operation and arrives after 14 seasons at Iowa and New Mexico with zero Sweet 16 appearances at those schools, though he did coach Missouri State to the regional semifinals in 1999. He's safe and sound. You know what he's bringing to the table. Yet, he still has plenty to prove also.
"I am looking forward to bringing an exciting, up-tempo style of play to USC," Enfield said in the release USC sent out announcing his hiring.
FGCU averaged 73.5 points a game this season. Alford's New Mexico team went for 67.3. Don’t think that quote was in the release by accident.
There is a ton of high school talent in Los Angeles, capable and eager to play Enfield's style. If he can mine that, this could be must-see wild. And in a city which doesn't apologize for valuing entertainment, at a program that must compete for ticket buyers with the Lakers and Clippers just a couple miles up the 110 Freeway, must-see wild might be a necessity.
No, Andy Enfield didn't fit everything on USC's initial checklist. No, he wasn't the first (or fourth) choice.
Here's guessing he walks into Tuesday's news conference, or next year's season opener, or that first trip to Pauley Pavilion, with the same look of expected success he did last Friday.
The man expects to win. Big. Always.
And for a program that's too often accepted second-citizen status in the city, that might be enough to make him the perfect fit.
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