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Andy Enfield risky choice for USC, but it’s worth the gamble

Apr 2, 2013, 10:12 AM EDT

Andy Enfield

Andy Enfield got hired by USC because he won two games in the NCAA tournament as a No. 15 seed.

There’s no disputing that.

If Georgetown had beaten Florida Gulf Coast, or if Dunk City had gotten slotted in Duke’s region instead of the Hoyas, Enfield would still be at Florida Gulf Coast. No one would know just how beautiful the school’s campus is. No one would have seen how much fun Enfield’s free-wheeling, up-tempo style of basketball is. No one would care about Enfield’s past employment on Wall Street or in the NBA.

Hell, no one would even know Enfield’s name. FGCU would simply be that team where the coach married a Maxim model, and even that would have been old news by now. Three weeks is an eternity in internet time.

But this happened. And this, too. And now Enfield is heading off to LA, where he’ll be adding another digit to his salary and moving from the Atlantic Sun to the Pac-12.

So yes, Enfield got a head coaching gig in the Pac-12 because he won two games in the NCAA tournament as a No. 15 seed. But before you go crushing this hire, there are two points that need to be made:

1) Enfield isn’t just a flash in the pan. He’s been at the NBA level. He owned his own company as a shot doctor. He was a shooting coach with the Milwaukee Bucks and a member of Rick Pitino’s staff in Boston. He has NBA connections. He was also an assistant coach at Florida State, which means he’s got experience recruiting to the high-major level.

Perhaps the most important thing to note here is that FGCU became a full-fledged Division I member on August 11, 2011. Within 15 months, Enfield had beaten Miami. Within 19 months, he had not only made the NCAA tournament, but he had reached the Sweet 16. Do you realize how difficult it is to start a program at the Division I level?

2) Enfield’s brand of basketball is fun. It’s fun to watch and it’s fun to play. And when you’re competing against the Lakers, the Clippers (Lob City) and UCLA for fans — both in the seats and eyeballs on TV — in a town like LA, where sports aren’t exactly a priority, you need something that will attract fans.

And recruits. Kahlil Dukes, a USC commit from Connecticut, is excited about Enfield’s arrival. I’m sure that there are some local kids that will enjoy Enfield’s style of play, as well, particularly when you consider that Steve Alford, who is Ben Howland 2.0, is coaching across town.

Is this hire a risk?

Of course it is.

Enfield’s hasn’t proven he can have sustained success. He doesn’t have any west coast connections. He finished second in the Atlantic Sun in the regular season. The last time that a hire like this was made, Providence canned Keno Davis in three years.

But I still like the move, especially when you consider that the job had already been turned down by the likes of Josh Pastner and Jamie Dixon. USC actually interviewed Tim Floyd; it’s not like they picked Enfield over Shaka Smart or Brad Stevens.

Enfield might be gone in three years. He may never get USC into the NCAA tournament. This hire could end up being a complete bust.

Then again, how did the Kevin O’Neill era work out?

USC isn’t a basketball powerhouse. They can afford a high-upside, risky hire.

Why not swing for the fences?

You can find Rob on twitter @RobDauster.

  1. tomtravis76 - Apr 2, 2013 at 11:07 AM

    You have to take some little things into account,, his assistant Kevin Norris. “Stink”, is a Baltimore basketball legend, he was a top performer in the big east for Miami during his college days. I am sure the John Hopkins grad will be smart enough to take Norris with him. And with USC now to offer, he could get some mid atlantic kids out to southern cal.

  2. going4iton4th - Apr 2, 2013 at 12:40 PM

    I think it’s worth the roll of the dice for the Trojans. Shaka Smart or Stevens probably would have been better but considering they were never a possibility Enfield is worth a shot. He’ll play a fun uptempo style and hopefully win over the kids that are leaving the state of California.

  3. arrogantnation - Apr 2, 2013 at 1:59 PM

    The move will infuse some much needed energy into the program.

  4. asimonetti88 - Apr 2, 2013 at 2:46 PM

    Like you said, it’s not like USC is a coaching destination. That said, there is a lot of potential for USC to grow as a basketball program. They have a really nice facility in the Galen Center, they are in a place that it’s easy to recruit to, they are in a place that is a hotbed for talent, and there is a lot of name recognition (even if it is more for football). I think Enfield will do well and he definitely brings a lot of excitement to the program that has been lacking for a while. As a Trojans fan, I’m happy with the hire.

  5. 1historian - Apr 3, 2013 at 2:14 PM

    In basketball UCLA rules.

    In football USC rules.

    So it was, so it is, so it shall be.

    • leothelyon - Apr 3, 2013 at 7:06 PM

      Isn’t it possible that a few talented basketball player ended up at FGCU and that’s why they were a success? That coach, every time they interviewed him, looked so flabbergasted, likely because he still couldn’t believe how far they’ve gotten.

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