National Columnist

Enfield lacks charm of great coaches, but can still make USC great


Andy Enfield is not a schmoozer or a charmer. Fans at Southern California need to understand that right now, because when they see him for the first time in USC gear and listen to what he says and how he says it, they're going to be blown away. And not in a great way.

This is the guy who made history at FGCU? Him?

Yes, him. And I'm not saying any of this to be mean. To the contrary, I'll soon give Andy Enfield some enormous compliments. But first, here's one for USC athletics director Pat Haden, who didn't like what I wrote about him last month -- I got sources, people -- but who will love this next sentence:

More on college hoops coaches
Related links
More college hoops coverage

With fewer resources and less history and pull, Pat Haden just made a better hire than UCLA.

Well, he did. No need to crush Steve Alford, because he wasn't a bad hire for UCLA -- but that wasn't a gamble on greatness. UCLA hiring Steve Alford is like a professional golfer shooting a 72.

Nice round. Didn't hurt yourself. You'll finish ahead of most people at 72, but you're not going to win big. Not by shooting par. And Steve Alford was a par hire by UCLA. He'll win at UCLA because anything else is almost impossible there, and Steve Alford is no idiot. He'll win. How much? Enough to make the cut. Not enough to win the championship.

Andy Enfield, though, is a whole other matter. He's a risk, first of all. He's not a sure thing. If Steve Alford is the plugging pro -- I'm thinking Mike Weir -- who's going to hit most fairways and greens, two-putt most holes and end the day near 72, Enfield is more of a Dustin Johnson. He's going to hit the ball a long way, and while there's a chance he's going to hit balls out of bounds and shoot a 79 and miss the cut, there's also a chance he'll turn that rocket-launcher into a 64.

Now then, back to what I was saying earlier about Enfield and his personality, or lack thereof. He's not like most college basketball coaches. He is, in some ways, a disappointment when it comes to charm. And again, I'm going to compliment him soon in a way that Enfield and Haden and USC fans are going to love, but before I say what he is, I need to say what he isn't:

He isn't Shaka Smart or Brad Stevens or Buzz Williams. He damn sure isn't John Calipari or Bill Self or Mike Krzyzewski or Roy Williams. Andy Enfield isn't going to blow you away through sheer force of personality like most -- not all, but most -- great college basketball coaches do.

This is a job for salesmen as much as tacticians. Recruiting is the thing for most guys, amassing more talent than whoever it is you're going to play, and to recruit at a high level you have to be able to talk and schmooze and charm at a high level. Most great coaches -- most miracle workers, like Shaka and Stevens and Sean Miller -- can do that.

I suspected Andy Enfield was that kind of a cat himself, based on the miracles he had performed at FGCU. That wasn't just a No. 15 seed that became the first 15-seed to reach the Sweet 16. That's a school that didn't exist before 1997. It's a basketball program that didn't have full Division I standing before last season. And it's the team that demolished -- didn't squeak past, but demolished -- second-seeded Georgetown and then seventh-seeded San Diego State.

To do that, to be that guy at that school, I suspected Enfield was a charmer extraordinaire. You've seen his picture. You've seen his ex-model wife's picture. To do that, he has to be the best salesman on Earth. Right?

That's what I was thinking before the South Region at Arlington, Texas, where FGCU was playing and I was working. Let me tell you, I was giddy about getting my first look at Enfield. I was ready to be won over, charmed. I was ready to sigh and swoon, and then he sat down behind the podium on Thursday and started talking and I was thinking what lots of USC fans will be thinking soon.

This is the guy who made history at FGCU? Him?

Yeah. This is the guy. Because Andy Enfield kept talking, and I saw what he was. He's earnest. He's honest. He's decent. He's nice. He's a lot of things you hope for in a next-door neighbor, if not a big-time college basketball coach, but these guys aren't cut from a one-size-fits-all cloth. Most of the best are charmers and sellers, impossible-to-dislike men -- if you sit down and actually listen to them -- like Rick Pitino and Thad Matta and Frank Martin. And Chris Mack and Mick Cronin and Andy Kennedy and Mark Few.

But some are like Enfield. Herb Sendek at Arizona State is like that. Dana Altman at Oregon. John Beilein at Michigan. I'm not talking about socially awkward men, but if they worked at a car lot they wouldn't lead the sales force in commissions.

So how do they do it? How, specifically, does Andy Enfield do it? He coaches. He develops talent. He gets his players to love him because he's just so damned decent, and they express their love by doing exactly what he says and by doing it as hard as they possibly can.

Some things about Enfield, those things, I was able to pick up right away. Others, like what I'm about to say, are more hunches -- the same hunches Pat Haden made, because at this point a hunch is all any of us, including Haden, have to go on. Enfield has been a head coach for just two seasons. One of those seasons, his first at FGCU, he was 15-17. The second season was the one we all saw, when FGCU went 26-11 and reached the Sweet 16.

How did he do it? My hunch is this: The man is a skill-development savant.

The players at FGCU were low-level recruits, not three-star recruits or two-star recruits but zero-star recruits. In most cases they were too small or slow or unskilled to go anywhere, basically, but FGCU. They were chicken slop Enfield turned into chicken salad, but that's what he has always done. That's his gift.

It's how he turned himself into a 2,000-point scorer at Johns Hopkins University and the all-time best foul shooter in any division, men's or women's, at 92.5 percent. You know how Florida State all of a sudden became an NCAA tournament mainstay in Leonard Hamilton's seventh year there? He hired Enfield in 2006. The Seminoles, always physically ferocious, suddenly developed skill. Enfield did that.

Before that Enfield was a shooting coach in the NBA. That started when he was attending graduate school at Maryland in the early 1990s and sold himself as a shooting coach to Walt Williams, though not with words. He sold Williams with deeds. Williams was at Cole Field House one offseason early in his NBA career, just shooting around, when Enfield entered the gym and proceeded to knock down 28 of 30 shots from 3-point range. Williams noticed. Enfield walked to the other end, introduced himself, said he was a shooting coach.

Williams hired him, and what do you know? After shooting less than 31 percent on 3-pointers through two seasons in the NBA, Williams became a nearly 40-percent shooter the rest of the way, earning invitations into the NBA All-Star weekend 3-point shooting contest and finishing among the top 100 in league history in 3-point buckets and percentage.

Enfield did that. He does that. Alonzo Mourning swears by Enfield, who worked with the big man late in Mourning's NBA career. FGCU athletics director Ken Kavanagh told me last week that he hired Enfield in part because of an endorsement from Mourning, who told Kavanagh, "My only regret is I didn't work with him earlier in my career."

Players come to Andy Enfield, and players get better. And if it happens at USC, if this gamble on greatness pays off -- which I suspect it will -- Andy Enfield will be the most charming basketball coach USC has ever had.

Because I don't care who you are -- greatness is charismatic.

Gregg Doyel is a columnist for He covered the ACC for the Charlotte Observer, the Marlins for the Miami Herald, and Brooksville (Fla.) Hernando for the Tampa Tribune. He was 4-0 (3 KO's!) as an amateur boxer, and volunteers for the ALS Association. Follow Gregg Doyel on Twitter.

Biggest Stories

CBSSports Facebook Google Plus
Conversation powered by Livefyre


Most Popular

CBSSports Shop

Men's Nike White Villanova Wildcats 2016 NCAA Men's Basketball National Champions Locker Room T-Shirt

Villanova Wildcats 2016 National Champs
Get the Locker Room Gear!
Shop Now


Select any two teams to simulate their tournament matchup