Andy Enfield lifts USC to position of power, proving he's much more than #DunkCity
Coming off a Round of 32 run, the Trojans are No. 9 in the CBS Sports Preseason Top 25 (and one)
His first year resulted in a 12th-place finish in the 12-team Pac-12. Second year, same thing. So, no, Andy Enfield's move from Florida Gulf Coast to USC didn't get off to the greatest of starts -- at which point a bunch of predictable and shortsighted comments came from every corner of the internet.
More or less, it sounded like this ...
"This is why you don't hire a coach simply because he got hot in the NCAA Tournament and won a couple of games! This is what happens when you take somebody who has only coached two years at the low-major level and move him into a power conference! Congratulations, USC! You hired a coach because his wife is pretty and his team dunked a lot! You are getting what you deserve!"
"It was a lonely feeling those first two years," Enfield said earlier this week. "But I told our staff, 'I'll take the hit. Any criticism can fall on me.' ... And then they just stayed focused on the long term. And we just tried to stick to our plan."
The plan, of course, was a simple plan. 1) Play a fun style that's attractive to prospects. 2) Take advantage of the natural recruiting base Los Angeles provides. 3) Sign and enroll quality student-athletes. 4) Develop them. 5) And win.
Simple in concept. Not-so-simple to execute.
But it's impossible to argue Enfield hasn't executed it well.
Sure, he would've loved to have won immediately at USC. But the truth is the roster he inherited -- and these are my words, not his -- wasn't good enough to win immediately. So it took time. But now look: USC is coming off back-to-back NCAA Tournament appearances -- including last season's trip to the Round of 32 that featured a school-record 26 victories -- and ranked ninth in the Derryck Thornton and four-star freshman Charles O'Bannon Jr.. In other words, a third straight trip to the NCAA Tournament is likely -- largely because the top eight scorers are returning and being joined by former five-star prospect
Meantime, recruiting is going well too.
USC has the nation's No. 2 recruiting class set to sign in November, according to 247Sports' team rankings, and Marvin Bagley, the consensus No. 1 prospect in the Class of 2018, was on campus for a visit last month. USC is truly involved with the 6-foot-11 forward, I'm told. And it's even possible Bagley could graduate high school early, reclassify and play for the Trojans this season. To be clear, I'm not saying it's likely. I'm just saying it's possible. And, if it happens, USC would have to be under serious consideration to be college basketball's preseason No. 1 team.
Under consideration for a No. 1 ranking.
In college basketball.
Bottom line, this Enfield-to-USC thing is looking pretty great. The snide comments have disappeared. Nobody is questioning anything anymore. And now the truth is known: Andy Enfield, contrary to what many suggested, didn't get the USC job simply because of a surprising run to the Sweet 16. Or because #DunkCity became a thing. Or because his wife is a former model whose beauty helped the Florida Gulf Coast story of 2013 resonate in the blogosphere. Those tweeting as much were always selling him short. Because here's the truth: Andy Enfield got the USC job because those wins over Georgetown and San Diego State -- and everything that went along with them -- led people, including former USC athletic director Pat Haden, to take a closer look at his resume. And his resume always showed a man who had forever succeeded professionally at basically everything he had ever tried.
Did you really think USC would be where that trend changed?
I never did.
And it hasn't. So now USC basketball is operating at an unusually high level relative to normal historical standards. Andy Enfield, again, guided the Trojans to a school-record 26 wins last season. But the best, it seems, is still yet to come.
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