Florida Gulf Coast and Andy Enfield had one hell of a fling, but it’s over now. Enfield left FGCU for USC on Monday.
Don’t feel bad, Eagles. He had to go.
“Dunk City” was the story of this NCAA tournament, and it will always be what we remember from March 2013.
Illusions that it could continue were not all that delusional either. School on a beach. Uptempo pace. That could work.
And it still can. But if Enfield liked the Sweet 16 and wanted a chance to consistently get back, he had to go.
The only argument against his departure is that Butler's Brad Stevens, VCU's Shaka Smart and Wichita State's Gregg Marshall have started a trend in college basketball of saying "no thanks" when the big boys come calling.
All three coaches have great situations where they are paid well and have good facilities and great fan support. They also have job security that is not guaranteed at bigger schools, a luxury Enfield certainly had.
UCLA just fired Ben Howland after he won the Pac-12. Minnesota got rid of Tubby Smith after he won the school's first NCAA tournament game that counted since 1990.
One day they're courting you; the next they're sending security asking you to vacate the premises.
This is a risk for Enfield, but staying did not have much of a reward.
FGCU is not Butler, VCU or Wichita State. Those programs were successful and had been around long before Stevens, Smart and Marshall arrived. They are in bigger conferences that have television contracts. They have successful alumni who can throw some money in the pot when it is time to give each coach the "please don't go" extension.
FGCU is barely driving age. The basketball program has only been around for 11 years. A few boosters might pop up after this recent run, but Enfield's salary was $157,500.
Even with $15,000 in bonuses for his NCAA tourney run and some generous donations, FGCU could not come close to what USC was able to offer.
The only card FGCU had to play was loyalty.
Athletic director Ken Kavanagh told the Naples Daily News on Monday that he was hoping the team that Enfield had coming back would keep the coach at FGCU.
"Andy is someone who is very analytical and doesn't rush to judgment," Kavanagh said.
No team or group of players is going to be easy to leave behind. This was not rushing to judgment. The challenge was clear.
Enfield had to know that his chances of returning to the NCAA tournament each season would come down to one week in March at the Atlantic Sun conference tournament. The team that won the Atlantic Sun in the regular season this year, Mercer, did not get an invite to the NCAAs.
Unless the Eagles are able to win consistently against a strong nonconference schedule—and those games will be on the road—they will have to win their conference tourney to dance.
Enfield could have stayed and tried to build a consistent winner, but the possibility was there that this was a flash-in-the-pan run. The possibility was there that he would not get this opportunity again.
And USC is a good opportunity, partially because rival UCLA is not what it once was. Even if new head coach Steve Alford recruits well, there are plenty of players in California. Enfield has a brand of basketball that is easy to sell to recruits: What 18-year-old doesn’t want to play fast and dunk?
Florida Gulf Coast also has a good brand now. The school should be able to find another up-and-comer. And it shouldn’t feel like a scorned lover.
Enfield made the right call, and so did USC.
“Dunk City L.A.” has a nice ring to it.