Andy Enfield knows the buzzwords that get players and fans excited.
Enfield told Jay Leno—yeah, the guy was on the Tonight Show—that he wants to bring the Showtime back to Los Angeles. That would be Showtime, as in Magic Johnson’s Showtime. Los Angeles is now listening.
Before anyone knew about Florida Gulf Coast, I talked to Enfield prior to the NCAA tournament. I expected to talk to a coach who was just happy to be there, who had a gee shucks this is neat attitude.
Instead, Enfield was incredibly confident in his team. He was convinced Georgetown would have to play Florida Gulf Coast’s way.
“We’re going to use our speed and our athleticism kind of like a Tyson Chandler mode,” he said. “We’re looking to run our style and we’re not going to change. This is who we are. We’re built for an up-tempo style of play.”
That’s quite the recruiting pitch. So is this.
"Do recruits want to go somewhere and play a slowdown style?” Enfield asked in the Los Angeles Times. “Or do they want to enjoy themselves and win?"
Enfield has their attention.
Anyone critical of the Enfield hire by USC athletic director Pat Haden has a justifiable argument. This is a man who has been a head coach for only two seasons. This is a coach who didn’t even win the Atlantic Sun regular season conference title.
But this is also a man who took a school that no one had ever heard of to the NCAA tournament in only the second year the school was eligible. This is a man who convinced a supermodel to marry him. That kind of confidence can make up for a lack of experience. That kind of confidence—or swag, as the kids know it—is what players want to be around.
Enfield and “Dunk City” oozed swag.
These experiments—team catches lightning in a bottle and coach gets rewarded with job at a big school—have failed before. Sometimes coaches with a gimmicky style at a small school believe they have to abandon that style once they get to a big school.
Can Enfield really bring Showtime to USC? Or will “Dunk City” fizzle into something entirely different?
The Personnel isn’t There Yet
Enfield’s first season at Southern Cal is important because he’s still a story. He has our attention and we want more dunks. We want more highlights.
But unfortunately for Enfield, the pieces aren’t really there. Southern Cal had an athletic seven-footer who could have gone all Tyson Chandler mode on the Pac-12, but that guy, Dewayne Dedmon, decided to declare for the draft.
The most experienced big man for USC is Omar Oraby, a 7”2”, 270-pound center who isn’t exactly a gazelle running up and down the court. Oraby’s game is geared for the half-court and playing with his back to the basket.
At FGCU, Enfield had the perfect point guard to push the pace and throw oops in Brett Comer, who averaged 6.6 assists per game.
Currently, USC doesn’t have the best of options to replace point guard Jio Fontan, but help could be on the way in Maryland transfer Pe’Shon Howard, who planned to visit USC in April according to Josh Gershon of Fox Sports. Howard always put up good assist numbers in three seasons at Maryland and he will try to petition the NCAA to play right away.
Here’s the promising part of the roster that Enfield inherits: The Trojans’ best returning players are at the two and three spots. Guard J.T. Terrell is the leading returning scorer and could be USC’s version of Sherwood Brown, who led FGCU in scoring. Byron Wesley is a 6’5” guard who started as both a freshman and sophomore. Incoming freshman Roschon Prince, a 6’5” wing, is a top-100 recruit.
The rest will be a project, at least in Year One.
The small sample size at FGCU says that Enfield is up to the task. One of the most impressive makeovers Enfield made at FGCU was turning Chase Fieler from a three-point shooting wing into one of his dunkers who also got plenty of opportunities to still shoot the three.
That could be 6’7” forward Ari Stewart, who played only 10.9 minutes per game in 18 games as a junior. Stewart shot 46 of his 74 field goal attempts from deep. The athleticism and height is there to be something different. Stewart was a contributor in his first two seasons at Wake Forest and was the No. 43-ranked recruit by Scout.com in 2009.
Maybe Enfield goes small so he can play fast. Maybe there are other guys who warmed the bench who will fit his style. Or maybe it’ll take a year or two to get the players he needs.
Setting up for the Future
Enfield has spent just over a month on the job and he’s already winning.
The luxury of coaching in Los Angeles is that California is filled with talent. Enfield already has the hip style to play, but he needed a staff that was familiar with the area.
So Enfield went out and hired two assistant coaches from Los Angeles known as good recruiters: Tony Bland and Jason Hart.
Hiring Bland as his associate head coach away from San Diego State immediately got those in the know in college basketball’s attention.
Hart is another young assistant with built-in recruiting ties. He played at Syracuse and returned to Los Angeles after his professional career, starting his coaching career on the AAU circuit before coaching one season at Taft High School in Woodland Hills, Calif. Hart spent this past season as an assistant at Pepperdine.
With the staff to find the players, Enfield can settle on a role as a closer, and he talks a great game. This is the type of business-centric approach he brings to the table (via ESPN.com):
At FGCU, no one knew who we were or what the letters stood for. It was like a marketing strategy. How do we put our name out there? What are we going to be known for? So we went with an up-tempo style, a fun style of play. We're trying to do something similar at USC. The huge advantage here is the national name recognition. We just have to create a brand for USC basketball.
It may take a few years to get it going, but USC should be willing to wait. The Trojans have been to two Sweet 16s since 1961. Enfield took a 16-year-old school to the Sweet 16 in his second year.
Enfield, whether he was putting on a shooting demonstration or showing around a supermodel, has always entertained and succeeded.
The promise made him a good hire. Now we’ll have to wait and see if what he’s promising—Showtime—will really come to be.