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April 1, 2013

Run, gun and have fun

On this first day of April, USC basketball did not get fooled. AD Pat Haden and sidekick, Senior Associate AD Steve Lopes got their man.

No waiting until the Final Four is finished.

Andy Enfield is the uptempo, and up-and-coming, coach USC basketball needs right now. The second-year sensation, whose Florida Gulf Coast Eagles were the story of the NCAA tournament with their high-flying wins over Georgetown and San Diego State to reach the Sweet 16, was going to be moving up and USC was there to take the trip with him.

Good for Haden here. He had the guts to go for it and go for a coach who coaches his players to go for it. That's not the way it is with many of the control-freak, risk-averse millionaires who rule college basketball these days. Did you catch Marquette's 39 points in a Sweet 16 game against Syracuse?

Sure, Enfield was a little late arriving on USC's radar with Haden asking people last week what they thought of him. But that didn't keep USC from acting on what they found out.

And sure, USC might have had to beat out only Minnesota for Enfield but they did what they had to do. Upwardly mobile coach matched up with an equally upwardly mobile -- USC hopes -- program with a six-year deal to get it done.

Although Year 1 could be interesting. Looking at USC's returning players, and not knowing how Dewayne Dedmon's Spokane legal situation will play out, here's how that could go.

There may not be a more favorable coach for the 7-foot Dedmon to come back and play for. Where better for an athlete who can run the floor, catch the ball, dribble and dunk it but without any clue how or when to, much less any opportunity to do any of that the last two seasons, than the newly relocated West Coast "Dunk City."

Then there's the trio of open-floor, athletic players like J.T. Terrell, Byron Wesley and Ari Stewart, who will benefit from Enfield's style, as well. We're figuring Omar Oraby, all 7-foot-2 of him, with more speed and better hands than he was ever allowed to show, would do well whatever way they play. Enfield just seems tp give him a reason to stay.

So we're thinking USC can turn what seemed to have been a bit of an early setback into an opportunity when the Pittsburgh-based search firm targeting the Pittsburgh coach with a Pittsburgh buddie heading the search and then having him turn down USC to stay in Pittsburgh with a sweet 10-year deal. Losing time here might have been a good thing because it gave the Trojans more time to consider the 43-year-old Enfield.

And as much as we think experience matters, we really like Enfield's NBA background, where he used his 2000-point Johns Hopkins career as a background for teaching shooting for a coach like Rick Pitino with the Boston Celtics.

We like even better his 92.5 percent career free throw shooting record, best in NCAA Div. III history. We also like his role as a big-time recruiter for Leonard Hamilton at Florida State as he battled the ACC big guys for five years producing 11 Top 100 recruits for this year's FSU team.

We like the way he scrambled to put together the Florida Gulf COast team with transfers and walk-ons (sound familiar?) and had a team that just kept playing better as the season rolled on.

If it came down to Enfield and Wichita State's Gregg Marshall, this is the way it probably had to go with Marshall still alive heading to the Final Four with a bunch of players he'd probably like to coach again next year.

So Enfield is the guy. And he's a bargain. Even with the big raise from $157,000 a year to over a million, he'll pull down a lot less than USC was paying Kevin O'Neill -- or Monte Kiffin.

Our guess here is that Enfield, an interesting, entrepreunerial sort with a business background in several areas and startup experience, aced the interview. That's how it goes when younger coaches without the standard resume get a high-profile job. which based on the early coverage of Enfield's hiring, it must be.

Then there's this and it's something we can't ignore. For now, this week, the hiring of Enfield will create a lot more buzz, and has done so already, than UCLA's naming of Steve Alford, who comes in making way more money than Enfield and Ben Howland, the man he's replacing, with a much thinner resume than Howland's.

And then there's this. Alford's hire, two days after the press conference announcing his new 10-year deal to stay at New Mexico, hasn't gotten much positive pub. And now with Alford's actions at Iowa in a star player's sexual assault on a fellow student drawing criticism, it makes USC's hiring even better.

And that's never a bad place for USC to be here.

Dan Weber covers the Trojans program for USCFootball.com. You can reach him at weber@uscfootball.com.



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