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April 3, 2013
Hitting re-set for hoops
They did good -- and they knew it.
Pat Haden and Steve Lopes, well, they didn't stop smiling Wednesday. This has gone well -- very well.
Then of course, neither did Amanda Marcum and husband, Andy Enfield.
"A dream come true," Enfield said. A lifelong dream. Not to end up at USC, necessarily, where he signed a six-year contract at more than a million dollars a year.
But that's how it worked out. With his brother living in LA for 15 years, he remembers driving by the campus and saying to himself, "Wow, what a great place."
Today, he was getting a chance to check it out for himself, starting with meetings with the current staff of interim coach Bob Cantu and then the players, whom he starts working with next Tuesday on his return from the Final Four, where he's lined up interviews for his USC staff.
"We want to re-set the basketball culture at USC as of today." -- Pat Haden
So this was where the youngster from Shippensburg, Pa., sitting with his dad, a ninth-grade coach and teacher and "watching ACC and Big East basketball," he said, dreamed that he could be.
And now he's living out that dream. "I still can't believe it," But then this is what he left the life of a successful young Manhattan entrepreneur and consultant for an assistant coaching job in Tallahassee, Fla.
And what his wife, an international model of some acclaim, left Paris, Rome and Milan for the Florida Panhandle and the life of a coach's wife with three young children now. But never leaving her role as a big-time college sports -- and Oklahoma State fan -- all her life. She's a bigger college football fan than even her husband, he says, after describing himself as the biggest fan in America.
Any doubts about her sports cred, Enfield said, can be dispelled by these facts: They met on the way to a Boston Celtics game and their first date took them to a St. John's NIT game.
"Looking at his wife, we know Andy has an eye for talent and is a fantastic recruiter." -- Pat Haden
The Founders Room at Galen Center was alive with a noontime buzz that has resulted in tons of phone calls to USC athletics, Haden said. And sure, he admitted like almost everybody else, he didn't know who Andy Enfield was before the NCAA tournament started.
But here's where Haden and senior associate AD Lopes, his leg man, deserve credit. They didn't let that scare them off, the criticism that Enfield is two wins away from anonymity and no chance to get the USC job.
Sure, that's true. But Enfield's Florida Gulf Coast University team did win those two games -- won them going away scoring 159 points on Georgetown and San Diego State. Won over the nation's basketball fans.
And won Enfield, thanks to his players performing the way they did, he kept saying, the recognition that had three different people coming up to him between the time he left his hotel room and walked to the coffee shop, to welcome him to LA and USC and wish him well.
"I would not have taken this job if I didn't think we could be special." -- Andy Enfield
"They say the tournament is the place to make a name for yourself," Enfield said. And he did.
Academically, the Johns Hopkins grad with an MBA from Maryland is clearly a fit for USC. But he'll let the academic people handle that. His top three players at FGCU went elsewhere, he said, when he got there and they didn't want to go to class. That's a given.
But he knows what the young men are thinking that he'll be recruiting. "They all want to to be professional basketball players," he says.
Which could be a pitch to returning players with a chance to go pro like 7-footers Dewayne Dedmon and Omar Oraby. He'll get together with them for individual meetings and workouts beginning next Tuesday.
"I'm really excited about our returning talent -- but I'm projecting it three, six and nine months down the road." -- Andy Enfield
Which is where Haden's fullcourt press to find out about Enfield paid off. "I talked to nine people myself," he said. "He's an innovator and a teacher who can develop talent."
Enfield certainly believes it. "It took us a year-and-a-half [at FGCU]," he said. "We just kept getting better. We had a specific development plan." But no specific timetable.
Neither does Haden, although he sees no reason for USC not to be a Sweet 16 type program in five years -- "or higher than that."
"Post moves, defense and finishing in the lane with two hands," Enfield says of the "Dunk City" guys that took lobs and slammed them home for 78 points on Georgetown, the most the stunned Hoyas had given up all season.
"Scoring in college basketball is way down." Enfield said, "I don't like to play like that . . . I want to recruit players who don't want to play like that."
And then work with them. The 18-year-old you recruit is nowhere near the 21- or 22-year-old finished product.
"One thing I can say is I'm going to show up every day in the office with my staff and make it a better day than the day before." -- Andy Enfield
They'll alley-oop the heck out of the ball, try to score in seven seconds and get things started with steals. And they shoot it. "If you're a streaky shooter, there's a reason you shoot streaky," Enfield says. And a way to coach players out of that.
"Shooting is a big part of what we do . . . and finishing," as he says the magic word. He'll teach players how to "finish." What a beautiful thing to hear. Not just defend like a soccer team. But put the ball in the basket with confidence.
"To play fast, you have to practice fast," he says in a truism applicable to almost all team sports and one the USC football team is putting into practice every day this spring.
"I believe in positive reinforcement. I don't yell a lot. I don't berate players. I believe you get the most out of players by teaching and encouraging them." -- Andy Enfield
He'll have a local Southern California presence on his staff, Enfield says, but he's not going to be overly concerned about it.
"To win a national championship, you have to recruit locally, nationally and internationally."
And that may have been the one place Enfield and Haden weren't on the same page. Haden is talking Sweet 16. Enfield a national championship.
Dan Weber covers the Trojans program for USCFootball.com. You can reach him at firstname.lastname@example.org.