Florida Gulf Coast has ‘won over the nation’
by Jon Saraceno, USA TODAY Sports
FT. MYERS, Fla. — Andy Enfield is a refreshing antidote to the Bob Knight coaching wannabes in the sometimes-sullied ranks of modern-day men’s college basketball coaches.
The young, prematurely graying coach with a Division III shooting record, an MBA in finance and an impressive NBA portfolio does not rant, rave or pontificate. During games, Enfield’s tie remains perfectly knotted.
Better yet, his Florida Gulf Coast University team scoops up victories like seashells on nearby Sanibel Island — and it does so in an spectacular fashion that sometimes leaves the second-year coach speechless.
“We don’t take ourselves too seriously here,” Enfield, 43, tells USA TODAY Sports in his cramped office at the southwest Florida school that includes a beach and multiple lakes. “There were times last week (during the NCAA Tournament in Philadelphia) when I sat back and didn’t have to say too much. I said to myself, ‘Wow — this is fun to watch.’ I was entertained by my own team. Pretty cool.”
Enfield’s Eagles, streaking through the college basketball universe as a rim-rattling, mid-major comet this spring, are the stars of the tournament — a Sweet 16 finalist as a lowly No. 15 seed, a first.
“The nation has fallen in love with their style of play,” says Bill Nelson, who was Enfield’s coach at Johns Hopkins. “If you’re in the arena, you’re out of your seat. If you’re home, you’re jumping off your couch. He is able to do what a lot of coaches can’t do — he doesn’t pull the reigns back. He isn’t afraid.”
The Eagles’ electric style has vaulted them into the national conversation, not too shabby for a Division I program that has been in existence only since the 2007-08 season. The school opened its doors 16 years ago on a 760-acre campus that looks more like a nature preserve.
The subtropical-style campus is as unique as, well, the basketball team’s march to madness in only the school’s second season of post-season eligibility. The Eagles (26-10) have won 14 of their last 16. Their record last season: 15-17.
“Surreal,” says senior forward Eddie Murray. “Four days ago, nobody knew who we were … [For more on Florida Gulf Coast has successfully 'won over the nation', click here.]