We live in the social media world. Basically, that means that we view a lot of things through a different microscope than we may have just a few years before Facebook and Twitter became a daily stop for people. Between players’ and coaches’ legacies now being judged on a game to game basis all the way to calling them failures for a small stretch of struggles, it can’t be very trying to be considered successful in today’s sports world. Regardless, it is the ebbs and flows of social media that push the perception of these sports people. None more so, at least relatively recently, than the two trends of Andy Enfield.
Enfield first became a public phenomenon when he led the Florida Gulf Coast Eagles on one of the most magical NCAA Tournament runs ever. The coach — as well as the team — had everything the public wanted from a Cinderella team. FGCU had a fancy nickname in #DunkCity, the players on the court seemed fun-loving and played a tempo of basketball that was as entertaining to talk about as it was to watch and Andy Enfield encompassed that regular guy persona that people can relate to. Well, outside the fact that he had a supermodel wife while he looked to be as average as the guy who does your taxes.
Still, that made Enfield even more intriguing. His back story was as interesting as to how he scooped up such a lovely spouse. It started earnestly enough. Enfield went to Johns Hopkins University to play basketball, where he holds numerous school records, and studied economics. After that earned his MBA from the University of Maryland. Sounds simple enough, right? Except that isn’t the end of his rag to supermodel spouse story.
What is now a very well-known story, thanks to FGCU’s NCAA Tournament run, Andy Enfield is rich or, at least, rich in stocks. While trying to find his way as a basketball person Enfield was hired as the vice president of finance at TractManager, which was valued at over $100 million dollars during his team’s gripping March Madness run.
His super model wife, John Hopkins education, investing in and helping to run a multi-million dollar company, very digestible offensive system, players’ positive attitude and his general behavior all made Andy Enfield one of the most popular coaches of the social media era in college basketball. And, truth be told, he and his team deserved every bit of the limelight they received when they upset second-seed Georgetown in 2013 and made it all the way to Sweet Sixteen.
Naturally, Enfield’s named started to make its rounds as a hot coaching commodity. It made sense for schools to be interested in the hot coaching name, as it did every before that and every year since. Whenever a coach takes a team that isn’t supposed to make a run, on a run, that coach becomes every programs’ main target. It’s how most lower-level but in power conference programs find a replacement for the guy they just fired. It is a program’s way to strike gold with a guy who might be able to change the culture of losing or not winning constantly.
That is why it made sense for the USC Trojans to bring him in. Enfield had everything you could ever want in a coach. Not only was his offensive system going to bring fans to the seats, but it would be endearing to recruits while the coach was trying to lure them to the university.
Then the 2013-14 college basketball season happened. Not only did the Trojans have a putrid 11-21 overall record, but they amassed an astoundingly wretched 2-16 record in Pac 12 play. While most realized it might take a year or two for Enfield to turn around USC’s fortunes, hell has no fury like a fanbase who has high expectations due to media coverage. And no one was more covered as a basketball coach from March of 2013 to the start of the 2013-14 season than Andy Enfield.
Luckily for Enfield, though, USC is a football school. It’s not that they don’t care about their basketball program, it is just that it can get lost in the shuffle, especially if weird things were going on the football field. So, I guess, thanks to Lane Kiffin’s having the ability to fail upward finally running out and the football program being saved by the charismatic Ed Orgeron, no one benefited more than Enfield.
However, Enfield is now headed into his second year with the program. Expectations are going to change. Maybe not on campus, where they will be monitoring their new head football coach closely, but with the national media as well as top-tier recruits throughout the country. Mostly everyone had no problem giving him a pass his first year on campus while trying to salvage the program, yet there is only so much forgiveness and benefit of the doubt to go around. Not just because this is the social media era either. College basketball, like all other sports, is about results. Andy Enfield’s last positive results came in a different state, with a different team, that will be two years ago by the time this upcoming season ends.
There are reasons to be positive if you’re a lover of USC hoops, though. Probably not as great a class as some of their Pac 12 brethren, Enfield was able to get two four-star recruits to come to school as well as two other three-star players. One of whom, Jordan McLaughlin, is a top-50 rated player in the 2014 class and from Rancho Cucamonga, California — which means he chose USC over UCLA, not to mention over other historical powers like Kansas and Indiana.
That might just mean McLaughlin was looking for a place to play immediately or maybe it is actually a sign of the positive direction Enfield has the program going. Maybe his #DunkCity run from 2013 was not a short-term fad, but a sign of things to come. That Enfield, who people want to succeed, can do so because he is actually good at what he does. Really, the fact that he was able to keep a top-recruit in-state, but not go to USC’s rival UCLA, is pretty telling. Again, it doesn’t mean that the program has made it or even surpassed UCLA — because that is still the Earth to the Sun’s worth of distance away — but it is another positive signal in the Enfield success story trend.
The Pac 12 is one of the best college basketball conferences in the entire country. However, while us East Coast dwellers tend to ignore it, it’s not a league that is impossible to reach the top of. The Pac 12 isn’t John Wooden’s UCLA league anymore. It’s more of a rotation of teams fighting for the top spot without any of them claiming long-term dominance of it. Not really a league of parody, but a league that gives the cellar teams a hope to eventually reach the top.
I have no idea how long it is supposed to take a new coach to turn around a program. Some have done it in one year, others in two and we have even seen it take guys a full recruiting class cycle to make their program into anything of worth. Here is what I do know, though, even with hindsight being as fickle as the pull-tab-to-the-right instant dinner boxes, Enfield was the right hire for USC at the very right time. Now, though, it is time to see if the 2014-15 season is still the right year for Enfield to be trending in a positive direction or if everything that we learned to like about the coach actually shadowed his limitations as a coach in a high-level conference.
Nevertheless, the 2014-15 season is going to be very telling. Everyone will get to see the trend of the Trojans as a possible players in the Pac 12 conference. It just so happens to be that everyone will also get to find out if Andy Enfield’s original run to prominence was about just another guy having another string of good luck happen to him or if Andy Enfield is the reason behind all those good things.
Now, while being a usual trending topic on Twitter usually flames out at some point, not only does Andy Enfield have his personal history on his side, but he also happens to still be trending as a college basketball coach worth remembering. The trending aspect won’t last forever, especially if he doesn’t start winning immediately, and that’s why the upcoming season is so important to the growth of the USC basketball program.
All of this will make for a neat study for a college student one day. The idea of history vs trending as a way schools hire a basketball coach. Enfield has a good record of both, though, so he won’t be a great case study, but this will continue to be great to follow — even if Andy Enfield is no longer deemed awesome enough to hashtag.