August 13, 2013 by Jacob Freedman
Over the summer, Galen Central produced a “Meet The Future” series, profiling every new scholarship player added to the roster over the offseason. Read all the profiles here. Now, it’s time for a look inside the man who holds the most control over the future of the USC Basketball program: new head coach Andy Enfield.
By Jacob Freedman
It’s finally time to get down to business for Andy Enfield. Not to say he’s been slacking. Anything but. Spending 15 days away from home in a 19-day period during the July recruiting period was fruitful, as Enfield landed a commit from four-star power forward Malik Price-Martin and no doubt made plenty of inroads with other top prospects.
Business for the upcoming season, however, is just beginning. While Enfield was traveling across the country the past few months, most of his current roster arrived at USC for summer courses and workouts. Fall practices don’t begin until September 27, 42 days before the season opener under new NCAA rules. Until then, there’s only so much of his roster puzzle that Enfield can solve. Still, the entire coaching staff is finally in one place, while most players are around to finish the second summer session before fall semester begins on August 26. For at least a few days, Enfield can become just another guy with an office job, albeit one with three plush leather couches and a flatscreen television. He can have simpler worries.
“I got my first paycheck and fell out of my chair,” Enfield said early August in an interview in his office with Galen Central. “Between state taxes and real estate taxes, California is pretty expensive.”
Off the court, Enfield can’t complain too much about the last decade. He’s married to a former supermodel, and, after NBA coaching stops in Milwaukee and Boston, is coaching at schools where the campus scenery pitches itself for recruits.
“I always wanted to coach near the beach,” he said. “Seven years in Florida and now Los Angeles, it doesn’t get any better than that.”
He walked the red carpet at the ESPYs last month and was on the Jay Leno Show. Chances are he’ll make another big appearance or two before the season begins. It’s not all Hollywood on the hardwood, though.
The season is just three months away, yet the final roster is still up on the air. Maryland point guard Pe’Shon Howard has said he is transferring to USC, but his hardship waivers and other forms need to be sorted out if Howard can play this season without sitting out the usual one year. Ari Stewart played last season and was expected to start at the power forward, but is currently academically ineligible.
“It’s unclear whether he’ll be eligible for the first game yet,” Enfield said.
Every returning player who played significant minutes last season has question marks surrounding their game, while the four freshmen might have to be thrown into the fire early because of a lack of depth.
This is why the big excitement for Enfield’s time at USC should focus on the recruiting class of 2014, Enfield’s first full crop of freshmen. “We’re very comfortable with where we are on the recruiting trail right now,” he said.
The well for recruiting jokes (see: Marcum, Amanda) has dried, but at the end of the day, Enfield’s approach to luring players to play for him is as genuine as can be. Rather than sell recruits on the Galen Center, Los Angeles and the Trojan program history, Enfield’s approach is to simply build a long-lasting relationship with his targeted players. Head recruiting honchos like Kentucky’s John Calipari and Duke’s Mike Krzyzewski are famous for going into living rooms and leaving with commitments, and Enfield refined his pitching abilities under one of the game’s most-tenured head men.
“Coach (Leonard) Hamilton is one of the best recruiters of all time,” Enfield said. “I learned a lot for him on relationships and different ways and philosophies to recruit. You can’t write a book on how to recruit, and at the end of the day, I don’t know why players make decisions. You have to have a feel for each situation.”
Talk with Enfield’s incoming recruits and you hear the same sentiments.
“There’s no one I’d rather play for than Coach Enfield,” said Darion Clark, who transferred to USC this offseason and will be eligible in 2013-14. “He’s just a great guy.”
The optimistic tone of Enfield’s hire contrasts sharply with the wariness over Steve Alford’s move from New Mexico to take over for the fired Ben Howland at UCLA. The two have met on the recruiting trail the past few months, but Enfield was mum on comparing two coaches taking over programs needing a rebuild.
“He seemed like a very nice person,” Enfield said. “We’re not golfing buddies. I look at Steve Alford like I look at any other Pac-12 coach. We’re in their league, so we have to beat their team… we’re not worried about UCLA. We never discuss them or what they’re doing.”
Unfortunately for those craving jabs at the school across town, Andy Enfield’s job is not stirring the pot and talking about UCLA basketball. His job is coaching basketball. And inside the Galen Center, USC is mixing with an awkward cocktail of three transfers recruited by former head coach Kevin O’Neill, four incoming freshmen also lured by O’Neill, and just one of O’Neill’s recruits with more than 100 career minutes (Byron Wesley). Enfield doesn’t have team goals for the 2013-14 season yet, saying he’ll let the players decide those after the preseason. Ditto for starting lineups.
“Our first game is November 8th (at Utah State), and we won’t figure out who’s starting until the week of that game,” he said.
But for a man who few in America had heard of prior to Florida Gulf Coast’s stunning Sweet 16 run, the magic will be in the mystery.