The RTC Interview Series: One on One with Andy EnfieldPosted by WCarey on August 12th, 2013
Rush The Court is back with another edition of One on One: An Interview Series, which we will bring you periodically throughout the offseason. If you have any specific interview requests or want us to interview you, shoot us an email at email@example.com.
A new national darling seems to emerge every NCAA Tournament and 2013 was no different as the Florida Gulf Coast Eagles captivated the country on its way to the Sweet Sixteen as a 15-seed – an accomplishment that was the first of its kind. The high-flying, up-tempo Eagles were led by second-year head coach Andy Enfield (@CoachEnfield), who used his experiences as both a college (at Florida State) and NBA (with the Milwaukee Bucks and Boston Celtics) assistant to masterfully lead his charges on their Cinderella run. Just three days after the Eagles’ run ended with a regional semifinals loss to Florida, USC acted swiftly in hiring Enfield to take over a basketball program that had struggled to a 20-44 mark over the course of the last two seasons. Since taking the reins of the Trojans, Enfield has garnered national acclaim for putting together what has been widely deemed a great assistant coaching staff. With his inaugural campaign set to begin in just a few months, RTC correspondent Walker Carey recently had the pleasure of speaking to Andy Enfield about his run with Florida Gulf Coast, his new job at USC, and his outlook on the future of Trojans basketball.
Rush the Court: You took the job at USC at the beginning of April. Has the transition been smooth and what have you been able to accomplish thus far?
Andy Enfield: Whenever you start a job or switch jobs, there is always an adjustment period. It is very time-consuming. I was able to hire an excellent assistant coaching staff and they have been able to help with that transition. It is important to hire good people when you are trying to build something. We were able to hire a staff that is very familiar with the Southern California landscape and is able to go out nationally to represent the program and recruit some of the best players in the country. We feel very fortunate to have such a great recruiting base in Southern California and we feel like we can win at a high level just with California players, but we also understand that every player we recruit will not come to USC, so we have to go out there nationally and present our program. We have an exciting style of play, we play in the number one basketball market in the country, and we think this will make us a factor nationally.
RTC: What attracted you to the open coaching position at USC?
Enfield: For starters, the opportunity to go to the Final Four and win a National Championship. USC is an elite academic institution – it is a top 25 academic school in the country. The athletic facilities are as good as anywhere in the county. Our athletic director, Pat Haden, has been very successful in sports and in business. He is a tremendous leader who understands the importance of having a great basketball program. We are also fortunate to have such a great recruiting base here. When you are looking at different jobs around the country and if you have multiple options, I thought USC was an opportunity to fit right in, be successful, and go to the Final Four and win a National Championship.
RTC: The Pac-12 experienced a bit of a revival as a basketball conference last season. What is it about the conference that excites you as you near the beginning of your inaugural season?
Enfield: I think the Pac-12 is going to be one of the top conferences in the country. I think the coaching within the league is excellent. The talent level has really increased over the last few years and I think that will continue going forward. To me, the Pac-12 Conference as a whole is similar to USC basketball. We are excited and envision a bright future for both.
RTC: At Florida Gulf Coast, your offense captivated the nation with its high-tempo, fast-paced nature. Is that the same type of offense you will use at USC or will that be dictated by the players on the floor at a given time?
Enfield: I think a little bit of both. I was an assistant coach for hundreds of games and what I noticed is that a lot of great head coaches around the country were able to make adjustments within their systems based on personnel. I think this is one of the things that makes coaches great. They have different rosters every year, different strengths and weaknesses on their team, and those strengths and weaknesses change by year. You have to play to your strengths. Sure, we will have a system in place, but we will play to our strengths.
RTC: USC basketball has been down over the past couple years. How do you plan to galvanize the fan base and get them back to being excited about the program on a consistent basis?
Enfield: We hope to put a product on the court that the fan base wants to watch. We have to play hard and we have to be entertaining. College basketball – and college sports, in general – are about entertainment. Sure, you will always have your loyal base of fans who will buy tickets and come out to game no matter the record, as they are supporting their team and supporting their school. However, if you want to fill your arena and have great crowds for every game, you eventually need to put a product on the floor that people want to pay to come see play basketball. That is what we plan on doing here.
RTC: Before taking over at Florida Gulf Coast, you were on Leonard Hamilton’s staff at Florida State. How much did Coach Hamilton help you in acquiring the information and knowledge needed to be a successful head coach at the collegiate level?
Enfield: Coach Hamilton is a master at building programs and he is great both on and off the court. He understands people and he understands players. He is terrific at getting the most out of everyone around him. It was a great opportunity for me to work for someone who is that experienced and that knowledgable. He is a terrific basketball coach.
RTC: You have assembled a quality young staff (assistants Tony Bland, Jason Hart, and Kevin Norris) with some impressive playing and coaching experience. What excites you about each coach and what they bring to the equation for the Trojans?
Enfield: Tony Bland grew up in Los Angeles and he was a great college basketball player at Syracuse and San Diego State. He then went on to play professionally overseas. He has a very enthusiastic personality and he can relate well to anyone who walks through the front door. He is a very engaging person and he will be a terrific head coach one day. Jason Hart came to us from Pepperdine’s staff. He grew up in Los Angeles as well. He had a great collegiate career at Syracuse and then went on to play in the NBA for 10 years. He has played for a lot of great head coaches and he brings a different perspective from the different systems that he has been in. Kevin Norris came with me from Florida Gulf Coast and he has also been on numerous other collegiate staffs. He played collegiately at Miami (FL) and played professionally overseas. He is originally from the city of Baltimore. He was one of the toughest players you would ever see play and that has translated over to his coaching career. Between the three of them, I think it is a very well-rounded staff. They were all great players themselves. They all relate well to our current players and are great recruiters due to their energy and the passion and belief in what they are doing. It is a great staff to have as a head coach.
RTC: Seniors J.T. Terrell and Omar Araby along with junior Byron Wesley return for the Trojans. They were all solid contributors for the team last season. What do you expect from them as they adjust to the new system and take on more of a leadership role with the squad?
Enfield: We are going to rely on our upperclassmen – J.T., Omar, and Byron – to be three players we can count on every game to produce points and defend on the other end. We are going to need our freshmen and other returnees to step up this year, but we are going to need J.T., Omar, and Byron to produce for us on a consistent basis. They know we are going to rely on them and they know we are expecting them to walk into training camp in the fall and help set the tone for our season.
RTC: Omar Araby is a legitimate 7’2″ center. How has his development progressed and do you believe he can become a force in the middle for the Trojans?
Enfield: His attitude is tremendous. He has a strong work ethic and is very positive. He has made great strides with his footwork, touch, strength, and explosiveness. He needs to have a great fall for us. He needs to be in great physical condition because he is going to need to play a lot of minutes for us this year. He is not a role player anymore, he is going to be a guy we are going to count on every night.
RTC: Since taking over, you have been able to secure the services of two transfers in forward Darion Clark (from Charlotte) and guard Katin Reinhardt (from UNLV). What do you expect those two to contribute to the team this season and how do you think that work will help them develop for when they are eligible for the 2014-15 season?
Enfield: It is an advantage for both Darion and Katin to sit out. They will be able to watch the Pac-12 from the bench and develop an understanding of what it takes to be a great player in this league. Practicing, working on their skills, and getting into the weight room will only benefit them and our team for when they are eligible to play. We are excited for their development, as our coaching staff believes both Darion and Katin can be big time college basketball players.
RTC: What is the most important thing you are looking to accomplish as a program during your inaugural campaign?
Enfield: We need to establish a culture of winning. When I say winning, it does not necessarily mean winning every game on our schedule. When I talk about a culture of winning, I am also talking about in our daily lives. Away from basketball that means going to class, showing up on time for tutoring, putting in effort in the classroom, and achieving academic success. On the court that means preparing, coming to practice and playing hard, making ourselves better every day, and being a good teammate. A culture of winning will help engage the community and our campus peers. The wins on the court will be a result of the whole culture of winning. If we can create and maintain that culture, we will win a lot of games.
RTC: Lastly, how big of a whirlwind has this past year been for you? Have you had any time to stop to reflect and take it all in?
Enfield: It has been non-stop. It has been an amazing experience. I am sure 20 years from now when I look back on my career as a coach, this whole spring will be one of the highlights. To take a 15-seed to the Sweet Sixteen and to put Florida Gulf Coast on the map on a national scale when it has only been eligible to play in the NCAA Tournament for two years was something special for the whole community and the university. I will always be connected to those players and those people I worked with at Florida Gulf Coast. We will all be able to look back and say, “Wow. That was a fun time.” However, when you take a new job – especially a job like USC – I have not really had time to stop and reflect on the whole experience. We are so focused on the future at USC that I have not taken a vacation or any time off since I got here. Eventually, there will be a time and place to take a deep breath and reflect. I am so appreciative of the opportunity that Florida Gulf Coast gave me and I am so appreciative of the opportunity USC has given me and our coaching staff to come in and try to do what it takes to become a national power.