It comes with the territory in sports; a relative unknown coach takes an even more obscure team on a great run and instantly becomes one of the hottest coaching commodities in their sport. It’s happened in football where Jim Harbaugh used success at San Diego University to land the Stanford University head man job and subsequently parlayed a nice run in Palo Alto into the head coaching job with the San Francisco 49ers. The trend is even more present in college basketball and we see in the 2013 NCAA tournament how programs like Illinois (John Groce), Oregon (Dana Altman), Miami (Jim Larranaga) are having success because they hired the right coach from a smaller school. Ironically perhaps two of the most successful small school coaches Shaka Smart of Virginia Commonwealth and Brad Stevens of Butler have remained at their programs in spite of the constant attempts of bigger programs to lure them away.
This year the new “hot” coach is Andy Enfield of Florida Gulf Coast University. After having lead the Eagles to their first tournament appearance after only being eligible since 2011, he has them as the only 15 seed in tournament history to make the Sweet 16 and looking towards a match-up with in-state opponent the University of Florida on Friday to decide who advances to the regional final and compete for a Final 4 berth. Because he slayed the Big East giant in Georgetown then lept past Steve Fisher’s San Diego Aztecs, Enfield has become the talk of the tournament and speculation has started that athletic directors of larger schools across the nation are very interested in the 43-year-old who got his coaching feet wet as an assistant with the Milwaukee Bucks and Boston Celtics on the NBA level and Florida State collegiately.
The two major questions coming out of Ft. Meyers FL, where the school is located are; will the athletic department at FGCU have the finances, per Darren Rovell, the basketball program reported a profit of $61,320, to increase Enfield’s salary to keep the bigger programs away, and what were Enfield’s intentions when he took the reins at the newly established Division-1 program? The salary increase that some coaches desire and use as leverage (he currently is two years into a five year agreement that pays him $157,500 a year) may not be as pressing because of Enfields prior financial successes. In addition to having an assistant NBA coach salary in his portfolio, he also co-partnered to develop a successful multimillion dollar healthcare software company TractManager, and let us not forget he has a super model for a wife the beautiful Amanda Marcum, so some wonder if he really needs a loaded Brinks truck to pull into his driveway to remain the Eagles coach. Enfield staying or leaving may hinge on how he originally viewed the coaching opportunity at Florida Gulf Coast; was this a university he envisioned making his own and spend 5-10+ years or was it a place where he hoped to have some success and eventually help him get hired at a higher profile university. If it’s the latter, he may want to be very strategic in where he decides to go because while there has been some success stories, the harsh reality is that many of the coaches who take that step up struggle. In the past five years, 14 coaches who made the NCAA Tournament from small and lower mid-major conference schools have left for another program in the offseason, according to a Daily News review. Of those 14, only two — Groce, the current Illinois coach and Anthony Grant, the former Virginia Commonwealth coach now at Alabama — have made it back to the tournament.
Enfield has at least one more week before he has to decide if he wants to be the next Brad Stevens or Mark Few and establish Florida Gulf Coast as the next mid-major to kick off that Cinderella slipper and get a permanent place at the dance, or take that leap to a team in a power conference and hope he ends up more like Jim Larranaga and less like Ken Bone the head coach at Washington State University (70-65 1 post-season NIT bid) who has struggled since he was hired in 2009 to recreate the success he at Portland State (77-49 record 2 NCAA tournament appearances)
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