Florida Gulf Coast coach Andy Enfield a model for optimism

Florida Gulf Coast head coach Andy Enfield reacts Florida Gulf Coast head coach Andy Enfield reacts during the first half of a second-round game against Georgetown during the NCAA college basketball tournament. (March 22, 2013) Photo Credit: AP

advertisement | advertise on newsday

Greg Logan Newsday columnist Greg Logan

Greg Logan is a college sports and boxing writer for Newsday. ...

PHILADELPHIA

Deciding where to begin the story of Florida Gulf Coast University and Andy Enfield, who coaches the 15th-seeded team that upset Georgetown and captured America's fancy, is tough. But if it's a Cinderella story, then it has to begin with how Enfield met his wife, former supermodel Amanda Marcum.

Enfield understands why the TV cameras were drawn as much to his wife as to his vastly entertaining team Friday during the Georgetown game. "She has a much prettier face than mine,'' the boyish 43-year-old said before telling the story of their first meeting.

A mutual friend told him Amanda had tickets to Oklahoma State's NCAA first-round game in Boston in 2003 and asked Enfield if he was going. He was driving up from New York, and he offered his friend and Amanda a ride.

"I pulled up to the Starbucks in Manhattan to pick them up,'' Enfield said Saturday, "and as soon as I saw Amanda get in my car, I knew it would be a good trip.''

Warming up, Enfield explained his actual first date with Amanda was the following week when he took her to a St. John's NIT game at Carnesecca Arena on campus. Unfamiliar with restaurants in Queens, he opted for the Taco Bell in the student union.

advertisement | advertise on newsday

"I got her a nice burrito, and we sat behind the bench,'' Enfield said. "I figured if she still likes me after Taco Bell and a basketball game . . . ''

She liked him enough to eventually abandon a modeling career that sent her to fashion shoots in Milan, Paris and Sydney and put her on the cover of Vogue, Elle and Maxim to follow him to Tallahassee, Fla., where he worked under former Florida State coach Leonard Hamilton. That's love.

But apparently Amanda's interest was piqued by a coach some jokingly are describing as "the most interesting man in the world.'' See, Enfield was an economics major at Johns Hopkins University and financed his graduate school by running lacrosse camps and basketball shooting camps. He later became one of the first full-time shooting instructors in the NBA under Mike Dunleavy in Milwaukee and Rick Pitino in Boston.

Then he moved to New York, where he developed a website called Allnetshooting.com. He also put his MBA to use by helping a semi-retired friend build a start-up called TractManager, a document imaging and contract management firm, into a $100- million company. But he still wanted to coach, and after meeting Amanda, Enfield decided college coaching was more conducive to family life.

After five years at Florida State, Enfield took over the fledgling Division I program at FGCU near Fort Myers. "My goal was to come in and create something special,'' he said.

Some of the players already in place fit his preference for long, athletic types who could play at a high tempo, but they needed development. Enfield turned guard Sherwood Brown into Atlantic Sun player of the year, forward Chase Fieler into second-team all-conference and forward Eddie Murray, who scored 11 points all season two years ago, into a starting forward. Then he added point guard Brett Comer, who showed NBA-caliber vision throwing alley-oops in the Eagles' 54-point second half against Georgetown.

They'll face San Diego State Sunday night for the right to advance to a South Regional semifinal Friday in Arlington, Texas.

Enfield's vision didn't necessarily include becoming the seventh 15th seed in NCAA history to win a game, but he said, "I aim for the stars . . . We have some of the most improved players in the country this year. They've made huge jumps, and I think that's big in selling that in recruiting.''

That and the fact he wants his players to have fun. As Enfield said, "If you're not a fun-loving guy, if you take yourself too seriously or you're just a jerk, you're not going to play for me.''

The Eagles had a ton of fun against Georgetown, and the crowd's cheers still were echoing in their ears Saturday. "We put on a show last night,'' Comer said with a note of wonder. "We had everybody happy and having fun watching us play.''

advertisement | advertise on newsday

That's Enfield's goal. Aim for the stars.

"This is the time of their life,'' he said. "Embrace the moment. This is what college basketball should be. I want them to take a deep breath and remember this the rest of their lives.''

You also may be interested in: