Survivor Enfield’s Long-Range Plan Has Worked

Whicker: USC’s Andy Enfield shows how to survive and thrive

Hiring Enfield didn’t seem like a bright idea for a while, but Trojans are on track to sustain an excellent program

Mark Whicker (OC Register)  —  In his first two seasons at USC, he went 6-31 in the Pac-12. That often doesn’t get you a third season.

He has braved injuries and late-season slumps. His assistant coach was sentenced to two years’ probation over a $1,400 payment to a prospect. He has had to cook up new teams from scratch. And his breakthroughs have created fewer L.A. headlines than whatever Clay Helton did or didn’t do on National Signing Day.

Andy Enfield has survived all that. Now, in Season Eight, he advances.

On Sunday, the Trojans play Oregon in the NCAA Tournament’s regional semifinals. Enfield knows the terrain. In 2014, his Florida Gulf Coast team knocked off San Diego State and Georgetown. Enfield became the Coach Du Jour and USC hired him.

There were days, and years, when it seemed a mistake to almost everyone but to the eerily confident Enfield. Now the Trojans are what he thought they could be. They have won at least 22 games in four of their past five seasons.

“He’s gotten to the point where our fans can have something to look forward to every season,” said Jim Hefner, the assistant to Bob Boyd in the days when USC was often nationally ranked.

USC basketball is generally better than you think, better than even some USC people think. This is their ninth NCAA tournament trip in this century. There are also nine NBA players from USC, including DeMar DeRozan and Nikola Vucevic, and seven first-round picks since 2000.

When Harold Miner was rocking the early ’90s, the fans found the Sports Arena with no problem. Now, Galen Center is a jewelbox, there are Division I-ready players at every freeway exit, and a tradition is beginning to form. Why shouldn’t USC do this, or something like this, every year?

Tim Floyd appeared ready to answer that but was derailed by scandal. Henry Bibby was 2-2 in 2004-05 and Mike Garrett impulsively fired him. Rick Majerus took the job, then left to care for his dying mother.

The only permanent aspect to USC basketball was the cloud overhead.

Athletic director Pat Haden and his assistant, Steve Lopes, were impressed by the Florida Gulf Coast story and the buzz therein. But it’s dangerous to hire a coach based on one weekend.

Wichita State hired Gregg Marshall after Winthrop beat Notre Dame, and it worked. Illinois hired John Groce, and Washington hired Andy Russo, after those coaches jolted the tournament at Ohio and Louisiana Tech (with Karl Malone). Those did not work.

It looked worse because USC had hired Enfield over Mike Hopkins, the ebullient Mater Dei grad who was the heir apparent to Jim Boeheim at Syracuse. Hopkins took over Washington in 2017-18 and went 48-22 in two seasons. Now the Huskies have spent two years in the Pac-12 basement.

Enfield detailed a long-range plan for Haden and Lopes, who told his boss, “He’s playing chess while everyone else is playing checkers.”

Still, USC was hemorrhaging pawns until it assembled a local nucleus of Jordan McLaughlin, Bennie Boatwright and Chimeze Metu. Enfield got to the tournament in his third year.

The hardest shot was 2018, when Boatwright got hurt late and DeAnthony Melton was ruled ineligible. The Trojans had an RPI rating of 34 and finished second in the Pac-12, went 25-8 and still missed the NCAA boat.

“Coach Enfield has a lot of strengths,” said Jonah Mathews, whose last act as a Trojan was a game-winning shot against UCLA in Galen last March.

“But most of all he lets you play free, which is big for kids in college. He lets you play through mistakes. He’s also very sociable and approachable. You can go to him about anything life-related.

“Their coaching staff is one of the best in the world, from recruiting to player development. I wanted to be a part of it. If you can defend and play hard, you can play for Coach Enfield.”

One criticism that sticks is the generally weak nonleague schedule, which stifles attendance and has hurt USC on Selection Sundays. But there are few other nits to pick.

“They’re up there on the level with UCLA, Oregon and Arizona and sometimes people don’t realize how tough that is,” said Dana Pagett, a star on Boyd’s best teams. “Andy’s done a good job. I just wish the fans had gotten the chance to see this team play.”

Another team is on the way. It says so, right there in the program.

ocregister.com

__________

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HOF19
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HOF19 (@hof19)
March 28, 2021 10:14 pm

So the first point spreads I have seen so far on the internet we are 9 point underdogs……We will see if that goes up or down in the Casino’s in Vegas .

UtahTrojan
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UtahTrojan (@utahtrojan)
March 28, 2021 10:12 pm

I like this.

USC’s Trojans are gifted, talented, deep, clever, powerful; Gonzaga’s Bulldogs are more gifted, more talented, deeper, more clever, more powerful. USC looks unstoppable; Gonzaga looks bulletproof. The Trojans have the best player in future pro Evan Mobley; the Zags may have the next five best.
USC has a terrific coach in Andy Enfield.
Gonzaga has perhaps the best coach in Mark Few.

HOF19
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HOF19 (@hof19)
March 28, 2021 9:51 pm

The TBS Post-game show just finished talking about the final 8 ……..Only spent time on 7 teams …..seem to not want to spend any time on the 8th team (I am sure the people on this blog know which team they choose not to mention).

Steveg
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Mt Rushmore
Steveg (@steveg)
March 28, 2021 9:00 pm

So now that I am fully on the bandwagon, I am thinking these guys have a shot. Forgive me but I love being pumped up after a good win like tonight. Like what the heck, lets just win the whole damn thing.

Last edited 5 months ago by Steveg
Chris
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Chris (@chris)
March 28, 2021 9:32 pm
Reply to  Steveg

If we win Tuesday, I think we win it all. Nobody has the size that we do. I think that is something you cant prepare for. Also, no doubt we are playing better right now than ever. Let’s go!!!!

Last edited 5 months ago by Chris
HOF19
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HOF19 (@hof19)
March 28, 2021 9:46 pm
Reply to  Chris

Since all the “Experts ” are on the Gonzaga bandwagon if we win Tuesday does that me they all jump on our bandwagon ?

Steveg
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Steveg (@steveg)
March 29, 2021 6:53 am
Reply to  HOF19

Experts are only here to be proven wrong, whether it be basketball, football, or covid 19.

HOF19
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HOF19 (@hof19)
March 28, 2021 8:59 pm

Saw a Glenn Ford western once where he was coming into a town where he knew he would have a lot of enemies …..What does he do ?……He asks all his new neighbors who the best fighter/toughest guy in town a made sure he fought that guy FIRST……Sooner we play Gonzaga the better (if we are gonna have to play them anyway) ……FIGHT ON !!!!!

John Weld
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John Weld (@johnnynumbers)
March 28, 2021 8:54 pm

We won without the Mobley’s having to contribute in a big way, always a good sign.

HOF19
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HOF19 (@hof19)
March 28, 2021 8:50 pm

Oregon planning a 17 point run in a 60 second time span here .

HOF19
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HOF19 (@hof19)
March 28, 2021 8:38 pm

4:15 left we WILL score again in this game SC ………………………………………………………………………………………………………Right ?????

HOF19
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HOF19 (@hof19)
March 28, 2021 8:36 pm

Don’t go cold on us SC !!!!!

HOF19
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HOF19 (@hof19)
March 28, 2021 8:36 pm
Reply to  HOF19

Yup ……they are cold .

HOF19
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HOF19 (@hof19)
March 28, 2021 8:35 pm

They are presently playing better than us .

HOF19
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HOF19 (@hof19)
March 28, 2021 8:33 pm

Game getting closer ………………………….

HOF19
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HOF19 (@hof19)
March 28, 2021 8:09 pm

52-39 …..OK SC That is close enough !

HOF19
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HOF19 (@hof19)
March 28, 2021 7:53 pm

Here is a plan ……Play even better in the 2nd half then we did in the 1st half ! ………FIGHT ON !!!!!

HOF19
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HOF19 (@hof19)
March 28, 2021 7:36 pm

Nice job so far SC ! ………FIGHT ON !!!!!

John Weld
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John Weld (@johnnynumbers)
March 28, 2021 7:28 pm

I like the way we did not panic when Duarte his a couple of 3s and our shots were not falling…so we picked up the defensive tempo and now the lead is ours….

HOF19
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HOF19 (@hof19)
March 28, 2021 7:21 pm

Eaddy THREE !!!!!………FIGHT ON !!!!!

Chris
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Chris (@chris)
March 28, 2021 7:19 pm

Eaddy throwing them in from everywhere

HOF19
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HOF19 (@hof19)
March 28, 2021 7:04 pm

Finish your layups SC .

Chris
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Chris (@chris)
March 28, 2021 6:56 pm

Pac 12 basketball, wow!

HOF19
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HOF19 (@hof19)
March 28, 2021 6:50 pm

how ……….HOW ? ……..How can this be a trending question on the internet ???????? >>>>>>>> What is pac 12 conference?………………..Really ????? ….I mean it is California …..NOT THE FREAKIN MOON !!!!!

Last edited 5 months ago by HOF19
HOF19
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HOF19 (@hof19)
March 28, 2021 6:42 pm

You know one of the things that UCLA and Alabama can be a little thankful for ?……………..They are not in the West Bracket (no Gonzaga )……..As always …….FIGHT ON !!!!!

Chris
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Chris (@chris)
March 28, 2021 3:21 pm

Hoping for a big win today, elite 8 would be incredible. But the buzz saw is coming for whomever advances. Gonzaga is next next level.

Steveg
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Steveg (@steveg)
March 28, 2021 3:38 pm
Reply to  Chris

I have to think that if USC beats Oregon they could give Gonzo all they can handle. USC does have the size to play with them but the shots gotta go in, a lot.

Chris
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Chris (@chris)
March 28, 2021 4:07 pm
Reply to  Steveg

Size yes, but nothing else. Gonzaga is full of NBA guys. I hope we get a chance, it would be fun. But as someone who lives in Spokane and has watched all versions of Gonzaga basketball for the last 20 years, this team is by far the best they have ever had.

Steveg
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Steveg (@steveg)
March 28, 2021 7:31 pm
Reply to  Chris

Thanks Chris, that is humbling.

John Weld
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John Weld (@johnnynumbers)
March 28, 2021 8:07 pm
Reply to  Allen Wallace

Win this first, then plan for Gonzaga

TrojanRJJ
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TrojanRJJ (@trojanrjj)
March 28, 2021 12:08 pm

Enfield is one lucky guy! His initial vision (whatever it was) clearly failed. In any other school but SC, he would have been let go three or four years ago. But, the best job in the world is being the B-Ball coach at SC. You can be mediocre for seven years (remember, his eight year league record at SC is under .500) and still retain your job. Maybe Enfield has indeed figured it out and he needed six years of .500 ball to do so. What I do know is Enfield has the job for probably another four years to… Read more »

Terrific Tommy
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Terrific Tommy (@terrific-tommy)
March 28, 2021 1:58 pm
Reply to  Allen Wallace

IMHO, beating Oregon today, coupled with the 34 point win over Kansas, would buy him an additional 3-4 years.

LawyerJohn
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LawyerJohn (@lawyerjohn)
March 28, 2021 8:57 am

One thing college football post-season has over basketball’s post-season Tournament is that the football bowl games produce a dozen or so winners, whereas basketball has 67 “losers” and only 1 winner, which results in teams slithering sullenly back to their respective campuses filled with disappointed students and fans. Oh well, such is life in the fast lane of sports… Studying the 2021 SC basketball team photo, there are 26 players, coaches and support staff portrayed. It is often taken for granted how much man&woman power it takes to maintain a college team… And so after so many years of SC… Read more »

ATL D.D.S.
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ATL D.D.S. (@atl-d-d-s)
March 28, 2021 3:59 pm
Reply to  LawyerJohn

ucla is still in the tourney, with their own Cinderella story going, LJ….

John Weld
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John Weld (@johnnynumbers)
March 28, 2021 5:23 pm
Reply to  Allen Wallace

UCLA is playing good BB, they are leading Alabama by 11 at the half.