Advertisement

You will be redirected to the page you want to view in  seconds.

FGCU arrives in Texas
FGCU arrives in Texas: FGCU arrived in Texas on Wednesday night and the Eagles then headed to their hotel in Arlington, Texas, home of this year's NCAA South Regional. Video provided by partner WINK News.
FGCU head coach Andy Enfield calls out a play against San Diego State on Sunday at the Wells Fargo Center in Philadelphia. / Kinfay Moroti/news-press.com

South regional semifinal

Who: No. 15 seed FGCU (26-10) vs. No. 3 seed Florida (28-7)
When: 9:57 p.m. Friday
Where: Cowboy Stadium, Arlington Texas
TV: TBS

More

MORE FGCU COVERAGE
Get in-depth coverage as FGCU gets ready to take on Florida on Friday in the South Regional semifinals at Cowboys Stadium in Arlington, Texas.

More FGCU sports coverage

More NCAA tourney coverage from USA TODAY

Late during a close, tense first half in the biggest game of his career — to that point — FGCU coach Andy Enfield leaned well forward in his sideline seat to share a thought with assistant coach Marty Richter.

Before long, the two basketball men burst into riotous laughter, an image broadcast overhead Friday on the giant scoreboard inside Philadelphia’s 20,000-seat Wells Fargo Center.

“It happens so much I don’t know what we said,” Richter said a day later, laughing at the moment.

For all his focus and determination and elite coaching acumen, Enfield has helped his high-flying bunch become the feel-good story of the sports year thanks in part to another vital ingredient: levity.

As the nation learned last week during their two convincing NCAA tournament wins to advance to Friday’s Sweet 16, the Eagles play with the same uncanny mix of enthusiasm, drive, creativity and smarts displayed by their coach.

Also tops among those myriad positive characterisitics is the ability to love what they're doing without fear of failure.

“There needs to be framework. There is that,” said San Diego State coach Steve Fisher, whose seventh-seeded Aztecs were beaten Sunday as FGCU became the first No. 15 seed ever to reach the Sweet 16 in NCAA tournament history. “But they have freedom to make decisions and make plays, and the trust that they can tell that their coaches have in them is very evident. They’re unafraid.”

In addressing the litany of people trying to discern FGCU’s formula for success, Enfield has multiple times pointed out he and his team know the difference between work and play.

(Page 2 of 3)

Practices are not only fun and games, Enfield and his players have said.

When one of his reserves missed a defensive assignment during FGCU’s win over second-seeded Georgetown on Friday — forcing a starter to commit a foul to prevent an easy basket — Enfield exploded at the reserve on the sideline and immediately yanked him out of the game.

More commonly, though, Enfield and his staff have proven adept at getting their point across positively.

“He realizes how you should communicate with people and how to get the best out of each and every player,” said FGCU senior Sherwood Brown. “I don’t like when coaches really yell like that. A lot of players can’t handle all that type of stuff.”

It was in late January when Enfield — who refuses to acknowledge rampant speculation about a growing number of suitors interested in hiring him away from FGCU — had had enough of the in-game antics of a few players who were hurting his team.

So for nearly an hour in practice, Enfield had those players repeat the same idiosyncrasies after an offensive play while the rest of their teammates had to fend for themselves — a man down — on the defensive end.

The session was as riotous as it was effective, even though Brown still talks to the crowd after made buckets, sophomore Eric McKnight flexes his muscles after a dunk and junior Christophe Varidel clicks his heels in the air after a made 3-pointer.

“I don’t know if they stopped doing it,” Enfield said. “But at least they get back in transition before they do it.”

THE BUSINESS SIDE

The numbers are not pretty -- relatively speaking -- and the sports world now knows it.

Enfield, a former Wall Street entrepreneur and NBA assistant coach who took a pay cut to take his first head-coaching job at FGCU after spending five years as a Florida State assistant coach, makes $157,500 this season.

His five-year contract calls for $5,000 raises each of his next three seasons, and the $5,000 and $10,000 bonuses he receives for making it to the NCAA tournament and Sweet 16, respectively, can hardly match the dollars that bigger, wealthier schools might try offering him if they can even get him on the phone when the season ends.

(Page 3 of 3)

FGCU athletic director Ken Kavanagh on Monday insisted he still had not been contacted — or accepted a call, anyway — from any colleague seeking permission to speak with Enfield when the season ends.

Nor, Kavanagh said, will he discuss any internal FGCU conversations being had regarding restructuring Enfield’s contract after this season, his second year on the job.

“I didn’t tell anybody anything at any time,” Kavanagh said of an ESPN report that FGCU wanted to increase Enfield’s salary to $600,000 next season. “We want to keep our good coaches for all our sports as long as we can. It’s predicated on the resources we have available to us.”

For some context, FGCU last offseason restructured the contract of founding FGCU women’s basketball coach Karl Smesko, who has a winning percentage over .800 and has taken FGCU to the postseason all six years the school has been in Division I.

Smesko, who took FGCU to the NCAA tournament last year in the school’s first year of eligibility and to the WNIT the five other D-I seasons, received a $25,000 raise to pay him $185,000 this season.

For all the visibility and potential revenue that the FGCU men’s team’s run is producing, the athletic program has a long wish list of upgrades and enhancements that Enfield also knows are vital, even as resources are limited.

Not that the man who knows how to make business a pleasure is concerned about such things now.

“It’s too early to talk about that stuff,” Enfield said. “We’re completely focused on what we’re doing. I think any distraction for myself or my staff would take away from the potential of our team. And we don’t want to jeopardize that.”

EYES ON THE PRIZE

One of items on FGCU's long wish list of upgrades includes boosting coaching salaries in all sports, not just in basketball and not just for Enfield.

Eagles third assistant coach Michael Fly, who makes a little more than $30,000, came with Enfield from Florida State in 2011. Fly was a video coordinator for the Seminoles while Enfield was an assistant under head coach Leonard Hamilton.

"One thing I've always been told is chase success, and the rest of it comes," said Fly, 29, also a video coordinator intern for the Charlotte Bobcats before going to Florida State. "I"m not worried about what pay's like right now."

Fly, who credited Hamilton and Enfield for instilling such a message, said the FGCU's many sleepless nights recently are part of the bigger picture.

"That’s all of us," he said of the devoted work regimen. "That’s not just me."

Follow Seth Soffian on Twitter
@NewsPressSeth

More In FGCU Sports

Local Deals

Flip, shop and save on specials from your favorite retailers on Marco Island

GET DEALS NOW

Marco beach cam

RESTAURANTS

Find local restaurants, read
and submit reviews

Celebrating the best of South Lee and North Naples

READ MORE

Reader Photos

Get the Hurricane Hub app

DealChicken.com

Sign up to save 50-90% off SWFL dining, shopping, spas, activities and more. Every day.