FGCU assistant coach Kevin Norris, right, works with Bernard Thompson during a practice last week at the Wells Fargo Center in Philadelphia. / Kinfay Moroti/news-press.com
FGCU assistant coach Michael Fly, center, and guard Brett Comer, right, watch highlights of FGCU's victory over Georgetown last week at the Wells Fargo Center in Philadelphia. / KINFAY MOROTI/THE NEWS-PRESS
Meet the aides
Previous jobs: Tallahassee Community College (2007-08); Texas A&M-Corpus Christi (2008-10), UNC-Wilmington (2010-11)
Notable: Led University of Miami in assists all four years. … Helped Hurricanes reach NCAA Tournament in 1998, the first time in 38 years for the school. … Still is school’s record-holder with 208 steals. … Baltimore native used to watch coach Andy Enfield on TV when he played at Johns Hopkins.
Previous jobs: Simpson College (Iowa) (1999-2001), South Dakota (2001-03), Bowling Green (2004-07), Chipola (2007-08), Budivelnyk Basketball Club, Ukrainian Superleague (2008-09), ESPN (2009)
Notable: Three-year letterwinner at Simpson College. … ESPN job was evaluating high-school talent. … Nine players Richter coached at Chipola earned Division I scholarships.
Previous jobs: Kentucky. … Corporate and broadcast alliances intern with the NCAA (2007-08), Florida State video coordinator (2008-11)
Notable: Has worked several high-profile camps, including Five Star Basketball where he was a basketball content coordinator.
Previous jobs: Florida State graduate assistant (2009-11)
Notable: Graduated from Eckerd in 2009. … Is team’s director of basketball operations, which doesn’t allow him to coach.
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Not the alley-oop slams or 3-pointers.
But the Euro move FGCU guard Bernard Thompson used to free himself up on mid-range jumper, or the one-dribble jump-hook by forward Chase Fieler in the lane or the floater guard Sherwood Brown scored when he had a defender 1-on-1 off a breakaway.
“Last year, he would’ve run the guy over,” FGCU assistant Marty Richter said.
When FGCU men’s basketball coach Andy Enfield took the job two years ago, his first priority was to improve the players’ skills. With Enfield’s assistants patiently spending time and working with those players, those skills have matured to the Sweet 16 level fans saw last weekend.
“We got our own things,” FGCU assistant Kevin Norris said. “The dribbling stuff and footwork, you can credit me with that. Marty is doing a heckuva job with our bigs. Eric McKnight, aww, man. He couldn’t catch a cold in Alaska. Now he’s catching lobs.”
Norris, Richter and Michael Fly joined Enfield in 2011 when he took the FGCU job. Norris played for Leonard Hamilton at Miami — while Enfield was an assistant —and Fly was an assistant with him at Florida State. Richter was coaching at nearby Chipola College and his wife Brynn worked with Enfield at FSU.
They would learn all aspects of the college game. Some assistants specialize in working with either centers and forwards or guards, but FGCU’s do it all.
“I give them a lot of responsibilities,” Enfield said. “Everyone has a third of the scouts. Everyone makes edits for me. They watch five, six, seven games and 45 minutes after that, they have a DVD ready for me.”
Enfield admitted there were quite a few challenges when he took the job from a program that won 10, eight, 11 and 10 games the previous four seasons.
After a month of rest following the 2010-11 season ended, players got their legs awakened by high-tempo practices, which the assistants helped them through.
“It was a running joke after we worked them out the first few times,” Fly said. “They were sucking wind and struggling. Most of them were hurting a bit. If there was ever a moment they didn’t want to buy in, we said, ‘How many games did you win last year? We went to the Sweet 16, you might want to listen to us.’ ”
These veteran players would be joined by young talent, which they admitted was pretty good when they faced them in pick-up games. The assistants admitted concern over how the new and old would mesh, but Fly said Eddie Murray and Brown helped bring everyone together.
“You can’t tell who’s who, which is awesome,” Richter said. “We said, ‘You’re playing for FGCU, you’re all my guys.’ Everyone bought in, which is huge. Sometimes kids don’t buy in.
“We get after Eddie as we do Filip (Cvjeticanin) or McKnight. We hold them accountable on the floor and goof off off the floor.”
The final piece was getting these players to bring their skills and camaraderie to the court. From the first scrimmages, Enfield and his staff let their players play and live with mistakes to a certain degree. It’s high risk, high reward. Over the past weekend, the rewards have been stratospheric.
“Guys have gotten to know each other’s tendencies,” Richter said.
“I know passing and dribbling footwork and Andy knows shooting,” Norris said. “That’s a match made in heaven.”
“A lot of coaches run offenses with 10 different actions,” Fly said. “We have a few actions, but once we’ve run those actions, it’s space the floor and let the kids play.
“We want our guys to love playing basketball. We don’t want robots.”