Andy Enfield demonstrates power of positive coaching

Far from Rice and Rutgers: Andy Enfield is the new men's basketball coach at Southern Cal. "I don't yell and scream," he said.
Far from Rice and Rutgers: Andy Enfield is the new men's basketball coach at Southern Cal. "I don't yell and scream," he said. (Associated Press)
Posted: April 22, 2013

If Mike Rice is everybody's favorite poster child right now for how not to coach, Andy Enfield could be his opposite.

One will be lucky to ever coach for a salary again. The other showed up in Philadelphia last month, showed off plenty of coaching sophistication as his team won a couple of NCAA games representing a school few had ever heard of, and parlayed that into a new job coaching the Southern California Trojans.

When Florida Gulf Coast revved up at the Wells Fargo Center, cameras focused on the Dunk City style, the imaginative alley-oops that got the crowd going, and Enfield's wife - a former cover model. You may have heard about Enfield's background as a shooting coach, NBA assistant, and successful businessman.

His players focused on something else, and talked about it quite a bit: Enfield let them have their fun. (Until he tells them, Enfield explained, "Recess is over.")

This much was obvious: Enfield's players don't need to duck.

"I don't think any player gets motivated by screaming and yelling at them all the time - they'll tune you out pretty quickly," Enfield said in a telephone interview from his new USC office. "Sometimes players respond because I don't yell and scream. If I do raise my voice, they hear it."

Enfield worked for coaches with different styles. Rick Pitino, not known as laid-back, was his Celtics boss. Then he worked for Mike Dunleavy in Milwaukee and Leonard Hamilton at Florida State. He talked about what he learned from each. In the NBA, obviously, throwing balls at players isn't going to be tolerated. Enfield also made it clear that his approach came from a personal place.

His greatest mentor, he said, was a little-known ninth-grade coach in Enfield's hometown of Shippensburg, Pa.

"No, no," Enfield said when asked if this coach, his father, was a screamer. "He'd raise his voice when he had to. When you're coaching ninth graders, it's a lot more challenging than coaching pros or college players."

Enfield doesn't want anybody to think he's laid-back. He describes himself as "very Type A, very focused." Nor does he want anyone thinking his Florida Gulf Coast players weren't serious about the game. There were demands placed on them, as USC players will find out.

"You can't say, 'Hey, guys, we're going to have fun,' " Enfield said. "You have to create a culture within a program, you have to develop relationships."

One core belief: "We don't yell at players when they miss shots or turn the ball over. You can't play looking over your shoulder."

He learned a lot about how to motivate players from Pitino, he said. He learned how to structure his offense from Dunleavy, putting in quick-hitter sets, putting his best players in position to make plays. And Hamilton, he said, is a master at building programs.

Enfield was a top Division III player himself, at Johns Hopkins. He doesn't want anyone to think that screamers are only for Division I.

"Any level, you see that," Enfield said, acknowledging there are plenty of high school screamers.

"You're with each other so much over the course of a year, in my opinion it's much easier to reach your goal if you can show up every day and enjoy being there," Enfield said.

Now, his voice level didn't necessarily win or lose games, and being soft on guys isn't what makes them happy. (Playing time tends to be a determinant at any level.)

But when you knock off Georgetown in the NCAA tournament and your players start a little conga line on the court, it's all right for the coach to roll with it, if not join it. When you beat San Diego State to become the first No. 15 seed to reach the Sweet 16 and one of your players ends up 10 rows up in the stands and the locker room turns into a mosh pit, that's fine, too.

All this got Enfield noticed. There's a reason this Pennsylvania native has a fancy new office and much bigger salary on the other side of the country.

"Your success relies on your players," Enfield said. "They have to perform for you."

So, good for Enfield, for moving up. That's the way it works in his profession. And good for USC, for recognizing that this wasn't just a lucky weekend in Philly, that a culture had been put in place that led to Florida Gulf Coast's success.

The larger issue here, the point of all this, is how a coach is supposed to be. Enfield's contribution: You can be a Type A, as focused and driven as the rest of them, and still remember recess.


Contact Mike Jensen at mjensen@phillynews.com. Follow on Twitter @jensenoffcampus.

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