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USC's hire of FGCU's Enfield creates buzz

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LOS ANGELES (AP) - Southern California athletic director Pat Haden wants to make basketball relevant at the Pac-12 school known for its powerhouse football program.

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So he went out and hired Andy Enfield of Florida Gulf Coast, who has been one of the most buzzed-about coaches since making the Eagles the first No. 15 seed to reach the round of 16 in the NCAA tournament. They upset No. 2 seed Georgetown and No. 7 seed San Diego State before losing to Florida.

``We've had starts of good programs but never really had a sustained program for a long period of time. We're trying to build a very credible basketball program at USC,'' Haden said Tuesday on a teleconference.

``What we've missed is a coach that can be here for an extended period of time and get this program where it should be.''

Haden believes he found that person in Enfield, who parlayed those two NCAA tourney wins into a new job with a program that plays in the shadow of cross-town rival UCLA, which owns a record 11 national championships.

Enfield entered USC's search late in the process, but Haden said the private school looked into him thoroughly. He spent 4 1/2 hours with Enfield on Monday.

``His style of play was certainly attractive to me and what we're trying to create as long as it was a winning style,'' Haden said. ``We were looking for that in the hire.''

Enfield said he first heard from USC on Friday night after FGCU's loss to Florida, and talked throughout the weekend.

``It might have been quick, but when you know where you want to be, that's all it takes,'' he said.

He said he had ``considerable interest'' from other schools, but declined to name them.

The 43-year-old coach was 41-28 in his only two seasons as a head coach at FGCU in Fort Myers, Fla. He led the Eagles to a school-record 26 wins this season.

Enfield will be introduced at Galen Center on Wednesday before he heads to the Final Four in Atlanta this weekend.

``This is a guy that his entire life has been one success after another,'' Haden said.

Enfield takes over from interim coach Bob Cantu, who had a 7-8 record after succeeding Kevin O'Neill, who was fired in mid-January.

The Trojans lost their final three games, including a defeat in their first game of the Pac-12 tournament. Starting center Dewayne Dedmon and backup big man James Blasczyk were suspended indefinitely and missed the league tourney following allegations the pair was involved in a melee in Spokane, Wash., during the team's final Pac-12 road trip of the season.

O'Neill had a 48-65 record during 3 1/2 years at USC after going 6-26 last season while setting a USC record for losses.

USC hasn't made the NCAA tournament since 2011. The Trojans are 12-17 all-time, with their best results coming in 2007 and 2001, when they lost in the regionals, and in 1954, when they lost in the national semifinals.

Enfield has experience coaching basketball at primarily a football school.

He was an assistant at Florida State from 2007-11, where the Seminoles made the round of 16 in 2011.

``We went in and recruited great players,'' he said. ``You just have to build it the right way. You have to develop them and make them better each year.''

At the same time, Enfield called himself ``the biggest college football fan'' and he and his wife, Amanda, plan to attend Trojans games in the fall.

Amanda drew attention during the NCAA tournament when the television cameras found her agonizing through the final minutes of FGCU's games. She appeared on the covers of Elle, Maxim and Vogue during her modeling career.

Enfield said the media's portrayals during the tournament of the couple's off-court lives ``had a few inaccuracies.''

``She was a very successful model and I took her away from that when I went to Florida State as an assistant coach,'' he said. ``When all this media attention on her came out, she kept saying, `This is not about me, this is about FGC. I'm a coach's wife, a mother.'''

Enfield believes the media twisted some of his backstory, too. He earned an MBA from Maryland and started a series of lacrosse camps to help supplement his income. From there, he began basketball camps that specialized in shooting, which led to NBA stints with Milwaukee and Boston.

When he was an assistant with the Celtics, Enfield worked for and was an investor in a health care software company.

``I've been called a Wall Street tycoon and I'm worth $50 million,'' he said. ``That's not true, either.''

Enfield said his business background has helped him become a better coach, but his success in the private sector ``had a few inaccuracies. I understand things get exaggerated.''

AP NEWS
The Associated Press News Service

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The Associated Press
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