SALT LAKE CITY — It is 2,643 highway miles from Los Angeles to Fort Meyers, Fla., further still on the applause meter. In L.A., they just fired UCLA basketball coach Ben Howland after a quick exit from the NCAA tournament. The legendary program is in need of a tune-up, if not an overhaul.
Meanwhile, at previously unknown Florida Gulf Coast University, you might say the surf’s up. Yet it could be UCLA that kills the party in Fort Meyers. The Bruins are looking for a coach, and one of the likely candidates will be FGCU’s Andy Enfield, who has made the Eagles this year’s most endearing tournament team. It has upset second-seeded Georgetown and seventh-seeded San Diego State to advance to the Sweet 16. Now all it needs is to beat neighboring Florida this week and it will be time to get Hollywood on the phone. Not only would it make a great movie, but Enfield could wind up coaching just up the street.
FGCU, a school that didn’t exist until 1997 and didn’t start basketball until 2002, has been discovered. It lost 20 games two years ago. Now it’s as cool as, well, beachfront property. The story only improves from there. Enfield began as a coach, then got wealthy in business before returning to coaching. Now he’s among the hottest prospects in the country. Speaking of which, the TV cameras have been hot on the trail of Enfield’s wife, a former magazine cover model.
Yes, Enfield is in the zone.
While hundreds of coaches claim they’d do their jobs for nothing, Enfield is basically doing that. In the second year of a five-year deal, he earns $157,000, which is good money unless you compare it to other Division I coaches. What does he care? He was an NBA assistant in Milwaukee and Boston before leaving in 2000 to co-found a startup software company tied to health care.
As with most things in that field, profits soared.
Sports Illustrated valued TractManager at $100 million in 2006, when Enfield returned to coaching as an assistant coach at Florida State. Some estimates say that figure has quadrupled. Enfield took the FGCU job in 2011.
Of course, no story about Enfield would be complete without recounting how he met his wife a decade ago. After introductions by a mutual friend, he discovered Amanda Marcum needed a ride from New York to Boston. He was happy to accommodate. He told reporters their first dinner was at Taco Bell.
Formica tables, paper napkins, salsa in a packet — what supermodel could resist? (Side note: Why is every model a “supermodel”? Why are all actors “movie stars”?)
The two married and have three children. Marcum gave up her career for family and followed him to places like Tallahassee and Fort Meyers.
Who knows what’s next for the practically perfect Enfields. Minnesota just fired Tubby Smith. Maybe they’ll end up in the North Woods, though that would put a pall on their golden Florida tans. Enfield might choose to stay in Fort Meyers and soak up the sun, though that seems unlikely considering his market value.
He’s already proven a shrewd businessman.
Whatever the case, across the country Howland is out of work. Don’t feel sorry for him. He gets a $3.5 million buyout. Still, he has to wonder how he lost his job. Last year his recruiting class was considered the best in the nation. Though the Bruins fell to Oregon in the Pac-12 tournament championship game, UCLA did win the Pac-12's regular season championship.
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By UCLA standards he has underachieved since taking the Bruins to three consecutive Final Fours, ending in 2008. Los Angeles area prep players have left for other schools. Programs like Arizona, Cal and Oregon are challenging the Bruins’ dominion.
Would Enfield be a good fit at UCLA? He’d be perfect. His resume is good, his team's a winner and he has obvious charisma. His blond-model wife?
It doesn’t get more L.A. than that.
He told media last week: “I aim for the stars.”
Where better to go star searching than Tinseltown?
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