|ESPN.com: NCAA Tourney 13||[Print without images]|
The kids started counting the makes while the man kept on talking.
One in a row, two in a row, five, 20 -- with each swish, Andy Enfield never lost his train of thought, never interrupted his dialogue with the kids who quickly were hanging on his every word.
"He's shooting left-handed, making shot after shot and backing up further and further, and the kids are all cheering," said Don Woodring, a high school girls' coach who witnessed Enfield in action. "Then all of a sudden, after he's making one after another at half court, he stops and says, 'Oh by the way, I'm actually right-handed.'"
This was about 16 years ago -- or around the same time Enfield's current employer was opening its campus doors -- at a tiny public high school in New Jersey that you wouldn't go searching for unless you had to.
|Andy Enfield's Florida Gulf Coast Eagles have been the talk of the tournament.|
South Hunterdon Regional High School -- current enrollment around 375, seventh through 12th grades -- sits at the intersection of Rocktown-Lambertville and Mount Airy-Harbourton Roads, across from a horse farm, down the street from an apple orchard and about five miles outside of the Delaware River-hugging town of Lambertville.
I know how to get there because I went to high school there. In its history, South has produced exactly one Division I basketball player. Colleen McCrea played at George Washington 20 years ago.
So this is not where you go to get players, to get noticed, to get much of anything except a good education in a small-town community. Yet somehow that's exactly where the man who is currently the talk of college basketball was back in 1997.
To understand why, or even how, is to understand Enfield's love of basketball, a singular passion that rendered even a cushy job with a healthcare business information startup company a mere diversion.
"He grew up sitting on his daddy's lap going to his games," said Barbara Enfield, Andy's mother. "We always knew this [basketball] would happen."
Indeed, Enfield's career is no accident; it is as planned and calculated as the spin on his perfect shot.
Barbara and Bill Enfield are retired schoolteachers -- she taught sixth-graders, he taught English. They like to think their oldest son got his ability to translate what he knows from them.
Andy Enfield fits the overachieving-first-child stereotype well -- diligent, grounded and hardworking, a top athlete and an equally gifted scholar.
His dad coached ninth-grade basketball and, for a time, the varsity team, too. Bill Enfield even went straight Hoosiers in central Pennsylvania, fashioning a mini-court for his son in the family's Shippensburg backyard, evening the sloping yard himself.
Enfield scored more than 1,000 points in high school, converting that into a chance to play at Johns Hopkins. But people don't go to Hopkins to become basketball players or even basketball coaches; they go to become doctors, businesspeople or some other sort of professionals.
So Enfield took the requisite consulting job offered after graduation -- and hated it immediately.
"It lasted 10 months, five days, four minutes and 32 seconds," his mother said.
Instead, Enfield paired scholarship money with some extra cash he earned running lacrosse camps with Hopkins coach Dave Pietramala and enrolled in the University of Maryland's entrepreneurial studies graduate program.
By now the NCAA record holder in free throw percentage, Enfield asked a friend, a lawyer involved in licensing, to trademark the name "All-Net" for him as he conjured up a shot-doctoring clinic and video. Barb still has copies in her house.
"I did the reservations, and Bill did the registration," Barb Enfield said. "It was literally mom-and-pop. But he did pay us!"
The cult of the shot doctor is an interesting niche in hoops. Some -- like Philadelphia University's Herb Magee -- are well-respected and sought for their help. Others, with all sorts of Web-based infomercials, come off more like charlatans.
Enfield was legit, but he had to prove it, so he took his clinic on the road, almost like a barnstorming tour. He got the hookup at South Hunterdon only because the sister of the boys' coach at the time was married to one of Enfield's former Hopkins teammates.
"We thought he'd be great, and he was," Woodring said. "I remember he asked someone where they looked when they shot. Naturally, they said the rim. He said, 'If you're looking at the rim, you're going to hit the rim. Look over top of it.'"
The other thing about the cult of the shot doctor -- if you're good and you get results, like the baseball field in Iowa, people will come.
Eventually word got out that Enfield wasn't some witch doctor and actually was helping people. The clinics and videos combined his best attributes -- the confidence that has been written about frequently these past few days, the basketball ability evidenced at Johns Hopkins and the teaching skills passed down from his parents.
He built up a client base, including NBA players, and got the attention of then-Milwaukee Bucks coach Mike Dunleavy, who brought him on his staff. When Dunleavy was let go, Enfield beefed up his consulting even more, eventually turning Rick Pitino's head while he was coaching with the Celtics. The current Louisville coach hired him for two years.
"It was a great experience because he gave us a lot of responsibility," Enfield said. "I had a third of the scouts with the other two assistants, so it was my job to prepare the team."
Even after he left the bench to join two friends in a startup business in New York, he kept his tentacles in basketball, marketing his tips through a video. When Leonard Hamilton, who had long ago promised him a spot on his staff, called with an offer to be an assistant at Florida State, Enfield -- by then with his wife, Amanda Marcum -- jumped.
"I didn't want to go back to the NBA as a full-time coach," Enfield said. "[I thought] if I go back to coaching full-time instead of just doing the consulting, I'd rather have it on a college campus because I think it's much more entertaining and engaging."
Chase Fieler was a pretty good basketball player in high school -- an all-state selection in West Virginia -- and he was a pretty decent shooter, too, evidenced by the 25.3 points per game he shot as a senior in Parkersburg.
|Chase Fieler, always a good shooter, improved with a simple tip from his coach.|
Yet within days of Enfield's hiring, the coach decided Fieler's shot needed work. Not dramatically but infinitesimally.
"He made me move my thumb, like, a few inches," Fieler said. "No one ever told me before there was anything wrong with my shot. Ever. The change was dramatic. I mean amazing."
That sounds impossible, but Enfield's gift is his ability to see the minute and still make big changes. In some instances, like Fieler's, it's about physical change; in others, it's more a change in thinking.
At the high school camp 16 years ago, Woodring remembers how Enfield suggested a change in traditional basketball terminology and how just using a new word changed the way the coach thought about his shot. Instead of a guide hand, Enfield argued, the off hand should be called a lift hand.
"That's what it's doing -- lifting the ball where you want it to go," Woodring said. "I totally changed my terminology, and it just all made sense."
Enfield is more than a basketball Rain Main. He rebuilt not only his current players' shots but their games, too. Fieler, for example, went from an outside jump-shooter to an inside presence, where he could better use his athleticism and freakish leaping ability.
In fact, the better part of the players who are now overnight sensations have been remodeled by Enfield.
Sherwood Brown and Eddie Murray logged more time on the bench than on the court before Enfield. Brown this season was named Atlantic Sun Player of the Year. Murray is the first guy off the bench and, along with Fieler, one of the Dunk City stars.
"The year before he came, I scored 11 points in the entire season," said Murray, who nearly matched that total against Georgetown (nine). "I sat on the bench a lot. He came in and told me, 'We're going to try and build something here, and we think you can really help us.'"
On Friday night, Don Woodring flipped on the NCAA tournament, just like basketball fans everywhere. There was the happy-talking swish master from the basketball clinic.
"I said, 'Oh my God, it's Andy," Woodring said. "I knew he was back in coaching. I think I even heard that he was at Florida Gulf Coast, but when the brackets came out, I never connected the two."
Too bad. With such insider knowledge, Woodring might have won pool or two.
"I'm not surprised at all," Woodring said of Enfield's success. "He was so smart."
Smart enough to know that no matter how many detours life took him on -- from graduate school to Wall Street -- his path was meant to be beautifully pockmarked with the divots of a basketball.