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Tuesday, March 26, 2013
Enfield always had magic touch

By Peter May
ESPNBoston.com

Former Celtics general manager Chris Wallace finally came clean this week about his one, everlasting regret in his 10 years with the franchise.

Drafting Joe Forte instead of Tony Parker? Nope. Trading for Vin Baker? Nope.

"I can't believe I didn't follow Andy Enfield out the door when he left to go to Wall Street,'' Wallace cracked. "I feel like such an idiot. I could have held his briefcase and walked away with some of all those millions."

That was 13 years ago. Wallace is still an NBA general manager, now with the Memphis Grizzlies. Enfield, meanwhile, at age 43 is the latest "it" college basketball coach, overseeing the upset-minded darlings of Florida Gulf Coast College, which became the first 15th seed in NCAA tournament history to advance to the Sweet 16.

Andy Enfield
Andy Enfield's coaching career took a giant leap in February 1999, when he became an assistant to Rick Pitino in Boston.

But before he had deeper pockets ("I still have to work" he recently told ESPN's Tom Rinaldi), a supermodel wife (Amanda Marcum), or even any head-coaching experience, Enfield was a relatively unknown 29-year-old entry-level assistant for the Boston Celtics. His expertise at the time was shooting. He knew how to shoot, having set an NCAA record for free throw percentage at Johns Hopkins, and he thought he could help others.

Enfield had called Wallace periodically when Wallace was with the Miami Heat in the 1990s, offering his services after the Heat had had a tough shooting game. Nothing came of that, but he eventually got a shooting-coach gig with the Milwaukee Bucks in the mid-1990s.

By 1999, however, Enfield wanted to broaden his coaching experience and, in Boston, then-coach Rick Pitino was eager to help. If you want to put a date on the beginning of Enfield's actual coaching career, as in coach with a capital "C," it would be February 1999, when the NBA-imposed lockout ended.

"He's not going to be just a shooting coach,'' Pitino said at the time. "He's going to learn how to be a coach. He wants to be a coach."

How Enfield came to Boston is up for debate. Leo Papile, then the Celtics' player personnel boss, said the idea to bring in Enfield was the brainchild of associate coach Jim O'Brien. Now an assistant with the Dallas Mavericks, O'Brien declined to be interviewed for this article.

Wallace recalled that Pitino was prompted to hire Enfield after watching Enfield put Walter McCarty, then with the Celtics, through a rigorous shooting exercise that spanned a couple days at the team's old training facility at Brandeis University.

"He knew what he was talking about and he definitely helped me,'' McCarty recalled. "He had a great way about him. He was never demeaning to anyone, trying to tell them that their technique was wrong. It was always, 'Just try this and see if it helps.' Knowing Andy and his work ethic, I'm not surprised at all to see where he is and what has happened."

The Celtics' shooting numbers did increase in Enfield's two seasons in Boston. When he arrived, the Celtics were shooting 43.4 percent from the field and 72.6 percent from the line. When he left, they were shooting 44.4 percent from the field and 74.5 percent from the line. In 2000-01, after Enfield had left for the business world, the Celtics dropped to 42.8 percent shooting from the field and 74 percent from the line.

There were times when Enfield would climb a ladder and videotape a player shooting from above to get a better angle. McCarty mentioned that Enfield told him to shoot his 3-point shots on a different trajectory. McCarty's 3-point percentage improved dramatically; it was at 26 percent in the lockout season and eventually rose to nearly 40 percent.

"His time here was brief, but he made the most of it,'' Papile said of Enfield. "But even though he was known as a shooting guy, he had aspirations to be a coach and he pursued them. He reinvented himself as a college guy when he went to Florida State [for five years as an assistant] and he was well prepared for this [the FGCU] job. The short time here certainly helped him."

By the year 2000, however, Enfield's time in Boston came to an end. Again, there are conflicting stories as to why he left, ranging from disagreements with the coaching staff to the obvious allure of the financial world at the time. Wallace said that before Enfield departed, the future FGCU coach did some time in the Celtics' front office, where, according to Wallace, he "devoured" the complicated collective bargaining agreement.

"I remember him as being quiet and very, very bright,'' Wallace said. "He knew that CBA inside and out. He'd propose trades, things like that. And as a Johns Hopkins grad, I'm guessing he had more contacts in the business world than most NBA guys."

The rest, as they say, is history. Enfield enjoyed success in the business world. He got his college coaching start at Florida State as an assistant to Leonard Hamilton. And now, two years into his stint as the head coach at Florida Gulf Coast, he is appearing on ESPN's "Pardon The Interruption" while his team is gearing up for Friday night's game against Florida.

"When you think about it,'' Wallace said, "it's an unbelievable story. In less than 15 years, to go from a low-level assistant to where he is? And to leave the profession for a while in the middle of it all?

"I had Joe Lunardi work for me and I should have patented the word 'bracketology.' Like [John] Calipari did with 'Refuse to Lose,'" Wallace said. "That was bad. But what's worse is I really should have rode Andy's coattails [to the business world]. If I had, I'd be on some Caribbean island today, that's for sure.''