Florida Gulf Coast Eagles head coach Andy Enfield looks on from the bench against the Mercer Bears during the championship game of the Atlantic Sun tournament at Hawkins Arena. / J.D. Mercer, USA TODAY Sports
Without divulging the timeline of his communications with USC and agreement to become its new men's basketball coach, outgoing FGCU coach Andy Enfield this morning called it too great of a personal and professional opportunity to pass up despite his success at and affinity for FGCU.
The former Florida State and NBA assistant coach pointed to USC's academic and athletic reputation and the credentials of USC athletic director Pat Haden, a former Rhodes Scholar, partner in a private equity firm and winner of two national championships as a quarterback at USC in the 1970s.
"USC is an amazing place," Enfield said this morning from his office in Alico Arena on FGCU's campus. "I thought that it doesn't get any better than Pat Haden as an athletic director and the opportunity to work at a prestigious university like USC."
Enfield, who leaves FGCU two years into a five-year agreement that made him a head coach for the first time, met with his players and staff just before midnight Monday night as his agreement to become the USC coach was being announced. The meeting was emotional for all involved, Enfield said.
"That's the most difficult part is telling your players that you won't be their coach next year," Enfield said. "We were extremely close. Our whole staff is extremely close with our players. Our players have a special bond among themselves. It's never easy, and there are no words. You really can't say the right thing."
FGCU, which reached the Sweet 16 in only its second season with Division-I postseason legibility and became the first No. 15 seed in NCAA tournament history to win more than one game, returned to Southwest Florida on Saturday afternoon after losing to Florida in Dallas the night before.
Enfield, who wouldn't confirm or refute reports of his contact with Minnesota and Old Dominion regarding coaching vacancies there as well, said he "met" with Haden but had not visited USC. He would not disclose when the meeting took place.
"It's confidential," said Enfield, who is scheduled to fly out tonight for California and be introduced as USC's coach on Wednesday.
Enfield, who said all arrangements with USC were finalized on Monday, would not confirm reported details of his contract with USC, said to be for six years at more than $1 million a season.
Enfield received $157,500 this year at FGCU with bonuses of $15,000 for reaching the Sweet 16.
"I'm going to wait for USC to disclose what they want to disclose about my contract," said Enfield, noting the private institution's exclusion from the open-records laws he and FGCU are subject to in Florida.
Carefully trying to review his words while enduring even more sleep deprivation from recent weeks, Enfield said Sunday was a rare opportunity to spend time with his family.
"Had a terrific Easter church service," Enfield said. "Had a relaxing family meal and spent some time with my children. Turned my cell phone off for a few hours. It was great to not think about basketball for a day and really focus on the family."
Enfield said he hadn't spoken with any of his assistant coaches about going with him to California or being candidates to replace him at FGCU. He said he also hadn't spoken with any of his new players at USC.
"That will all be sorted out in the next couple weeks," he said. "The Final Four is coming up. As I speak to people in Los Angeles and on the telephone we'll figure out what the best direction is and try to put the best staff together we can."
Enfield said he was in the process of reaching out to FGCU's two signees for next year, Orlando-Hagerty High School's Logan Hovey and Atlanta-area North Cobb High School's Jordan Neff, to encourage them, like the rest of FGCU's current players, to stick with FGCU for 2013-2014.
"They made a commitment to come play for me and to come play at FGCU," Enfield said. "I'm encouraging them and the two signees to continue the excellence of the program, to keep building on the success and staying together.
"It changes everyone's life," Enfield said of his departure. "At the same time, they have a special opportunity here to continue what they've started. They're such a close-knit group and such a great basketball team. They've meant so much to this university in the past three weeks, it would be great to see this program continue and reach even greater heights.
"Wherever we are in life, I'll always have a relationship with these players."
FGCU has a press conference scheduled for 1:30 p.m. today with athletic director Ken Kavanagh and university president Wilson Bradshaw to discuss Enfield's departure and search for his replacement, which the school said would begin immediately.
Reports surfaced in recent weeks of FGCU's hope to double Enfield's salary next season, while another report speculated it would take a figure at least quadruple Enfield's salary to keep him at the school.
But with an entire athletic department budget of only $8.75 million in only its sixth season as a D-I school â?? and just second as a fully credentialed D-I member â?? all parties knew FGCU couldn't compete with the salaries schools like USC and others could offer Enfield.
"President Bradshaw and Ken Kavanagh have been great through this whole process," Enfield said. "FGCU has been supportive and generous to me, and there was not a counter offer that was realistic that was going to make a difference."
After his team qualified for the NCAA tournament a little more than three weeks ago, Enfield said he didn't necessarily have a dream job in mind for his future.
"Every day when I show up, and it's 75 degrees out in the morning and I know my family's happy and I've got great kids here at FGCU to coach, I'm fine with this dream job right now," Enfield said then.
Enfield on Tuesday reiterated that the decision kept his family in mind. His eldest child, daughter Aila, turns 7 today. Daughter Lily is 5, and son Marcum, born a week after Enfield took the job in Southwest Florida in 2011, turns 2 on Monday.
"This is not a financial decision only," Enfield said. "This was a very calculated decision."
Enfield has repeatedly spoken of the sacrifices made by his wife, former New York City fashion model Amanda Marcum, giving up her career to start a family and be a "coach's wife."
Enfield said any desire for the Oklahoma native to return to work was not a factor in the decision to move to Los Angeles.
"This has nothing to do with Amanda's profession," he said. "USC is very family oriented. We're looking forward to having our family spend a lot of time on campus, really enjoying one of the best universities in the country and all it has to offer."
Enfield said his wife was excited about the move, but his daughters asked if they could remain FGCU fans.
"My daughters asked if they could still root for FGCU," Enfield said. "They built some unbelievable relationships with our players and staff here. It's difficult for not only me but my wife and children too."
USC's basketball program has endured tumultuous times recently and gone through several coaches in a short time frame. As when he took the job with FGCU's then-lifeless, directionless men's basketball team, though, Enfield said he isn't worried about the past.
"I took this job (at FGCU) knowing where FGCU was. They lost 20 games four straight years," he said. "I'm not one to look at the past. I look at the future and the opportunity."
In retrospect, FGCU ultimately might have been a victim of its own success.
Sitting next to three of his players at a press conference Friday night after losing to Florida, a bleary, red-eyed Enfield thanked Kavanagh for his shared vision of taking stagnant, once-unknown FGCU to the NCAA tournament's Sweet 16. He never mentioned doing so in just two stunning years.
"I don't think anyone of us could have imagined three weeks ago that we would be the talk of the NCAA tournament on a national scale and be in the Sweet 16," Enfield said Tuesday as his phone repeatedly buzzed and rang with text messages and phone calls.
"Everything has moved so quickly in regards to the publicity for this school, the national and worldwide media attention and of course my personal situation with the job opportunities."
Soffian also writes for the News-Press, a Gannett property.
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