FGCU Coach wants team to embrace success

The Florida Gulf Coast University basketball team may be the hottest topic in all of sports right now. The Cinderellas of the NCAA tournament will be on display this weekend in Arlington (TX) as they match up Friday with Florida in the Sweet-16. Coach Andy Enfield wants his team to embrace the attention they are getting and deal with it like they play basketball. Just have fun, but stay focused.

Enfield talked to the national media about his team and the big match-up against in-state basketball power Florida.

Q. Obviously your team is fundamentally sound and well coached, but the piece of their success that has to do with the joy and the looseness and exuberance, how do you as a coach maintain that while this stage has increased tenfold and the stakes are far higher?
Well, it's the personality of our players and our team and our culture. I try to develop with my assistant coaches a way to play the game up tempo style, not take people out or yell at people because they make mistakes.
It was frustrating last year because we had a lot of turnovers in crucial situations because of our style of play. But as they developed their skill sets and they become more comfortable making plays off the move and going full speed, we became a much better basketball team. As it became that, it became fun to play the game. They enjoyed it and they enjoyed themselves as teammates.
So our team chemistry is at an all time high. What you're seeing is genuine. They enjoy being here, they enjoy playing the game of basketball.

Q. Could you talk a little bit about your athletic director and the role that he's played in developing the resources and increasing what you've got to work with. I understand your recruiting budget was almost zero when you got there?
Ken Kavanagh is our athletic director. He is very experienced. Worked at Bradley for many years. He's a basketball guy. He understands the value and how to make a basketball program successful. I'm very impressed with his vision.
That's why I took the job in the first place is because he had a way about him, he's just a tremendous person. And I thought I could work with him every single day to make FGCU a better place. Our budget is challenging, to say it nicely, when you have one of the lowest budgets in the United States in Division I level. But he's done a great job of trying to manage that, increase our recruiting budget just slightly. We're way behind most places.
But we're such a new institution, and I give him a lot of credit, because it's hard to manage an athletic department with so many sports on a shoestring budget. And I don't know how he does it.

Q. A week ago when you had this press conference, you guys were No. 15 seed, very few people knew about. How do you put it in perspective on how you get your team's focus back on to the task at hand?
Well, things have certainly changed in a week. We knew going into the Georgetown game we could win the game, we prepared to win it like any other game in our schedule. We were confident. We beat a great Mercer team on our home court to win a championship.
Now things have changed dramatically because not only did we beat Georgetown, we beat San Diego State, and we're in the Sweet 16, the first time a 15 seed has ever been here. It was history. And I told our players, you deserve to enjoy that.
We took Monday off, they went to class at 8:00, they were all in class at 8:00, 9:00, no one missed. And it took us a day and a half to recover mentally and physically. So Tuesday's practice was just okay. Yesterday was better and today was better.
But it's all business now. We have a game tomorrow to play. And I'm very appreciative of the job the media has done. We've met some terrific people over the last week and a half, two weeks. And I really give the media credit for being so enthusiastic and professional on their coverage of us.
It's been overwhelming, but we've been trying to do everything we can as a team, as a program, to not only handle the media requests, but to promote the program and the school itself. And our players have done an amazing job of that.
But now we're in Dallas, we can feel the game starting to get closer and closer, just like the Georgetown, San Diego State game got closer and closer, and they're very, very focused.

Q. Aside from the fact you're here in the Sweet 16, you're a different basketball team. I haven't seen the fun quotient in a basketball team in any tournament involving the NCAA and basketball in years, if I've even seen it. Do you think maybe your team is sending a message more so to a lot of people across America is to incorporate that fun factor, and maybe that might add to the success factor in their lives, as well?
I'm a big believer that college basketball should be an enjoyable experience. It is a full time job, when you spend 12 months a year working on your game, you're with the coaching staff 12 months of the year. So if you're going to be with the players and the coaching staff and everyone has to live together and spend hours and hours, it should be an enjoyable experience. That's what college sports to me is all about. We run our program like that.
Our players work extremely hard. We don't put up with any nonsense. They go to class. They've had the all time highest GPA this semester. We engage the students in campus, we get involved with the community, the surrounding community. And when it's time to show up on the court they play hard. And that's all I ask of them.
The last thing they have to do to play for me is be a great teammate. My coaching style is accountability, but let's enjoy ourselves while we do it. I think you've seen that. This is not fluff. They are really enjoying themselves and that's the way we play.
And I think we've become more successful and our players have developed quicker on their skills and their confidence because of that culture in the program.

Q. What kind of opportunity on the one hand does this present your program and on the other hand a challenge for Florida being the flagship basketball school in the state?
I was an assistant at Florida State for five years. We played Florida every year. I got to see Coach Donovan, his brilliance, and see what a great coach he was as we prepared for the team. He makes adjustments during the year, during the season and even during the game. He's as good a coach as I've ever seen.
And the players, I know them personally, because I recruited a lot of them while I was at Florida State. They're terrific young men. I know their families.
It's very ironic that we're playing Florida in the Sweet 16. I blame this on the Selection Committee. This should be a Final Four game, not a Sweet 16 game.

Q. Was there a point in the Georgetown game, even though you said you were confident going in, that you felt like you began to realize we not only can play these guys, we're the better team, we should win this game?
There's not a lot of difference between a really good mid major team and the power conferences on any given night.
And we feel we can compete with anyone in the country. We're athletic, long, fast, we play up tempo, we play a different style and system.
I watched the film on Georgetown, I thought they were as good as anybody I'd seen. They were ranked top 8 in the country, had an amazing year in the Big East. I didn't know if we could beat them, but I did know we could compete with them.
I told the players it's going to take you a few minutes when you start the game to realize that you're just as good as the guy guarding you or whoever you're guarding. And in some cases you'll be better than that player. If you play together as a team, you play hard, you rebound the basketball, you'll have a great chance of winning.
And we went into that game preparing to win, not to keep it close. And that's the way we played.

Q. What are some characteristics on the court and personally that you like about Brett that help make your team successful?
Brett sees the floor as well as any point I've seen. He is he just has a gift of seeing the play develop. And he makes the pass as the plays develop or even before the plays develop. And it's amazing how his improvement last year he led the nation in turnovers or close to it. He led our league in assists or turnovers. This year his assist turnover ratio is much better.
He's become a leader, he's more mature. And he's averaged 12 assists in two NCAA tournament games, in two games. It's impressive. He is as crucial to our success or potential success against Florida with all those good guards.
But Brett has developed I knew he was talented, but he has really surpassed what I thought he could be as a sophomore.

Q. You've used the word "development" several times and I know that's been a theme of yours. That was a big issue of how you got into the NBA in the first place, player development. Could you address the work and detail that's gone into that and is that something we don't see enough of?
I don't know what other coaches do or staffs, but my background has been in shooting, changing shooting techniques, working on offensive moves, footwork, triple threat, post moves, etcetera. We spend a lot of time every day in practice, we adjust our shooting techniques, ball handling, decision making, their passing, their footwork in the post, their off the dribble moves, different finishing, the Euro step, the floaters. A lot of things that go into our offensive.
And then we practice going full speed. To play our system you have to do those things going full speed. We practice our bounce passes, the slot passes to the post. So a lot of different there's a lot of different things in development.
Give you an example, Bernard Thompson was a terrible shooter in high school. Now he's shooting 38 percent from the three, just made six in the last two games. He spent three months changing his shooting form. Same thing with some of the other guys on the team. They have done the work to allow them to get to this point.
We start three sophomores, a junior and a senior. And I'm amazed at out how much Chase Fieler and Sherwood Brown have improved. They are two of the most improved players I've seen in 15 plus years of coaching.
It's really amazing when you can give a player certain things to work on, show them film of what they're doing well and not well and then see them a year or even six months later go out and do that against the best players in the country at a high level. And that's what has taken us from a very streaky, mid major college basketball team to a very good mid major basketball team, to be able to compete with anyone in our schedule.
Players don't come into college with all the skills necessary. And if you don't have a development program for them, they only get to a certain level.
I don't necessarily think we're the best at it, but I can say that we focus a lot of time on it. And what I've seen in our team, I'm so proud of our players because they've taken the coaching and the instruction, and when we're not around they're in the gym working on their game.

Transcript provided by ASAP Sports

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