By Brandon Webb
Andy Enfield doesn’t pace the sideline like an expectant father.
He stalks it, leaving a trail of confidence.
Talk to the first-year Florida Gulf Coast University head coach for two minutes and you can’t help but see what Eagles players, fans and administrators have been raving about since he stepped foot onto campus this time last year.
There are no frills about the Pennsylvania native. He isn’t boisterous or slick. And he comes off about as phony as John Wayne.
So when he inherited the reigns of a program that went 10-20 last season and lost nearly twice as many Atlantic Sun Conference games than it won, morale was low.
Good thing they tabbed Enfield for the job.
The 42-year-old has completely changed the face of the program. The Eagles waded through a 13-16 season. But they qualified for their first-ever General Shale Brick Atlantic Sun Basketball Championship, albeit a No. 6 seed.
Thursday night, however, Enfield delivered what his players called the biggest win in school history, a resounding 71-61 victory over No. 3 seed USC Upstate at Mercer’s University Center.
“Man for man, we’re just as talented a team as Upstate, so in my mind, it’s not an upset,” Enfield said.
There’s that confidence seeping out again.
When he said, “We came out with an intensity that matched theirs, and at times, exceeded theirs,” he’s believable. Evidently, he had no problem focusing his squad’s intensity.
“They beat us two times this year,” Enfield said. “They had the (A-Sun) Coach of the Year, Player of the Year and Freshman of the Year.”
If there were an A-Sun Salesman of the Year, it would no doubt be a landslide.
The Eagles trailed by six points at the half.
“The players just decided they wanted to win the game,” Enfield said. “I didn’t raise my voice. It was very matter-of-fact.”
Par for the course.
FGCU clamped down on Torrey Craig, holding him to merely 10 points. That was quite a stark contrast from the last time the Eagles faced the A-Sun Player of the Year.
“He had a career-high 30 points against us last time and we weren’t about to let that happen again,” Enfield said. “Our guys took that as a challenge.”
Much like Enfield accepted his current challenge of building FGCU into one of the conference powers.
“We’re not the best team in our league right now,” Enfield said. “This is a growing process. We have a lot of young players. We only have two seniors. The entire starting five, plus key contributors off bench will be back.
“I think this season has met my expectations, which were to put a team on the floor that cares about winning, that cares about each other and then to try to develop their talents over time.
That spells trouble for fellow conference foes. But, that can wait.
The Eagles have a date with Mercer at 8:30 p.m., Friday, with a berth in the tournament final on the line.
Enfield said he believes his team can win the whole thing… confidently.
Brandon Webb is a freelance sports writer who resides in Macon, Ga. He can be reached at email@example.com.