Donovan, Eagles' Enfield familiar with one another
Published: Wednesday, March 27, 2013 at 7:00 a.m.
Last Modified: Tuesday, March 26, 2013 at 8:59 p.m.
ARLINGTON, Texas — Their programs are different, but Florida coach Billy Donovan and Florida Gulf Coast University coach Andy Enfield share similar backgrounds.
Both were scoring point guards never afraid to hoist a shot in a big moment. Both turned their back on Wall Street to return to the game they loved. And both worked as assistants under Rick Pitino, absorbing the knowledge and skills that prepared them to coach at the Division I level.
“I have a little less hair than Billy,” Enfield said. “For some reason, he's in better shape than I am. He's a better looking guy, and he's got a lot more hair.”
When Florida faces Florida Gulf Coast in the Sweet 16 on Friday at Cowboys Stadium in Arlington, Texas, it will match a pair of coaches familiar with one another. Enfield worked as an assistant coach at Florida State from 2006-11, recruiting against Donovan and UF's staff. Donovan first met Florida Gulf Coast's coach when Enfield was an assistant under Pitino with the Boston Celtics from 1998-2000.
“I've always had a good relationship with him, and I have a lot of respect for him as a person and as a coach,” Donovan said. “He's obviously done a terrific job.”
In fact, the Sweet 16 matchup could have happened sooner. Enfield had approached Donovan about traveling up to Gainesville for a closed preseason scrimmage. But Donovan said he chose to scrimmage Rollins College instead, because the Gators were facing a pair of Princeton offense teams (Georgetown and Air Force) during their non-conference schedule. Rollins presented a better match to prepare for those teams.
“In talking to Andy on the phone, I'm not one bit surprised of the year they've had,” Donovan said. “Because when I had a conversation with him he was telling me how really good they were and how special he thought his team could be, and he had a lot of really good players and they were going to have a really good year.”
On the court, Enfield said he views some similarities between Florida and Florida Gulf Coast. The Pitino influence is apparent. Like Florida, Florida Gulf Coast will press, push the ball upcourt and use screening action to free up open shooters.
But Enfield said he doesn't view that familiarity as an advantage in preparing for the Gators. He called Donovan “one of the best adjustment coaches I've seen.”
“We'll have to prepare for what's coming, and I'm sure we'll have to adjust ourselves,” Enfield said.
Enfield has built the Florida Gulf Coast program around rangy, athletic players who finish well in transition. Florida Gulf Coast scored close to 20 percent of their points on dunks and lobs, which were on display in NCAA Tournament upset wins over Georgetown and San Diego State. As a result, Florida Gulf Coast's campus hometown of Fort Myers has earned the nickname “Dunk City.”
Asked about FGCU's ability in transition, Donovan credited the school's sophomore point guard, Brett Comer. Comer, who teamed with former Duke guard Austin Rivers at Winter Park High School, ranks 16th in the nation in assists at 6.4 per game.
“Comer is a great assist guy,” Donovan said. “He reminds me a lot of (Missouri's) Phil Pressey, not so much the way they are built so to speak, but the vision that he has. He is one of the best passers in the country.
“And when you've got a point guard that's got that kind of vision and can make pinpoint passes like that, it takes their team to a different level. And in transition, where they do get a lot of those lobs, you've got to do a really good job of getting back in transition and taking care of the basketball and doing those kinds of things. Because if they get out and they space it with their speed and quickness, they are really, really good on the break, putting the ball on the rim and they've got athletic frontcourt guys and wing players that can go up there and get it and finish.”
Off the court, Donovan gave up cold calls at a brokerage firm on Wall Street to join Pitino in 1989 as a graduate assistant at Kentucky. Enfield's encounter with the business world was different and more dynamic. In 2000, Enfield left the Celtics to start a pair of basketball consulting websites. During that time, Enfield also pursued an entrepreneurship opportunity that netted him millions of dollars. He joined a pair of partners to found TractManager, an information management system for health care contracts.
But in 2006, the former John's Hopkins guard couldn't resist the itch to return to coaching. Enfield took an assistant coaching job at Florida State, moving himself and supermodel wife, Amanda Marcum, from New York City to Tallahassee. The couple now have three young children.
Hired at Florida Gulf Coast in 2011, the 44-year-old Enfield has coached a 15-seed to the Sweet 16 for the first time in NCAA Tournament history.
“His experiences with Coach Pitino, with (FSU coach) Leonard Hamilton, with the different places that he's been, he's probably taken some of those things and then he's probably taken some of his own ideas and thoughts and got them into his program as well,” Donovan said. “They do a lot of different things very well.”