Roots of Florida Gulf Coast's tournament run trace back to Baltimore

Eagles coach Andy Enfield a Johns Hopkins grad, assistant Kevin 'Stink' Norris a Lake Clifton alum

(Baltimore Sun and USA Today…)
March 28, 2013|By Mike Klingaman, The Baltimore Sun

The Cinderella team of this year's NCAA men's basketball tournament hails from Florida, but its coaches have Maryland roots.

Andy Enfield set scoring records at Johns Hopkins before he became head coach at Florida Gulf Coast, the darling of the tournament. His assistant, Kevin "Stink" Norris, grew up in East Baltimore and starred at Lake Clifton.

Together, they've put a local face on an upstart team that breaks new ground with every win. The Eagles are the first 15th seed in tourney history to make the Sweet 16, and an upset of No. 3 Florida on Friday night would carry Florida Gulf Coast further still.

"What are our chances? We'll see [Friday night] when they throw the ball up," said Norris, unfazed by long odds. "As a kid, I learned that it ain't the name on the shirts that wins games; it's the players that wear them."

That Enfield, 43, has made FGCU a contender in his second year as coach isn't surprising, Baltimoreans who know him say. Fittingly, Norris is his deputy. And there's a 6-foot-10 freshman from Patterson, Leonard Livingston, Jr., waiting in the wings for the Eagles.

A four-year starter at Hopkins, Enfield scored 2,025 career points, one of 17 school records he still holds. He hit 92.5 percent of his free throws, an NCAA record, and made 76 of 77 free throws in postseason games.

"That was a long time ago. I don't know if I can remember that far back," Enfield said of his Hopkins career Thursday in Arlington, Texas. "I had a great college basketball experience. I played for a terrific coach, Bill Nelson, and all my teammates were close friends. ... It doesn't matter where you play or what level you play. I played Division III and just had a tremendous time."

At Hopkins, Enfield delivered glimpses of the pure shooting stroke that would make him an instructor for NBA players and of the entrepreneurial spirit that would lead him to help build a successful software company. It's less clear where he developed the moves to woo his wife, bikini model and current media sensation Amanda Marcum.

"Andy is so focused, so programmed," said Nelson, the Blue Jays' coach for 27 years. "He played more minutes than anyone in Hopkins history. He never took a second off, in practice or in games. And he has a great basketball IQ. Look at Florida Gulf Coast, which just beat two of the top defensive teams in the country (Georgetown and San Diego State). His kids run, dunk and shoot 3s.

"It's not wild basketball, it's cerebral basketball with a fast pace — and it works."

Hopkins and beyond

A native of Shippensburg, Pa., Enfield was valedictorian of his high school class and Nelson's first recruit in 1987.

"He could have gone Ivy, but we needed help and Andy wanted to be a big fish in a small pond," the coach said. Both parents were teachers so Enfield, an academic All-American, worked several jobs to pay for school.

In the fall, he worked the chains during Hopkins football games. Year-round, Enfield toiled nights at the campus athletic center. After practice, he'd stop by the dining hall, put some food in a styrofoam box and head to work. Nelson can still see him sitting by the front door, fork in one hand, textbook in the other as he ate, studied and checked students' IDs as they entered the building.

"Andy was pretty relentless in all he pursued," said Dave Eikenberg, his college roommate and the point guard on that Hopkins team. "One day, he had a bum ankle and had to sit out practice. As it happened, the guy who replaced him, Kevin Roller, had the practice of his life. So we all looked at Andy on the bench and started calling him Wally Pipp (the New York Yankees' first baseman who lost his job to Lou Gehrig). You could see this scowl come over his face.

"In our game the next day, Andy played and scored, like, 30 points. Afterward, in the locker room, all he said was, 'Please don't call me Wally.'"

In four years, Enfield started every game but one. He sat out the first three minutes of a game at Brandeis, the price for missing the team bus to the airport.

"Our alarm clocks didn't go off," Eikenberg said. "So we had a fraternity brother (Alpha Delta Phi) drive us to BWI. We beat the bus there, but Andy didn't get to start the game. He's still mad about that."

Enfield is "a driven guy," said Eikenberg, who prepped at John Carroll and is now a vice president at T. Rowe Price. "I spent hours rebounding for him while he shot free throws. He was so fundamentally sound, and you can see it with his team today."

Dave Pietramala, Hopkins' lacrosse coach, agreed. As a student there, Pietramala played pickup basketball games with Enfield, hung out with him and, after graduation, launched a lacrosse camp with him on the Eastern Shore.

"Andy didn't know much about the game, but he was looking to make some money and said, 'You handle the lacrosse and I'll handle the business.'"

They ran the program for five years before their careers took off.

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