The first thing people mention is his offense.
And how can they not?
Florida Gulf Coast University’s high-octane, up-tempo style of play captivated the nation last spring, as their impromptu Sweet 16 berth — by way of defeating powerhouses Georgetown and San Diego State, no less — validated the distant notion that successful college basketball teams can still be exciting.
Mere weeks after Florida Gulf Coast was eliminated, Enfield was hired by USC Athletic Director Pat Haden in April to bring that excitement to a basketball program that had inspired little enthusiasm in the Trojan faithful.
But while his system’s dunks and 3-pointers garnered most of the attention, USC men’s basketball coach Andy Enfield is also enamored with how to ensure Player X is open for that lob attempt in transition, and how to put Player Y in an optimal position to break down the defense and kick out to a teammate.
For Enfield, results matter, of course — what coach doesn’t love winning? But it’s the process and journey to the result that’s most important.
Enfield has cultivated a nuanced approach to developing his players’ skills, which stems from his experience in the mid-to-late ’90s as a shooting coach with the Milwaukee Bucks and an assistant coach with the Boston Celtics.
“There are a lot of different breakdown drills we do,” Enfield told the Daily Trojan in late August. “We just emphasize it, and we work on it and we teach. I don’t allow players to go through practice doing it the wrong way.”
If Enfield sees a player shooting with improper form, or executing a play the wrong way, he’ll immediately stop practice and correct the mistake. It’s a meticulous habit, but also a significant reason why Enfield’s players execute his game plan so effectively.
“Repetition without teaching only gets you to a certain level,” Enfield said.
To get to the next level and ultimately compete for Pac-12 championships, Final Four berths and a national championship, the Trojans have to first learn Enfield’s offensive system — a challenge given the stark contrast between FGCU’s roster last season and USC’s this season.
“We’re going to play a similar system,” Enfield said. “When I say similar, it’s going to be the same concept. We’ll adjust some of our playcalling and some of our screening action to use our strengths.”
Those strengths include 7-foot-2, 270 lb. center Omar Oraby and 7-foot, 250 lb. center D.J. Haley (a transfer from Virginia Commonwealth University). While neither player is the prototypical Enfield big man — his rotation at FGCU featured athletic, spry players 6-foot-9 and below — Enfield welcomes the challenge of handling more traditional, back-to-the-basket big men.
For the second straight season, few teams boast as monstrous of a frontcourt as the Trojans, and Enfield plans to use that to his advantage.
“I’d be crazy not to get those guys the ball in the paint because they’re very good,” Enfield said. “They have great hands and good footwork. But they can still set ball screens.”
And that’s where the famed “Dunk City” highlights could come in.
“We run a 4-out, 1-in motion, where they can still set ball screens and run to the rim for lobs, dunks or bounce passes,” Enfield said.
Despite the relative youth of the roster, Enfield feels another strength of the Trojans will be the experience of their key players.
Returners Oraby, guard J.T. Terrell and guard Byron Wesley figure to start and assume significant leadership roles considering their familiarity with the program. Transfers Haley and point guard Pe’Shon Howard (Maryland) also bring experience from established programs.
The biggest unknown is the group of freshmen — guards Kahlil Dukes and Julian Jacobs, and forwards Nikola Jovanovic and Roschon Prince — four players who will likely tilt USC’s season one way or another.
“We’re going to need the four freshmen to contribute,” Enfield said. “It’ll be interesting to see how they adjust to the college game, how much they improve and when they’re thrown into the game situations starting in November, how they perform.”
With so many fresh pieces, including a newly assembled coaching staff and potentially six untested rotational cogs, Enfield has refrained from setting goals for the upcoming season. Instead, he plans on letting his players decide their own expectations once official practices begin on Sept. 27.
“I think if you set your goals too high or too unrealistic, I don’t think it helps you achieve [them] or stay focused throughout the season,” Enfield said.
“But I’m a big believer of if your goals are not necessarily the end result, but how you’re going to get to a certain result, I think those [goals] are much more attainable because you have control over how hard you work on a daily or weekly basis.”
That doesn’t mean Enfield lacks a long-term vision, though. Atop his list: creating a program with “sustainability at the national level” and being “a top-25 team every year.”
Which is exactly what he was hired to do back in April.
When USC Athletic Director Pat Haden spoke of Enfield at his introductory press conference, Haden emphasized the importance of USC basketball establishing relevancy for the first time.
Five months into the job, Enfield’s tenure is off to a promising start.
Five-star point guard Jordan McLaughlin committed to the Trojans on Wednesday, bypassing opportunities to play at UCLA, Kansas and Indiana. The move signifies a major coup for the Trojans in the local and national recruiting scene, and is a sign that Enfield’s transformation of the basketball program has already begun.
“I don’t know what people think outside our program, but I’ve been very impressed with our players as individuals and as a team, and the atmosphere our coaching staff has created around here and the Galen Center,” Enfield said. “It’s a pretty exciting time.”