In his introductory press conference last week, new USC basketball head coach Andy Enfield said he was looking for an assistant coach with a Southern California background to improve local recruiting. He now has two.
On Wednesday, Fox Sports reported that San Diego State assistant coach Tony Bland accepted USC’s offer to become associate head coach. He joins Jason Hart, lured away from his assistant role at Pepperdine, as the first two members of Enfield’s coaching staff.
Bland had been an assistant coach at San Diego State for the last two seasons. He attended Westchester High in Los Angeles and then played at Syracuse before transferring to SDSU, where he played two seasons under current Aztecs’ head coach Steve Fisher.
Bland was known for his recruiting prowess while at SDSU, and, in 2012, played a major role in recruiting the program’s first ever five-star recruit, Winston Shepard.
“Tony Bland is the best young recruiter on the West Coast,” CBS Sports’ Jeff Borzello tweeted on Saturday, when rumors of Enfield’s offer began to surface.
Bland will receive an increase in salary with the position. He was paid $120,000 annually at SDSU, but will make at least double that at USC, per multiple media reports. As associate head coach, he is behind only Enfield in his role, while at SDSU he was behind associate head coach Brian Dutcher.
Hart played point guard in the NBA for nine seasons on nine different teams, most recently with the Minnesota Timberwolves. After his last season in 2010, Hart coached at Taft High School in Los Angeles and in Amateur Athletic Union basketball before being hired as an assistant at Pepperdine in May 2012.
“They are getting a first class person, family man & hard worker. Much respect!” tweeted Pepperdine head basketball coach Marty Wilson on Monday, after news of Hart’s move to USC broke.
Hart attended Inglewood High School, located just 20 minutes from USC, as well as Westchester High School before playing college basketball at Syracuse. Hart became the school’s all-time leader in steals and was second among assist leaders. He earned All-Big East first-team honors during his senior season and was named as a member of Syracuse’s All-Century basketball team.
Bland and Hart were teammates under legendary Syracuse coach Jim Boeheim in the 1998-99 and 1999-00 seasons.
For Enfield, a Pennsylvania native and Johns Hopkins alumnus with East Coast ties, the move equips the team with proven assistants and respected recruiters with deep Southern California roots. That can only work in the new head coach’s favor when trying to recruit top-tier local talent in the Los Angeles area.
Enfield may still add to his staff in the coming weeks. Last week, former interim head coach Bob Cantu announced via his Twitter account that he would not be returning next season.