In May 2012 I penned a lightly read piece about an unknown coach at a small school in Florida. It largely gathered internet dust until 11 months later. That’s when Andy Enfield guided Florida Gulf Coast to the Sweet 16, his team earning the nickname Dunk City along the way.
So, considering I’d already predicted great things for Enfield even before he’d done anything, it was natural that I continued with that position when he was hired at USC. This led to plenty of arguments with arrogant UCLA fans who knew nothing about Enfield except for that he was all over ESPN as the newest thing. Never mind that I would have made the same argument about USC’s hire if last season’s tourney run never happened. UCLA fans just refuse to believe that USC basketball can do anything right.
And honestly, it’s hard to blame them.
In the past decade they’ve had a winning conference record three times. Two years ago they won exactly one Pac 12 game (over 3-15 Utah). It's been 59 years since they appeared in a Final Four.
Their coaching choices went from Tim Floyd (the man who had a 93-235 NBA career) to Kevin O’Neill (the man who unsuccessfully sued the director of Hoop Dreams for money he wasn’t even owed).
So forgive UCLA fans for being skeptical (though the arrogance was a bit much, because, you know, John Wooden retired) about USC’s hire, even if all the evidence points toward Enfield being one of the coaching ranks' young stars.
Since then he’s followed the exact same model that he employed at Florida Gulf Coast. He hired assistants with local connections. And then he recruited the way Leonard Hamilton taught him to recruit. Schools which have significantly fewer resources than their competition can’t just identify a bunch of high school kids they want and then go get them. They have to comb over the transfer wire. They have to cultivate international relationships. They have to hit JUCOs. There’s talent out there, and in his time at Florida State, Enfield was really good at finding it.
The roster Enfield inherited was gutted and not exactly full of talent. There’s a reason USC went 14-18 last year. There’s a reason they lost at home to UC Irvine.
So the roster upgrade was critical.
Able to play this year are transfers Pe’Shon Howard (PG - Maryland) and DJ Haley (C - VCU). And in the wings sitting out the season will be Darion Clark, a bull in a china shop who played last year for Charlotte, and Katin Reinhardt, a consensus top 40 player in high school, from UNLV.
But the biggest news yesterday was when USC landed Jordan McLaughlin to be the future point guard. Not only is McLaughlin a local kid, but he was a priority recruit for UCLA. Coupled with Malik Price-Martin, a talented power forward from Florida, and USC is set up for a top 25 recruiting class.
All told, USC will still struggle this year, but the roster is being rebuilt in a hurry. Already, there should be a lot of optimism amongst Trojans fans.