Who should replace Mike White at Florida? Choice #1: Andy Enfield

Andy Enfield
Photo credit: Alex Gallardo, Associated Press

Yesterday, I laid out all the criteria I believe that Scott Stricklin and the Florida Gators should look for in their next head men’s basketball coach. With that done, it’s time to start rolling out the list of candidates. And that list starts with a very familiar name to those in the Sunshine State.

1: Andy Enfield, Southern Cal (formerly Florida Gulf Coast)

Age: 52

Highlights: took FGCU to the Sweet 16 in 2013, took USC to the Elite 8 in 2021, and has USC 22-4 and ranked #17 in the country in late February of 2022.

Complete coaching record: 178-114

Why Enfield?

I had Andy Enfield at #9 overall, in the “last resorts” column on my board last year.  Although two of the coaches ahead of him on that list took other jobs, two coaches being stricken from the board should, if our preschool counting lessons were accurate, only put him at #7. So why is he now the top overall choice all of a sudden?

Simple. Because now, with this 2021-22 season, he’s proven something that he hadn’t previously: consistent, sustained success.

Everybody with even a passing interest in college basketball remembers the flash and charm of “Dunk City” in 2013, the unicorn of a #15 seeded Florida Gulf Coast team hop-stepping its way to the Sweet 16. While that may be a cool memory for him to have, though, it’s got nothing- repeat nothing- to do with why I want him at Florida.

Enfield has built the USC Trojans into a terrifying force in the Pac-12. His first two years out in Hollywood were bad- and that suggests he may require some patience at Florida in his first year or two- but then he figured things out and took the Trojans to the Big Dance in his third and fourth years. Years five and six brought a bit of a rebuild, but then in his seventh year, Enfield started to dominate.

Enfield’s Trojans were sitting as a projected #8 or #9 seed when COVID shut down the 2019-20 season, but the construction had only just gotten started. The following year, Enfield guided the Trojans to a second-place finish in the Pac-12 and a #6 seed in the NCAA Tournament, where they rolled past Drake, Kansas and Oregon to reach the Elite 8 before #1 overall seed Gonzaga ended their run. And now, here stands USC, 22-4 this season as of publication and ranked #17 in the country, sitting pretty to reach the Big Dance for what should be the third year in a row, with specific NCAA Tournament projections ranging from a #5 seed to a #8 seed.

No longer can you label his success at USC “just one lucky run,” because although the NCAA Tournament is a month away, now the Trojans are a team you can point to and say, “see, right there. That’s a team that could make a deep NCAA Tournament run” in more than just one season.

This is all at USC basketball, mind you, not USC football. Other than OJ Mayo and DeMar DeRozen in the late 2000’s and a pair of Final Four runs in 1940 and 1954, there’s precisely zero basketball prestige at this school. Prior to Enfield’s arrival, the Trojans had been to the Round of 32 of the NCAA Tournament just five times, ever. And with the way he’s recruiting- his 2022 recruiting class is ranked #6 in the country– his Trojans have shown no signs of slowing down any time soon.

As for the “powerful offense” box? He’s a very good offensive mind, but it’s the players that he recruits and develops that really check it off. His Trojans always have a dominant interior player who can be relied upon for crucial buckets. That alone is a welcoming sign after Florida has essentially had just two good-or-better post players in Mike White’s seven years at Florida. In fact, if Isaiah Mobley can bump up his scoring average from 14.6 points per game to 15 or higher, this will be the sixth consecutive year that a USC player occupying either the 4 or 5 slot will have averaged 15 PPG or more under Enfield.

Would Enfield take the Florida job?

More than likely. There’s the obvious wild card of if Andy Enfield would want to leave something that he’s worked so hard to build just to do it again. But there’s absolutely no comparison between the prestige of the Florida basketball job and the USC basketball job.

Florida isn’t exactly working with an infinite pool of cash here, but given that they’re paying Mike White about the same amount that USC is paying Enfield, a quick game of pass-the-hat throughout Florida’s booster base should render Scott Stricklin more than capable of offering Enfield a pay raise. Assuming Florida doesn’t lowball him, he’s a fairly safe bet to take the job if offered.

Fun fact

The Mike White supporters love to talk about “NCAA Tournament wins,” so they’ll really appreciate this one. Despite coaching at far less prestigious basketball schools than Mike White- that’s right, FGCU and USC do not come close to comparing to Louisiana Tech and Florida- Andy Enfield has precisely the same number of NCAA Tournament wins as White in precisely the same number of seasons. Both Enfield and White have been Division I head coaches for 11 years, and both have six NCAA Tournament victories to show for it.

Enfield picked up a pair of NCAA Tournament wins in his second and final season at FGCU in 2013, won a lone Round of 64 game in 2017 with USC, and took the Trojans to the Elite 8 last season. White, for his part, never reached the Tournament in four years at LT before coming to Florida, where he took the Gators to the Elite 8 in 2017 and grabbed stray Round of 64 victories in each of the next three NCAA Tournaments.

Verdict: best possible hire

I do want to make one thing as clear as clear can be before putting forth my final word of support for Enfield, or any coach for that matter. It’s always possible that coaches with the best resumes in the world don’t pan out at their new schools for one legitimate reason or another. I can’t see the future, nor can anyone else. Believe it or not, I don’t know everything, nor do any of the millions of people- Gator fans or not- who sincerely believe that Florida needs to move on from Mike White. So by no means am I guaranteeing a certain level of success for Enfield if he comes to Florida; I’m simply using the data in front of me to make the most logical prediction possible.

And when you balance that data with the risk involved, potential ceiling, and his likelihood of being a long-term solution, Andy Enfield is the candidate who checks the most boxes and seems the most logical. He put an infant program on the map at FGCU, and now has USC’s basketball program looking as strong as it has in nearly three quarters of a century. He’s the best candidate there is to be Florida’s next men’s basketball coach.