Florida Gulf Coast Coach Reprising Startup Success at TournamentErik Matuszewski
Andy Enfield couldn’t get basketball out of his blood, even after he helped build a health-care contract-management software company.
That’s part of the reason Enfield -- with an MBA, a fashion-model wife and the career scoring record at Johns Hopkins University -- is making history as coach of Florida Gulf Coast University, the biggest surprise of the National Collegiate Athletic Association men’s basketball tournament.
The Eagles, from Fort Myers, Florida, are the first No. 15 seed to reach the regional semifinals, after upsets of No. 2 seed Georgetown and No. 7 San Diego State. Featuring a running, dunking style of play, they next play No. 3 Florida as 13-point underdogs March 29 in Arlington, Texas, six years after joining college basketball’s top level.
“As a Division I basketball coach you need to be the CEO of a program,” Enfield told reporters after his team’s 81-71 defeat of San Diego State three nights ago in Philadelphia.
His players surrounded the 43-year-old coach in the locker room, chanting “An-dy, An-dy,” and dousing him with water.
Enfield is no stranger to success or startups.
He scored 2,025 points at Johns Hopkins from 1988 to 1991, one of his 15 school records, and set a Division III mark with a 92.5 career free throw percentage. He paid for an MBA at the University of Maryland, he said, by running a lacrosse camp.
Enfield also worked in the National Basketball Association as a shooting consultant and coach, becoming an assistant with the Boston Celtics and Milwaukee Bucks. He said he moved to New York, launched a website called onnetshooting.com, and continued work with NBA teams and players.
In 2000, he became one of the first employees of TractManager, which was founded by his friend Tom Rizk and now works with more than 6,000 health-care facilities, according to a company news release. He was the senior vice president of finance and ran the sales team, Rizk said.
“Since I had my MBA in finance, I wanted to try to build a startup company and see where it went,” Enfield said. “Through Tom’s leadership and the other great people I worked with, we were able to make it successful and eventually profitable.”
It was also at that time that Enfield met Amanda Marcum, a model who’s been on the cover of magazines such as Maxim, Vogue and Elle. Their first date was at a 2003 National Invitation Tournament game in New York, a week after driving to an NCAA game in Boston when a mutual friend introduced them.
“I pulled up to the Starbucks in Manhattan to pick them up, and as soon as I saw Amanda get in my car, I knew it would be a good trip,” he said.
The couple married in 2004 and two years later moved to Tallahassee, Florida, after Enfield sold part of his investment in TractManager, now owned by Arsenal Capital Partners, a New York-based private equity company. Rizk, TractManager’s chief executive, said the company’s value is “much higher” than $100 million without being specific.
“One of the responsibilities that we all have is that we have some type of positive impact on the youth in America and coaching was Andy’s way of doing it,” Rizk said in a telephone interview. “When he had some success with us, it probably gave him the financial freedom to explore going back and follow a dream that never left his blood.”
Enfield was a Florida State assistant from 2006 through 2011, with NCAA tournament berths the final three years. He moved to Florida Gulf Coast before the 2011-12 season and led the Eagles to a school-record 15 wins and the championship game of the Atlantic Sun Conference tournament.
This season, Florida Gulf Coast had early losses to Duke, Virginia Commonwealth and Iowa State, all NCAA tournament teams. It beat Miami, the No. 2 seed in the East region, 63-51, on Nov. 13.
“After a few bad losses this year I wished I was still on Wall Street, but now I’m happy I’m here,” said Enfield, who has an annual coaching salary of $157,500.
The Eagles beat Mercer in the conference title game for the NCAA berth, then beat Georgetown 78-68 in the South region on March 22.
Two days later, Enfield’s team outscored San Diego State 47-36 in the second half to make history. The previous six teams to win as No. 15 seeds since 1985 lost their next contest. The previous lowest-ranked schools to make the final 16 were 14s -- Cleveland State in 1986 and Chattanooga in 1997.
The run has brought unprecedented exposure to a school of 12,655 students that opened in 1997. Since the start of the NCAA tournament, it has been mentioned in 661 television programs, 597 print stories and 9,210 Internet articles, Joyce Julius & Associates, an Ann Arbor, Michigan-based sports advertising evaluation company, said.
“We’re looking forward to helping the school grow from a marketing standpoint and build an awareness across the country that FGCU is a hidden gem down in Southwest Florida,” Enfield said. “That was my goal this year.”
The winner of the Florida Gulf Coast-Florida game faces Kansas or Michigan for the South region title, and one bettor at the Las Vegas Hotel’s Super Book placed a $10 wager at 1,000-to-1 odds that FGCU would reach the Final Four. The Eagles were underdogs by 12 1/2 points against Georgetown and 7 1/2 against San Diego State.
Rizk said Enfield’s business skills have translated well into building a basketball program at a school not known by most people.
“When you have a startup you have to convince talented people to come join the company and then mentor them and make them believe you can be successful,” Rizk said. “That takes talent. And that’s the same talent he’s using to get his team to believe in what they’re doing. You can see it, there’s not a doubt in their mind that they think they can compete.”