Florida Gulf Coast coach's risks paying off

PHILADELPHIA -- An old retiree gifted Andy Enfield the sign that now hangs above his office door. It reads like a challenge but it’s more Enfield’s motto:

“You miss 100 percent of the shots you don’t take.’’

It’s a strange slogan for a man who didn’t miss much as a college basketball player. Enfield, who played at Division III Johns Hopkins, still holds the NCAA record with a 92.5 career free throw percentage, blessed with such a sweet stroke he parlayed into a shot-doctoring job with the NBA for a time.

But Enfield is as much a risk taker as he is a sureshot, a guy blessed with the audacity to take chances and the confidence to usually make them.

He has shoehorned his way into an NBA coaching gig, begun a startup software contract management company that was worth $100 million when he opted out, went back to coaching as a Division I assistant, took a head coaching job at a university in its infancy, and two years into its Division I status, brought it to the NCAA tournament.

Oh, did we mention he’s also married to a one-time lingerie/bathing suit model?

Florida Gulf Coast might be the underdog 15-seed against Georgetown in Friday’s second-round game, but in the seedings of life, Enfield is a 1.

“He is the most confident person I’ve ever met,’’ said Enfield’s wife, the former Amanda Marcum who has graced the covers of Maxim, Elle and Vogue.

Most low-major coaches have bios that read like a cross between Sisyphus and Job. They spend years toiling in anonymity, collecting paychecks that barely cover the rent only to get a chance at a job that is so ungodly hard it takes years to become even relevant.

Not Enfield. He is charmed by most anyone’s standards but Midas-blessed by the usual career track of a basketball coach.

While completing his master’s degree at the University of Maryland, he developed a shooting video that earned him entry into the NBA. He worked with more than 100 players at one point, gaining enough of a reputation that Rick Pitino eventually hired Enfield as a full-time assistant with the Celtics.

Asked if the old-time shot doctor ever challenged his current team in shooting contests, junior Chase Fieler laughed.

“No, we try to keep our confidence up,’’ he said.

If Enfield’s passion was basketball, his real background was business, and when a former friend suggested they partner on a startup company called TractManager, Enfield bought in with his own money.

The company was soaring one night in 2003 when, at the request of a friend and his wife, he offered a woman a ride from New York City to Boston to watch the NCAA tournament.

She was going to root for her team from back home, Oklahoma State; he was going to get his basketball fix.

“It wasn’t like I was standing on the side of the road hitchhiking,’’ Amanda Enfield laughed. “I was going to fly up with a friend for the weekend. Her husband said a friend from the gym was driving.’’

When Amanda hopped in the car, she happened to be working as a model at the time -- a highly-sought, well-paid model whose portfolio included various magazine covers and Victoria’s Secret.

Plenty of ordinary mortal men might have been overwhelmed.

“No, he wasn’t intimidated at all,’’ she said.

Two years later the couple was married.

And yes, feel free to insert the jokes about "Enfield has outkicked his coverage" here.

He’s heard them all.

“I don’t joke around with him about his wife,’’ Fieler said. “He does control my playing time.’’

A year after his wedding, Enfield switched gears on his new bride, shelving his multimillion-dollar job on Wall Street in exchange for an assistant coaching gig in Tallahassee, Fla.

“It wasn’t planned, but I knew he was into basketball, so it wasn’t that much of a surprise,’’ Amanda said. “And I like sports, so it worked.’’

Enfield jumped onto what many considered Leonard Hamilton’s sinking ship at Florida State.

Instead, in his five seasons, he helped the Seminoles to three NCAA tournament berths.

“It was supposed to be a dead-end job,’’ Enfield said.

He could have held on for a good job, or at least one that had some roots older than a springtime weed.

Instead, Enfield opted to move down the Gulf Coast, to a school that quite literally didn’t exist until 1997, taking a $157,500 salary -- a slight pay cut from his Wall Street days.

Now home to a school with a dorm that quite literally overlooks a beach-fronted lake, FGCU’s early days were slightly less appealing.

“I would go to little three-on-three events,’’ said senior Eddie Murray, who grew up in nearby Fort Myers. “There was a couple of dorm rooms, but there were wild animals crossing the road. I’ve seen everything from wild boar, bobcats and alligators.’’

In his early days, Enfield would call recruits and explain that he was the head coach at Florida Gulf Coast University, a Division I school. A good 15 minutes into the pitch, they’d stop him.

“They would think we were Gulf Coast Community College in the panhandle,’’ Enfield said.

Few will make that mistake after this week.

FGCU is no fluke. The Eagles finished 24-10 this week, counting among their victories one against second-seeded Miami.

Now thanks to the coach’s unique backstory, and -- let’s be honest -- his pretty wife, Florida Gulf Coast has forced its way into the national media.

By Friday afternoon, the Eagles will have spent two hours advertising their fledgling university and even younger Division I basketball program in an infomercial against Georgetown.

Florida Gulf Coast isn’t supposed to win, of course, but with the charmed track of Enfield’s life, do you want to bet against the upset?