Roots of Florida Gulf Coast's tournament run trace back to Baltimore

BasketballSportsCollege BasketballCollege SportsAndy EnfieldFlorida Gulf Coast EaglesCollege Football

The Cinderella team of this year's NCAA men's basketball tournament hails from Florida, but its coaches have Maryland roots.

Andy Enfield set scoring records at Johns Hopkins before he became head coach at Florida Gulf Coast, the darling of the tournament. His assistant, Kevin "Stink" Norris, grew up in East Baltimore and starred at Lake Clifton.

Together, they've put a local face on an upstart team that breaks new ground with every win. The Eagles are the first 15th seed in tourney history to make the Sweet 16, and an upset of No. 3 Florida on Friday night would carry Florida Gulf Coast further still.

"What are our chances? We'll see [Friday night] when they throw the ball up," said Norris, unfazed by long odds. "As a kid, I learned that it ain't the name on the shirts that wins games; it's the players that wear them."

That Enfield, 43, has made FGCU a contender in his second year as coach isn't surprising, Baltimoreans who know him say. Fittingly, Norris is his deputy. And there's a 6-foot-10 freshman from Patterson, Leonard Livingston, Jr., waiting in the wings for the Eagles.

A four-year starter at Hopkins, Enfield scored 2,025 career points, one of 17 school records he still holds. He hit 92.5 percent of his free throws, an NCAA record, and made 76 of 77 free throws in postseason games.

"That was a long time ago. I don't know if I can remember that far back," Enfield said of his Hopkins career Thursday in Arlington, Texas. "I had a great college basketball experience. I played for a terrific coach, Bill Nelson, and all my teammates were close friends. ... It doesn't matter where you play or what level you play. I played Division III and just had a tremendous time."

At Hopkins, Enfield delivered glimpses of the pure shooting stroke that would make him an instructor for NBA players and of the entrepreneurial spirit that would lead him to help build a successful software company. It's less clear where he developed the moves to woo his wife, bikini model and current media sensation Amanda Marcum.

"Andy is so focused, so programmed," said Nelson, the Blue Jays' coach for 27 years. "He played more minutes than anyone in Hopkins history. He never took a second off, in practice or in games. And he has a great basketball IQ. Look at Florida Gulf Coast, which just beat two of the top defensive teams in the country (Georgetown and San Diego State). His kids run, dunk and shoot 3s.

"It's not wild basketball, it's cerebral basketball with a fast pace — and it works."

Hopkins and beyond

A native of Shippensburg, Pa., Enfield was valedictorian of his high school class and Nelson's first recruit in 1987.

"He could have gone Ivy, but we needed help and Andy wanted to be a big fish in a small pond," the coach said. Both parents were teachers so Enfield, an academic All-American, worked several jobs to pay for school.

In the fall, he worked the chains during Hopkins football games. Year-round, Enfield toiled nights at the campus athletic center. After practice, he'd stop by the dining hall, put some food in a styrofoam box and head to work. Nelson can still see him sitting by the front door, fork in one hand, textbook in the other as he ate, studied and checked students' IDs as they entered the building.

"Andy was pretty relentless in all he pursued," said Dave Eikenberg, his college roommate and the point guard on that Hopkins team. "One day, he had a bum ankle and had to sit out practice. As it happened, the guy who replaced him, Kevin Roller, had the practice of his life. So we all looked at Andy on the bench and started calling him Wally Pipp (the New York Yankees' first baseman who lost his job to Lou Gehrig). You could see this scowl come over his face.

"In our game the next day, Andy played and scored, like, 30 points. Afterward, in the locker room, all he said was, 'Please don't call me Wally.'"

In four years, Enfield started every game but one. He sat out the first three minutes of a game at Brandeis, the price for missing the team bus to the airport.

"Our alarm clocks didn't go off," Eikenberg said. "So we had a fraternity brother (Alpha Delta Phi) drive us to BWI. We beat the bus there, but Andy didn't get to start the game. He's still mad about that."

Enfield is "a driven guy," said Eikenberg, who prepped at John Carroll and is now a vice president at T. Rowe Price. "I spent hours rebounding for him while he shot free throws. He was so fundamentally sound, and you can see it with his team today."

Dave Pietramala, Hopkins' lacrosse coach, agreed. As a student there, Pietramala played pickup basketball games with Enfield, hung out with him and, after graduation, launched a lacrosse camp with him on the Eastern Shore.

"Andy didn't know much about the game, but he was looking to make some money and said, 'You handle the lacrosse and I'll handle the business.'"

They ran the program for five years before their careers took off.

"We were young and that camp put some change in both of our pockets," Pietramala said. "Andy was a go-getter who went out, worked his rear end off and made a name for himself. Look at the way he coaches, an up-tempo game where the kids get some freedom. He's not afraid to be different.

"His team is a mirror image of its coach, a bunch of 'who's that?' guys who are competitive, passionate and who've had to make their own way. It's a confidence that Andy has shown since Hopkins."

Enfield enrolled at Maryland and earned a master's degree in business administration, juggling studies with a start-up career as a basketball "shot doctor." He sought out struggling college and pro players to help them fix their games. An early client was Keith Booth, the Terps' senior who, in the spring of 1997, hoped to go high in the NBA draft.

The move paid off, said Booth, who wound up a first-round pick of the Chicago Bulls.

"A lot of shooting gurus come in and try to change your mechanics. Andy watched me shoot for 45 minutes before he said a word," said Booth, a Dunbar grad. "I'd put up 600 shots a day in Cole Field House. He made some tweaks here and there but, more important, he gave me a confidence that I hadn't had as a shooter."

That Florida Gulf Coast has blossomed under Enfield's tutelage is no coincidence, said Booth, now an assistant women's coach at Loyola:

"He listens to what you say. He teaches the game the right way, and backs it up with his [Hopkins] stats. And he understands players."

East Baltimore to Florida

Like Enfield, who soared from Division III obscurity, Norris rose from his own modest trappings.

"Being raised by two teachers, Andy didn't grow up living on a high hill himself," Norris said. "His dad worked his tail off."

His own father, whose birthday was Tuesday, died of kidney failure when Norris was 16.

"I think he'd be proud of me," said Norris, 38. "I know he's got a good seat to watch this game."

Earlier this week, one of the dozens of reporters attending the Eagles' practice asked Norris how he felt. "I said that I'm ecstatic for our guys, but that this is a humbling experience for me, considering where I come from. Growing up in the streets, I had friends who were murdered, or are in jail doing double life [sentences] plus 300 years.

"As a kid, I was chased by a guy with a gun who didn't like the way I tackled him in football. And here we are in the Sweet 16? This week, I went to the drive-thru window at a CVS to pick up a prescription, and they recognized and congratulated me. It's crazy."

Basketball was Norris' ticket out. The man known as Stink, since childhood, holed up in the Cecil-Kirk Rec Center, day after day, dribbling and shooting and refining the skills that would earn him a scholarship to Miami. There, he led the team in assists for four years.

"Stink was always a gym rat. We'd have to kick him out at night sometimes," said Anthony "Doodie" Lewis, then the rec center's director. "What he lacked in height (5 feet 9) he made up for in flash and exhuberance. He was tough and unselfish, and he studied the game."

At Lake Clifton, Norris made The Sun's 1993 All-Metro first team, as did his cousin, Shawnta Rogers.

"I'm very proud of him," said Rogers, who starred at George Washington. "Stink will be a great head coach some day, but Enfield is a good guy for him to work under. He lets Stink be himself to get things done. And the way that team plays, with the dunks and the crowd getting into it? That's Stink, all day long."

"If not for that gym, and for guys like Doodie, I don't know where I'd be," Norris said. "I wear that city on my back every day. I've got big visions for Baltimore. I want to set real youth programs in place and not being shut down because of who you know, or don't know."

Enfield understands Norris' plans for Baltimore, and the city's potential as a recruiting tool for Florida Gulf Coast.

"I've shared with Andy all of the things I want to do for the city," Norris said. "He said, 'The people there love you.' "

Not all of Norris' hand signals from the bench are intended for the Eagles. Some are meant for the folks back home, the FGCU assistant coach said.

"When I pump one fist up and pull it down, like a truck driver going down Edison Highway, I'm showing my love for Baltimore," Norris said. "And after the game, when I make the 'L' with my thumb and forefinger, that's for Lake Clifton."

He'll do it win or lose, he said.

mike.klingaman@baltsun.com

Baltimore Sun reporter Childs Walker and Orlando Sentinel reporter Edgar Thompson contributed to this article.

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