Year 1 to Year 2: A chat with USC coach Andy Enfield
In this short series, SI.com has spoken with several coaches entering Year 2 at their current jobs about what they learned in the first year and what they’re looking for next season. Next up: UCLA’s Steve Alford.
USC coach Enfield arrived after rocketing into the national consciousness in 2013 at Florida-Gulf Coast, which used a fast-paced attack to earn the nickname “Dunk City” and to become the first No. 15 seed ever to make the Sweet 16. Enfield's first Trojans team, though, scuffled to an 11-21 season and a 2-16 record in the Pac-12. He spoke about the rebuild continuing with a young roster in his second season and readjusting to a different set of personnel.
SI: What did you learn about USC in Year 1 that informs how you approach Year 2?
AE: What I learned is that USC has tremendous support for their athletics and basketball. We are building our program together, and we think our program can make a big jump in the near future.
SI: What did you get established in how you wanted the program to look in Year 1, and what is there still to do?
AE: The biggest thing our young players learned is what it takes to be successful at this level. We had a few freshmen play a lot of minutes, and we had two transfers that sat out last year, in Katin Reinhardt from UNLV and Darion Clark from University of Charlotte. They'll be redshirt sophomores this year, and the other freshmen will now be sophomores. It was important for them to understand what it takes to be successful at this level by going through a season like we did and also watching and analyzing and learning from other teams that we played against that were NCAA tournament teams. So as a staff, we hope our younger players understand what it takes to be successful at this level, and we hope they can teach five freshmen that we have coming in this summer to understand that quickly.
SI: Specifically, what did they have to understand about being successful, and what is left to hone or tweak?
AE: It's a commitment to the defensive end. The better teams we played last year, we saw how good they were defensively, how they shared the basketball on offense, and how they played together as a team.
SI: You don't know everything about a place until you're immersed in it. Anything good, bad or different that you picked up that affected how you operated?
AE: I'm very appreciative of the support we have, from the administration to the fans to the student body. They're very enthusiastic about the future of USC basketball. Even though we did have a tough season from a win-loss perspective, everyone is on board for the future of this program. As a head coach, I'm very appreciative of their support. Because sometimes it's not easy to be supportive when your team doesn't win. From our coaching staff to our players to our administration to our student body to our community around USC basketball, we're extremely excited about the future. We know this year is going to be a completely different roster from last year and the previous year. We'll be very young. We'll have 10 freshmen and sophomores. There will be a lot of teaching this year, it'll be fun, our players will embrace the fact that we're a young team.
SI: Did you get all of your system put in, or did you hold back on some things based on personnel? Did it look like you want it to look?
AE: Most coaches tweak their systems based on their personnel from a year to year basis. Our staff really enjoyed coaching our team last year. We enjoyed the individuals, we enjoyed the team, but we did make some tweaks to try to play to our strengths. We will once again make changes this year, because we'll have a different type of team. We'll be faster, more athletic, we'll have better perimeter shooting. So there are certain things you can do when you have different talents. Once again we'll try to use our strengths, and we'll have a different system this year than we did last year. I'm not saying one is better than the other, you just have to adjust to your personnel.
SI: In your ideal mind, is it going to look more like how you want your teams to look?
AE: Look, I would never say anything bad about any team I coached. Last year, we did have strengths as a team, and we tried to use them. This year we'll have different strengths. We really struggled with our perimeter shooting last year. I think we'll be a much better shooting team this year with the transfers that were sitting out and the recruits that are coming in, but also the adjustments some players are making to improve in the offseason. From a speed, athleticism, perimeter shooting, we will be improved in those areas, and that will enable us to do more things this year on the offensive end to create different ways to score.
SI: What's on the checklist of things to do in June, July, August to set the stage for the fall?
AE: Number one, it's the leadership among our young players. You don't need to be a senior to be a great leader. So it's the leadership among our young players is the No. 1 priority. Our strength coach, Kurtis Schultz, he does a great job and our players already have made big gains in their strength and their weight. A few players have gained some necessary pounds, especially our interior players. Number one is for our younger players to learn how to be better leaders and really teach the freshmen to have accountability and a culture of that work ethic that's necessary to make big jumps from an individual and team standpoint.
SI: How do you encourage the young-guy leadership?
AE: It's empowering them to take on that role. We try to put the leadership on the players versus the coaches always telling them. Sure, the coaching staff, we need to do our part. But to make the jumps we want to make, our coaching staff believes we have to empower the players to take that part over and to create an internal team work ethic and commitment to improvement.
SI: Were there examples of times you got some confidence-boosting support even during a rough stretch?
AE: We were proud of our team last year. We played hard. There were a lot of critical parts of games where teams outplayed us for a few minutes and that was the difference in the outcome. Our administration and our fans understood that our players gave effort, and as a coaching staff, we were very proud of our players' effort and we commended them for that. It's not easy when you don't have a successful season to define bright spots. But one thing we did, for the most part through the season, even in the rough spots, our team played hard and they were in almost every game they played, except for a few.
In the conference tournament against a very good Colorado team, we missed a three-point shot at the buzzer to tie it. If they were disinterested or had given up, that never would have happened. Against Washington, in our last game of the regular season, it was a one-possession game with four minutes left and Washington was a very good home team last year. Our players came every day and they worked at it.
SI: What do you hope things look like at this point next year, going into Year 3?
AE: We have no seniors on our roster. It will be an exciting year to see how our young players develop. They need to develop their leadership skills and their commitment to taking what they learned last year and implementing that into what they want USC basketball to become. What I would like to see is us have our program make a big jump this year. Sure, we'd like to win more games than we did last year, but to see our team develop and have these young players get the experience early in their career. If they can win enough games to go to the postseason, that would be terrific. That's obviously our goal. But we also want them to develop that team chemistry and team culture where they can lead themselves and set this program up for success in the future.