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Tuesday, April 23, 2024
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Enfield: Wouldn’t be SMU’s coach if not in ACC

DALLAS — Andy Enfield went from Florida Gulf Coast‘s “Dunk City” and the Sweet 16 to Los Angeles and now to Dallas to take over the SMU program that is headed to the Atlantic Coast Conference with a 36-year drought since winning an NCAA tournament game.

Enfield said he wouldn’t be in Big D if the Mustangs weren’t about to move into that basketball-rich league.

“Uh, no,” Enfield said when asked just that. “We were extremely happy at USC, and I had an incredible staff, players, great support from the administration, and we lived at the beach. So not bad at all.”

Enfield was formally introduced on the SMU campus on Tuesday, a day after being officially hired and about 10 days after school officials went to California to meet with the then-Trojans coach who was at the top of their list to lead them into major conference play. The move to the ACC becomes official July 1.

“He shared the high expectations we have for our program, and he embraces that,” SMU athletic director Rick Hart said. “He’s done it at a school like ours, in a city like ours, and in a conference like the one we’re headed to.”

After taking No. 15 seed Florida Gulf Coast to the Sweet 16 in 2013, in only the second season that school was eligible for the NCAA tournament, Enfield spent the past 11 years at USC, where he went 220-147 with five NCAA tournament bids, including an Elite Eight appearance in 2021. The Trojans were 15-18 this season with Bronny James as a freshman, ending a run of four consecutive campaigns winning more than 20 games.

SMU hasn’t been to the NCAA tournament since 2017. The Mustangs last made the national quarterfinals in 1957, when they had to win only once to get that far in a 23-team field. They were 20-13 this season, and coach Rob Lanier was fired a day after a loss to Indiana State in the first round of the National Invitation Tournament.

“Building anything is difficult, and we know the challenges,” Enfield said. “We’re here as a coaching staff to develop the players that are here, fill in the roster with some transfers and then recruit high school players as well as transfers in the future. And, I think, if you do that over a course of time, you can build a successful program. And what a great place to do it.”

SMU is moving this summer with Pac-12 teams Cal and Stanford to the ACC, giving that league 18 basketball teams. USC is leaving the Pac-12 for the Big Ten.

Three ACC teams made this year’s Elite Eight. That included NC State beating Duke in the South Region final on Sunday at the American Airlines Center in Dallas, which is just over five miles from SMU’s campus.

The last time the Mustangs won in the NCAA tourney was a first-round game against Notre Dame in March 1988, right in the middle of SMU’s football program being shut down because of recruiting violations. SMU didn’t field a football team in 1987 or 1988 after being the only school ever given the so-called death penalty by the NCAA.

That was in the old Southwest Conference, the league SMU was a member of since 1918 before being left out when four SWC teams from Texas joined the Big Eight Conference to begin play as the Big 12 in 1996. SMU then went to the Western Athletic Conference for nine seasons and Conference USA for eight campaigns before joining the American Athletic Conference in 2013.

SMU’s acceptance into the ACC was announced in September, and school officials said that $100 million was raised within just a week after that to support the transition into the new league. The enthusiasm is still at a fever pitch, with boosters filling the room for Enfield’s introduction along with the pep band and cheerleaders.

“Can’t go back 40 years, but certainly can’t imagine it’s been greater than it is right now, in at least a generation,” said Hart, who has been at SMU since 2012. “Tremendous momentum.

“Got to take advantage of that.”

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