Which coach will face the most pressure in college basketball next season? Plenty of seasons are ending for teams across the country, so that question is worth asking this week. Andy Enfield of the USC Trojans has to be part of this conversation.
Enfield’s 2019 USC team watched its season end with a 78-75 loss to the Washington Huskies on Thursday in the Pac-12 Tournament quarterfinals in Las Vegas. USC never found stability and couldn’t develop cohesion for any prolonged period of time. USC was a headless horseman on offense one year after losing point guard Jordan McLaughlin, who held the program together for multiple seasons and was the centerpiece of two NCAA Tournament runs.
Enfield was THISCLOSE to making three straight NCAA trips last year, but the Trojans were left just outside the field despite 14 Pac-12 wins (12 in the regular season, two in the Pac-12 Tournament). Enfield almost became just the second USC coach to make three straight NCAA Tournaments, so his tenure has hardly been a bust. However, Enfield hasn’t yet developed a high-end team. That was certainly part of the package of expectations when he brought his “Dunk City” brand and image from Florida Gulf Coast, where Enfield became the first coach in NCAA Tournament history to lead a No. 15 seed to the Sweet 16 in 2013.
USC’s best team under Enfield was a No. 8 NCAA Tournament seed. Expecting USC to become a giant might be a little too much, but expecting a No. 3 or 4 seed every now and then — with NCAA Tournaments at lower-tier seeds in other years — is where USC basketball can climb if the coach is the right man for the job.
After this dreary 2019 season, Enfield needs a big 2020.
He has the recruiting class — ranked No. 1 in the nation this past summer — which will give him a chance to win big.
The problem: Based on this past season and the 2018 season in which USC also underperformed, people in Los Angeles and across the nation are skeptical of Enfield’s in-game coaching chops. They should be. Enfield was so dependent on McLaughlin to run his offense in previous seasons, and when McLaughlin wasn’t right, the team wasn’t right. A team shouldn’t be that dependent on one player. Enfield needs to cultivate depth, develop better role players, and generate more cohesion from his teams on offense. There are many questions surrounding Enfield’s coaching acumen. This next season and recruiting class should give him the resources he needs to show he can X-and-O with his contemporaries in the Pac-12.
No, Enfield isn’t the coach facing the most pressure next season — not when USC basketball has so often been an afterthought on a national level. Archie Miller of Indiana will face the most heat next season because he works at a blue-blood program. Pending other decisions to retain or fire coaches, there are a few coaches at higher-profile programs who will face a much more intense reaction from their fan bases if they don’t do well.
However, in terms of establishing a coach’s professional reputation among his peers — and determining what his fellow coaches privately might say about him in those “anonymous team evaluations/scouting reports” you will sometimes see on the web — is there a coach whose stature in college basketball will be more profoundly measured than Andy Enfield next season?
If there is, you will need to make a very thorough and convincing case.
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