Enfield bringing new energy to USC hoops
OCT 17, 2013 3:50p ET
At a recent practice at the Galen Center, new USC basketball coach Andy Enfield told his team, "We play up-tempo basketball here. If you want to play slow, go to UCLA."
Somehow it was leaked to the media and made national headlines just hours before Thursday's Pac-12 Media Day at the Pac-12 Network Studios in San Francisco.
That wasn't supposed to happen.
"What I say in the locker room and on the practice court to my team is meant to be for my team only," Enfield said. "So certainly did not mean that to get out in the national media."
You could almost see the head coach's excitement diminish at the very mention of Westwood.
"It was meant to make a point of how we want to play and to use some sarcasm," Enfield said. "It certainly was not to disrespect Steve (Alford) or what he's doing. I said numerous times how much respect I have for him as an ex‑player, as a coach, and what he's going to do at UCLA."
When Enfield was first introduced as USC's new head coach, he came off as though he had little regard for the storied crosstown rivalry. He was focused on building something new and special at Troy, not on a team 12 miles away that the Trojans will see only twice a year.
Now, it seems as though Enfield quickly has learned how seriously Angelenos take the rivalry.
"I understand the UCLA‑USC rivalry is great for college basketball, as well as all the other sports within the city, and we look forward to being part of that," Enfield said. "Sure, if you're walking out in L.A. you're going to see UCLA flags and USC flags. You're going to go downtown to restaurants and you're going to see people talking about their school with a lot of pride."
His team is in the process of building something new and exciting. Taking over a program that always has lacked an identity in the past, Enfield came to L.A. with the flashiest, most entertaining identity of the 2012-13 season: the architect of "Dunk City", the nickname that Enfield's Florida Gulf Coast team earned as the darlings of the NCAA Tournament.
"There's been a lot of people getting dunked on," senior guard J.T. Terrell said. "We're constantly moving; everything is at a fast pace. We're having a lot of fun and it's competitive at practice."
The changes may be paying off. Both Terrell and Enfield say they can feel a buzz building around the basketball program, and according to Terrell, it's one that wasn't there last season.
"There's a new atmosphere," Terrell said. "This whole year feels totally different. Just the feeling on campus, the support that we get from the student body and the fans right now, they're very excited to see us play."
Given USC's football-centric reputation, and despite a fanbase that counts prominent alums like Will Ferrell among its regulars, the Galen Center typically sees sparse crowds devoid of the celebrities and fanfare. Terrell and the Trojans, who finished just 14-18 last season, tried to block out the empty student section and echoing arena. They had other things to worry about.
"Of course you still want your fan support, but regardless of who shows up you've still got to play," Terrell said. "It didn't hurt us. We wish we had it, but it didn't hurt us."
But he promises things will be different.
"This year, I expect people to show up," Terrell said. "This year, I expect a lot more fan support."
"We're trying to build a program with sustainability," Enfield said. "And the first year is part of that."
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