It was reported by Paul Zeise that at least four names have risen to the top of the Pitt basketball coaching search. Here is a closer look at the four. If any new names get added, or any of these get dropped, I will change the list.
Andy Enfield, USC head coach, 46 years old- The originator of "Dunk City" at Florida Gulf Coast, and the first coach to ever lead a 15 seed to the Sweet 16, when he beat No. 2 seed Georgetown and followed it up with a win over No. 7 seed San Diego State two days later. Enfield, a native of Shippensburg, PA, scored over 2,000 points at Johns Hopkins and had am amazing career free throw percentage of 92.5%. He then started selling videos on how to shoot. That led to stints as a shooting coach for both the Milwaukee Bucks and Boston Celtics.
Enfield then left basketball after becoming an investor and vice president of finance for TractManager, a healthcare software company. He got very wealthy at the company (and he still owns stock), so he decided to leave to do what he really wanted to do- coach basketball.
Enfield ended up at Florida State with Leonard Hamilton for five years where he was considered one of the best assistants and recruiters in the country. His last season at Florida State the Seminoles had eleven top 100 prospects on the roster.
With his great success as an assistant, he got the head coaching job at Florida Gulf Coast in 2011, which only became an official D-1 program that year. Taking over a 10-20 team, Enfield led the Eagles to a 15-17 record in his first year, then 26-11 and the Sweet 16 the second year. He was the talk of the tournament thanks to his team's exciting style and his model wife. That led to him being hired by USC.
The Trojans were coming off a 20-44 record over the last two seasons, not to mention probation that decimated the roster. With USC so low, it obviously took Enfield a few years to turn it around. But after 11-21 and 12-20 seasons, the Trojans fished 21-12 this year, and made the NCAA tournament. He also added six top 60 prospects and two more that were top 100.
Enfield's system relies on athleticism (a lot of dunks), and great offense, but he also stresses good defense, too. That's exactly what AD Scott Barnes is looking for. Already a great salesman (see his wife), his exciting system helps to bring in top prospects.
Why would Enfield leave USC for Pitt? Well, for one thing both Enfield and his wife grew up in the east and people that grow up in one area of the country often feel more comfortable in that area. Is that Enfield? Possibly. USC is also going through an AD change and that's always alarming for a coach since a new AD is not nearly as loyal to you. Lastly, while Pitt would probably pay more for Enfield, he is very wealthy already and is the type that's looking to have fun more than getting even more money. And what's more fun than the ACC and the Oakland Zoo?
Lastly, I know a lot ask me ask me about his wife, a former model. Many wonder why a model would leave Los Angeles for Pittsburgh. But the truth is, she's a former model, not a current model. She's 36 years old and has three small children. And by all accounts she's very happy with that. Plus, the fact that Enfield is interviewing for the job is a good sign that his wife is okay with that.
Linc Darner, Green Bay head coach, 45 years old- Probably a bit of a long shot but he's proof that Barnes is thinking outside of the box. The former Purdue guard was born in Ohio but grew up in Indiana. At Purdue he was a two time captain and was on the Glenn Robinson team that made the Elite 8.
He wasn't NBA material so he started off as a student assistant under his coach, the legendary Gene Keady. After stints at Murray State and various D-2 schools, he got his first head coaching job at St. Joseph's College in Indiana. The D-2 school had 7 losing seasons in the 8 seasons before Darner arrived. After taking three years to implement his system, he went 31-3 in his fourth season. That led to another job in D-2, this time Florida Southern.
After an 8-20 season at Florida Southern he ripped off seasons of 24-9, 29-7, 25-5, 23-9, 19-11, 27-6, 27-5, and 36-1. That last season ended up in Florida Southern winning the National Championship. That led to his current job at Green Bay.
Green Bay is a good, under the radar mid-level program, and in his first season Darner was 23-13, and beat Bryce Drew's Valporaiso team to get into the NCAA tournament.
As for style, Darner's is something to see. His teams will basically try to run his defenders into the ground. He calls his style "RP40", which stands for relentless pressure for 40 minutes. It's been described as a combination of Nolan Richardson's style and Paul Westhead's style.
Obviously that style would be fun for Pitt fans to see, but will it work in the ACC? Maybe, if he can land great athletes that are also ACC level talents. And, though Darner has never recruited at this level, you'd have to think a lot of players would love to play in that kind of system.
Bryce Drew, Valparaiso head coach, 41 years old- A former star guard at Valpo, and a former No. 1 draft pick of the Houston Rockets (16th overall), Drew is so entrenched at the school that he even grew up in the town. His dad, Homer, was a longtime coach at the school, and his brother, Scott, is the current head coach at Baylor.
After a six year NBA career, in which he didn't do well, he spent time playing overseas in Italy and Spain. Eventually he came back to take over for his dad at Valpo. In his first year he was 22-12. That was followed by seasons of 26-8, 18-16, 28-6, and 29-6 this season, with the Crusaders playing in the NIT semifinals in a few days.
Drew has long been considered the next best thing, and he turned down numerous offers in the past, including Mississippi State after Drew's first season at Valpo.
His style is nothing fancy, but he's considered a brilliant basketball mind who has a very complex offense that runs a lot of of set plays. As a recruiter, he recruits a lot of overseas, mostly because of being a Lutheran school he has a limited pool to choose from.
His religion comes up often because some suggest that he won't want to come to a school where he can pray with his team, which is what he does now at Valpo. But here's the thing. At Valpo, he's a Lutheran, the school is Lutheran, the fans are Lutheran, and presumably a lot of the players are Lutheran. So having a massive prayer with the players and fans is not that unusual. That doesn't mean that he will come to Pitt and ask players and fans to have a prayer circle after the game. If he wants to have a career beyond Valpo he will have to adjust, as many religious coaches have done in the past. Is he comfortable doing that? That's what Barnes will find out when he interviews him.
Bottom line, he's an excellent coach that can be a big time national coach. Will a devout Lutheran from Indiana work well in the ACC? That's the big question. But he's interviewing so he must think he could make it work.
Mike Lonergan, George Washington head coach, 50 years old- A native of Bowie, MD, he played basketball at Catholic University, a D-3 team in Washington, DC. After a few minor assistant jobs early, he got the head coaching job at his alma mater and went 251-88 over 12 years. That included a National Championship in 2001. He was also named National Coach of the Year in D-3 that season.
After that he left to further his career by joining Gary Williams' staff at Maryland, but it wasn't until 2005 that he got his first big break by taking over from Tom Brennan after Brennan took the Catamounts to three straight NCAA tournament appearances. In his first season he went 13-17, but then followed that up with a 25-8 record and winning the regular season conference championship. The next year he slipped back to 16-15, but then finished with seasons of 24-9, 25-10, and 23-9. The middle season ended up in the NCAA tournament. He finished at Vermont 0-4 in postseason tournaments.
Still, though, that led to his current position at George Washington. Lonergan took over for Karl Hobbs, who was 17-14 in his last season. Again, he started slowly with seasons of 10-21 and 13-17, but once again he rallied and followed it up with seasons of 24-9 and 22-13. This season he's currently 26-10 and will be in the NIT semifinals in a few days.
On the plus side, Lonergan has deep recruiting ties in the Maryland and Washington, DC area so that that helps. He is also very adept at bringing in prospects from overseas. But that would be probably be harder to do at Pittsburgh than a city like Washington, DC that has much more different nationalities living there.
He has proved that he can win at every stop, but he's never been actually great in D-1 either. That may not necessarily mean anything. Coaches like Jim Larranega and John Beilein bounced around a long time before breaking through. But it appears he will not excite Pitt fans as others may.