Andy Enfield and Me
Back in March 2006, a few days after HoopsHype published my essay "How I'll (again) help Shaq at the stripe," I received an email from someone named Andy Enfield. My article struck a chord with him and he asked me to give him a call. He included a link to his website, so I checked that out first.
Given his background I was surprised, maybe even dumbfounded, that I hadn't heard of Andy. Mike Dunleavy hired him to be a shooting coach with the Milwaukee Bucks in 1994. In 1998 Rick Pitino brought Andy to the Celtics for the same job, and gradually gave him more coaching responsibilities. He spent two seasons with each club, then left to pursue private coaching of NBA players and business opportunities. It was in the latter endeavor that he made a pile of dough.
From the website I also learned he set the career NCAA free-throw mark of .925 playing for Johns Hopkins, a university best known for its medical school and international studies program.
I don't have the email and I can't find any notes I may have taken from our enlightening, enjoyable conversation, which might have lasted for 30 or 45 minutes. I do vaguely recall that he had a mixed impression of the NBA. He thought highly of the coaches who hired him, who shared his belief that teaching doesn't end just because a player had achieved pro status. But (if memory serves) he ran into a lot of folks throughout the league — both players and coaches — who thought the solution to any and all shooting problems is repetition, repetition, repetition. Just get in the gym every day and fire up your 500 jumpers and/or free throws. That might work in some cases (e.g., a good shooter in a mysterious slump), but as a general prescription for problem shooters it is nuts. I've made that point with respect to Shaq (though not in the essay that caught Andy's eye) in analyses dating back to 2000. It's too easy to get in a false groove in the unnatural setting of shooting 100 free throws in 15 minutes. As with Dwight Howard, it tricks the bricklayer into thinking there's nothing wrong with his shot; he just needs to translate that practice-session delivery to the bright lights of an NBA game.
A few months after our chat, Leonard Hamilton hired Andy as an assistant coach at Florida State. His good work with the Seminoles led to his first head-coaching opportunity at tiny Florida Gulf Coast University, where this season he led a band of merry upstarts to the Sweet Sixteen. The team's appealing, uptempo style of play made them media sensations and Andy a hot commodity. Now he's off to USC, where he'll try to put a school known for its football prowess on the basketball map. Good luck to a good guy.