PHILADELPHIA — The high-flying, alley-ooping Florida Gulf Coast basketball team that has taken the nation by storm was actually born two years ago in a room at Tallahassee Memorial Hospital.
And it came to fruition just before coach Andy Enfield’s third child, his son Marcum, was born on April 8, 2011.
Enfield had just gotten the job at Florida Gulf Coast in Fort Myers after serving as a Florida State assistant for five years, and he was furiously working the phones to find a few players to replace the team’s leading scorer and rebounder, and the team’s point guard who had transferred. His paperwork was spread all over the unused bed in the hospital room.
His wife, the supermodel Amanda Marcum, was about to give birth in the other bed.
“We had to find some players for us to compete,” Enfield told a small group of reporters here Saturday, a day after his team became just the seventh No. 15 seed ever to topple a No. 2 when they crushed Georgetown, 78-68. “And I remember in the hospital room that I was on the phone prior to delivery.”
Enfield was working his way through Jeff Goodman’s annual transfer list and was on the phone with Eric McKnight, a 6-foot-9 sophomore center who was transferring from Iowa State.
“You gotta put your phone down,” Amanda shouted at her husband as she was about to go in for a C-section. “We’re about to go in and have a baby.”
As soon as Marcum was born, Enfield was in the recovery room and he was back on the phone pitching Florida Gulf Coast to several other players and coaches.
“I didn’t know anything about FGCU,” Enfield cracked, “but I was rolling.”
“It was multiple people he was recruiting,” Amanda told SNY.tv.
At that point, a nurse came in to change Amanda’s IV but Enfield was oblivious to what was going on even as his wife tapped him on the arm.
“Andy, will you please be quiet,” Amanda shouted. “I can’t hear what the nurse is saying. She’s giving me instructions on how to change my IV and I can’t hear it.”
So you figure Enfield hung up the phone and helped his wife, right?
No, that didn’t happen.
Enfield actually got up, said “Sorry” to the nurse, found an open hospital room next door and kept his call with McKnight going.
Then another nurse came into the room and said to Enfield, “Sir, are you having a baby, too, or what are you doing here?”
Looking back, Amanda can only laugh.
“Give him credit,” she said of her husband. “He made sure I was OK and the baby was healthy and he went right back to his phone. It shows a lot about his determination and where he wants the program to be.”
On the other end of the phone, McKnight had no idea Enfield was even in the hospital when he made the recruiting call.
“No, I did not,” McKnight said as he burst out laughing upon hearing the true story in the Florida Gulf Coast locker room.
The Iowa State transfer wasn’t even sure what Florida Gulf Coast was when assistant coach Marty Richter first called him. The school had only been Division 1 for four years at that point.
“The first thing that came to my mind was the JUCO because I was going to eventually go JUCO but I decided not to,” he said. ” I thought this was a junior college but then the coaches were like, ‘No, no, this is a Division 1 school.’”
Originally from Raleigh, N.C., McKnight had offers from Georgetown, Maryland, Wake Forest, Missouri, Indiana and Iowa State coming out of high school. A raw project, he soon found himself sitting behind Royce White and never played a game there.
After talking with Enfield and Richter, he chose to join a Florida Gulf Coast school because he wanted to help build something.
“I told my mother that I don’t really want to go to a well-known school,” said McKnight, now averaging 6.5 points and 4.5 rebounds “I want to make the school name.”
On April 17, 2011, Enfield officially hired his staff and soon began taking visitors after a blitz of phonecalls.
Point guard Brett Comer and shooting guard Bernard Thompson were the first two visitors to the school that has a beach on campus, and McKnight was the third. Forward Filip Cvjeticanin was the fourth.
“We signed the first four players to come visit in April after we got the job,” Enfield recalled.
Comer was a teammate of Austin Rivers at Winter Park High School, and originally signed with Florida Atlantic.
Once he got his release, he was smitten by Enfield’s recruiting pitch, even as it came from a hospital room.
“There’s no way I could turn him down, so that’s why I’m here,” Comer said.
The quartet of new players joined a group of unheralded players who were already at the school, including guard Sherwood Brown and forwards Chase Fieler and Eddie Murray.
Unlike McKnight, none of them were highly recruited.
The 6-4 Brown was a walk-on at the school
“I wasn’t highly recruited out of high school, but I knew that I could play amongst some of the best people in the nation,” said Brown, who went for 24 points and 9 rebounds against Georgetown. “I just had that type of confidence.”
Enfield, who had a background in the NBA and as an ACC assistant, said his staff worked hard to develop guys like Brown, Fieler and Murray, who scored 11 points his entire sophomore year.
Brown developed to the point where he was named the Atlantic Sun Player of the Year, and Murray and Fieler, both 6-8, have turned into athletic highlight-reel dunk-monsters who victimized Georgetown.
“Sherwood Brown has developed in the last year and a half into the Player of the Year in our conference,” Enfield said. “Chase Fieler was second-team all-conference this year. Sherwood and Chase are two of the most improved players I’ve seen in the country this year.”
Who knows how long Enfield will stay at Florida Gulf Coast? His contract is for three more years, but he’s a charismatic rising star — with a model wife — who’s inevitably bound for bigger and better things.
For now, though, the school’s popularity is exploding, as evidenced by the fact that From March 21 to Friday, the views on the school’s Admissions page increased by 432 percent.
The Eagles are one win from a Sweet 16 and will face San Diego State Sunday night.
On the recruiting front, Enfield’s team already has one transfer from Marquette, 6-6 forward Jamail Jones, and one from Georgia Tech, 6-10 big man Nate Hicks.
Only Brown and Murray leave after this year, so the new guys will join McKnight and the others next year in their bid to avoid being a one-hit wonder.
“The basic foundaiton of this school is people that came from nowhere and they’re just trying to make a name, trying to make history,” McKnight recalled.
Oh, they’ve made history alright.
And they can make still more on Sunday.
And to think it all began in a hospital room in Tallahassee.