When I drove down to Ft. Myers from my home in Clearwater to catch the Loyola vs. FGCU game December 1st, little did I know I’d be watching this year’s “Darlings of the Dance.” I had never really even heard of Florida Gulf Coast University. My friend Jimmy Patsos is the head coach of Loyola (MD) University’s basketball team. The program he inherited won exactly one game the year before Jimmy took over. Coming from the University of Maryland’s staff, fresh off a national championship under Gary Williams, Jimmy said Loyola would win and they have. The Greyhounds were 23-11 this year and they’re still playing (some tournament called the CIT), but on the night of December 1st I should’ve known I was watching a special team. The home team FGCU Eagles.
There are a few things I noticed when I watched FGCU play. They seemed to genuinely have fun playing together. They had a bounce, an exuberance to their game that was evident every time up and down the floor. They also played with a swagger. The alley oops and off the backboard slams that built “Dunk City” were not just trotted out for the national audience. Comer, Thompson, Brown and the boys, that’s their style, and they’re unapologetic about it. Their coach Andy Enfield said he wouldn’t be surprised if one of his players were to call Lebron and tell him to bring the Heat to Ft. Myers and FGCU would end the streak! They might be cocky, but FGCU is also smart. Smart enough to know not to change what got them here. No other #15 has ever sniffed the Sweet 16. Although it all will most probably come crashing down Friday night at the hands of Florida, no one will deny this tourney belonged to the Eagles.
As did that night back in December. FGCU got out of the gate fast at Alico Arena and beat the Greyhounds 65-50. I remember meeting their boyish coach after the game and thinking he did a pretty good job coaching against my buddy in a game I fully expected Loyola to win. The question is already forming for Coach Enfield. What’s next? When the tournament dust settles he’ll be in high demand. No matter what happens, whether he stays or goes, one thing’s for sure. He’s not sneaking up on anybody ever again.