PHILADELPHIA - Build a state university in the swamplands of South Florida. Move the athletic program to the highest level in college sports and hire a self-made millionaire basketball coach. When his team makes the NCAA tournament, say in Year 2 of its eligibility, beat a tradition-rich opponent like a Georgetown.
That is Florida Gulf Coast University's formula for success.
It took 16 years, and now the school from South Florida is the talk of March Madness.
"Fort Myers is kind of rocking and rolling right now," FGCU forward Eddie Murray said Saturday, less than 24 hours after the No. 15 Eagles beat second-seeded Georgetown 78-68. "They're really excited. This is a big thing for the city, and I'm glad we could deliver this."
Suddenly, a school with an enrollment of about 12,000, whose first graduating class wore the caps and gowns in 2001, is receiving national attention because of a basketball team loaded with players whose best recruiting offers were from conferences such as the Atlantic 10 and the Missouri Valley.
The teenagers bought into the pitch from Andy Enfield, a coach who made millions starting up a document-imaging and contract-management company in the health-care industry, and who is married to former supermodel Amanda Marcum. They have three children.
Hard to argue with that kind of salesman.
"Yes, we sold this vision," said Enfield, who has also spent time as an assistant coach in the NBA and at Florida State and has been a shooting consultant for several NBA players. "It wasn't, 'Play San Diego State in the (third) round on a Sunday in Philadelphia,' it was a vision of success, it was a vision of … what they could expect in the classroom, off the court and on the basketball court."
Enfield's motto is simple, and he has lived up to it: "I aim for the stars."
UNC's Williams tips hat to Kansas
KANSAS CITY, Mo. - North Carolina coach Roy Williams has plenty of stories about his days at Kansas, and he pulled out one of the more poignant ones Saturday afternoon, as the two historic programs were preparing to meet today in the third round.
It had to do with James Naismith and Phog Allen - the founder of the game and one of its greatest coaches - and it went like this:
"Every game day at Kansas," Williams said, "I went up to the graves in the cemetery and patted the tombstones of Dr. Naismith and Dr. Allen. I would always ask them for intervention. Now, I don't know if they gave me any, but it always made me feel better."
It's been nine years since Williams left Kansas for North Carolina. The Tar Heels have won a national title. So have the Jayhawks.
Yet to this day, the silver-haired coach with the accent dripping of Southern charm can't help but wax poetic about his days in Lawrence - the iconic figures, his own former players, the aura of Allen Fieldhouse and the school that fashions itself as the cradle of hoops.
"I love the passion of the Kansas fans. It's just off the charts," he said. "People would see you and say, 'Coach, I've got a 700-mile drive back to Dodge City, but what a great game.' It was something that they really took a great deal of pride in."
No one having more fun than Hurricanes
AUSTIN, Texas - The Miami Hurricanes turned an unplanned fire drill into an impromptu party.
A fire alarm forced the team to evacuate the arena during practice Saturday. Once outside, the Hurricanes started dancing and having a good time.
"We made the most out of it," guard Trey McKinney Jones said. "We were just having fun - being brothers, like we really are."
That's exactly what coach Jim Larranaga likes to see.
"I told the players before the tournament began that I was going to have more fun than any other head coach, and I wanted them to have more fun than any other team," said Larranaga, the second-year Miami coach who took George Mason to the NCAA Final Four seven years ago.
"Nothing was going to bother me," he said. "There would be no complaining."
Miami, the No. 2 team in the East Region, plays No. 7 seed Illinois tonight.
Feels like old times
AUSTIN, Texas - Today may feel like old times for Minnesota's Tubby Smith and Florida's Billy Donovan. They certainly are familiar with each other.
The two coaches have three national championships between them and a history of intense head-to-head competition in the Southeastern Conference dating to the late 1990s when Smith was at Georgia and Kentucky and Donovan started at Florida.
They'll renew the rivalry for one game when Donovan's Gators, the No. 3 seed in the NCAA tournament South Region, face Smith's No. 11 Gophers. The winner advances to the Sweet 16.