Commentary | NCAA Tournament heroes sometimes fail to back up their shining moments

March 19, 2014 

NCAA FGCU Basketball

Florida Gulf Coast head coach Andy Enfield thanks the fans for their support during an NCAA college basketball pep rally at Alico Arena on Monday, March 25, 2013, in Fort Myers, Fla. FGCU is scheduled to play Florida on Friday in the South Regional semifinals game of the NCAA college basketball tournament. (AP Photo/Naples Daily News, William DeShazer) FORT MYERS OUT


Guide to surviving March Madness:

Warning to athletic directors, general managers and those prone to romantic binges: There is a tendency to make rash decisions this time of year so exercise caution.

Its madness time: Heroes spring up and vanish before you can line up all your excuses for missing work and ignoring your wife and kids.

The highest honor bestowed upon a player is having his name turned into a verb.

Remember Jimmer Fredette?

"Hey, you're going to get Jimmered," Florida was told before the Gators beat his BYU team in the 2011 NCAA Tournament.

Jimmermania has struck your city, lock your kids in the house.

Even President Barack Obama chimed in, putting Fredette on a pedestal with Pistol Pete Maravich, the NCAA's all-time leading scorer and greatest showman.

Turns out, Jimmer was more hype than substance.

He was the 10th overall pick in the 2011 NBA Draft by the Milwaukee Bucks and then traded to the Sacramento Kings in a deal of no-names.

Jimmermania engulfed the capital city of California, and jersey sales went through the roof.

Unfortunately, his scoring never reached such heights and after three seasons he was traded to the Chicago Bulls.

We all got Jimmered.

NCAA tournament heroes are like summer romances that end with a broken heart.

Here is a look at some:

• Florida Gulf Coast coach Andy Enfield: Knowledgeable basketball people warned this was a classic case of flash-in-the-panism.

He became the first coach to take a 15th seed to the Sweet 16 in 2013, and the locals wanted to put him on the Mount Rushmore of college hoop coaches.

They called FGCU "Dunk City," and these guys from nowhere were getting more hype than the Florida Gators. Amanda Enfield was heralded as the best-looking coach's spouse in the country. He was living the American Dream, we were told.

Truth be told: Enfield was 15-17 his first year at FGCU and 41-28 overall. He gained notoriety by upsetting an overrated No. 2 seed, Georgetown, which has a history of losing early-round games, and then beating No. 7 seed San Diego State. Florida brought Dunk City down to earth and eliminated the Eagles, and the world became a little saner.

But some fell prey to the Enfield myth.

USC athletic director Pat Haden gave him a multimillion-dollar contract despite Enfield having only two years of experience as a head college basketball coach.

In his first season at USC, which ended last week, Enfield was 11-21 and finished last in the Pac-12 with a 2-16 record. He lost to Long Beach State, which is like Florida losing to Stetson.

Now you could say a coach should not be judged one season, but Enfield got the job based on two games he won in the NCAA Tournament. USC fans are not feeling a lot of sympathy.

Haden fired Lane Kiffin in an embarrassment moment for the school last fall; Enfield looks to be headed down same path.

• Stan Heath, USF: This is a case where lack of patience might have surfaced twice for different reasons.

When Heath took USF to the NCAA Tournament in 2012, falling one game short of the Sweet 16, then Bulls athletic director Doug Woolard, gave him a six-year contract extension.

Two years later, with Woolard no longer AD, Heath was fired despite having a very young team that showed exceptional potential.

Now you could argue Heath had seven years, but USF is not a brand-name basketball school and one more season might be worth a wait considering there were four years left on his contract and his fab freshmen.

Lesson here: Patience is a virtue and wouldn't we all like to have a boss like Woolard, who loves to give contract extensions (see Skip Holtz)?

• Adam Morrison, Gonzaga: He was the third overall pick in 2006 NBA Draft, and we loved his heroics, including his battle with Type 1 diabetes, which didn't stop him from averaging 28 points per game in his last college season. Unfortunately, he was out of NBA after three seasons.

• Greg Oden, Ohio St.: The 7-footer led the Buckeyes to the 2007 NCAA title game and was the No. 1 pick in the NBA Draft. After sitting for long stretches on the Miami Heat bench, he was recently elevated to starter. Hopefully it's a rebirth. Otherwise, his career will be talked about more in medical terms than NBA skills. He is 26, but looks 36.

• Mateen Cleaves, Michigan St.: He led the Spartans to the 2000 national title and was named Most Outstanding Player in the Final Four. He is school's only three-time All-American. He had the smile and personality of another Michigan State great, but fell short of Magic's ability.

• Bobby Hurley, Duke: The Blue Devils won the national title in 1991 and in '92, when he was named MOP; he is still the NCAA's all-time assist leader.

• Kent Benson, Indiana: He spearheaded the 1975-76 Indiana squad, which is the last NCAA Division I team to go undefeated. He was the first overall selection in '76 NBA draft, which unfortunately marked his greatest NBA moment.

• Ed O'Bannon, UCLA: This Bruin is more known for his class-action suit against the NCAA. O'Bannon led the Bruins to the 1995 title and was the ninth overall selection in the NBA Draft that year. If players win that suit, O'Bannon will be known as the person who brought down the NCAA.

Alan Dell, Herald sports writer, can be reached at 941-745-7056. Follow him on Twitter @ADellSports.

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