Everyone’s talking about Florida Gulf Coast. When you become the first 15 seed ever to make the Sweet 16 and do it by playing some of the most exciting basketball the NCAA Tournament has seen in years, its only natural. But now the Eagles are off until they play Florida on Friday, and until then, there’s time for everyone to start bringing the program back down to reality, even before their amazing tournament run ends.
While for the moment, the Eagles remain the hottest thing going on the American sporting scene, sooner or later this run’s going to be over, whether through a national championship (still almost impossibly unlikely) or an eventual loss. And… then what? FGCU would probably rather not think about it while they’re in the middle of making on-court magic happen, but they have to – and this week will be filled with speculation about what the future holds, especially for coach Andy Enfield. (It already is filled with that, in fact.) Sure, FGCU’s enjoying the monetary spoils of unexpectedly becoming national darlings:
— darren rovell (@darrenrovell) March 25, 2013
I’m at Florida Gulf Coast’s book store and the line is wrapped all around the store and everything is SOLD OUT.
— Matt Furda (@MatthewFurda) March 25, 2013
But considering the job he’s done bringing a program that’s only existed for a decade – and existed as a Division I program for less than that – Enfield is going to get big offers, and soon. Enfield makes $157,000/yr. FGCU wants to double that, but doing so won’t be easy. And even if they manage to, in all likelihood Enfield will get offers easily surpassing that total. It’s possible he turns those down to continue perfecting what he’s built so masterfully thus far – anyone think Brad Stevens and Shaka Smart would still be at Butler and VCU by now? – but it’s also very possible he doesn’t. The choice is looming.
That choice, though, represents a problem facing just about every successful college program – and especially every successful college program from a small conference – at one point or another. As far as problems go, it’s about the best possible one to have, because it’s born from success. On the contrary, there’s another FGCU wet blanket out there that’s no good for anyone, but will inevitably get some play as everyone looks for something to talk about in the absence of actual games. We got a preview of it last night with one killjoy on Twitter, but now professional killjoy Phil Mushnick of the New York Post is taking his own miserable crack at ruining FGCU’s – and everyone else’s – fun:
Friday night, Florida Gulf Coast’s upset of Georgetown lost some of its wonder glow as FGCU guard Sherwood Brown seemed eager to show how ungracious and self-smitten winners can be. And TV, as always, was there to help him out, encourage him.
Near the end of the game, Brown, playing to the crowd and the TV cameras, walked over to Len Elmore, Reggie Miller and play-by-player Kevin Harlan and shook their hands. “Hah, hah, hah! He’s loving it!” we were told.
But if only one of them had refused his hand and pointed him back on the court to finish the game and show it some respect …
After FGCU’s win last night (which again featured players shaking hands with announcers near the end), I tweeted this. As a joke. As a position so obnoxious and humorless that surely no one could really hold it. Come on, Phil. Never mind that your premise is easily called into question because maybe the players were shaking the announcers’ hands because they were starstruck and had never been in anything close to this situation before oh my god how can you be so willfully obtuse – this wasn’t even an inventive troll.
But that’s where we are with the FGCU phenomenon. We’re still captivated, but it’s a dead period, with juuuuust enough time before that big showdown with Florida that we run the risk of getting tired of them. Clearly, some people already are tired. Others are already thinking about the inevitable fallout once the tournament ends. FGCU’s run is the rare story that actually deserves the type of around-the-clock coverage possible in today’s media environment, but with a few more days to go until they actually get around to playing again, let’s hope we’ll be up for more by then, and that we don’t ruin the FGCU story for ourselves before another basketball team does.