Florida Gulf Coast, the only No. 15 seed in NCAA tournament history to reach the Sweet 16, didn’t have much of a college basketball history until Andy Enfield showed up and introduced fans everywhere to “Dunk City.”
Even after Enfield left following that magical 2012-13 season, FGCU has been a regular for postseason tournaments. UMBC could follow a similar blueprint for success, but the Retrievers might need to do what Florida Gulf Coast couldn’t.
UMBC needs to somehow persuade Ryan Odom to stay put, at least for a little while. Sunday night’s 50-43 loss to No. 9 seed Kansas State in the Round of 32 of the NCAA tournament was the end to a magical weekend; it doesn't have to be the end of the Retrievers being relevant.
The first No. 16 seed ever to win an NCAA tournament game since the field was expanded in 1985 might not have a catchy name for its playing style as Florida Gulf Coast did. What it has is one of the game’s hottest coaching commodities.
Like Enfield, whose basketball roots began as a record-setting sharpshooter at Johns Hopkins, it took the 43-year-old Odom nearly two decades to get his first full-time Division I head coaching gig despite his father, Dave, being well-respected in the business.
And, like Enfield, bigger programs are now going to be coming after Odom.
How big is the question.
Given how much some might be willing to pay, it could be a moot point.
While UMBC can’t do anything about losing Jairus Lyles and K.J. Maura and the rest of the seniors on the best team in school history, it must do whatever it can to persuade Odom to return to Catonsville next season and rebuild the Retrievers.
It will be difficult, given the kind of exposure Odom received since Friday’s historic (and seismic) 20-point win over top-seed Virginia. It also might be impossible if several Power Five schools have vacancies in the aftermath of the FBI investigation into the growing college hoops scandal.
But with a recently opened $85 million facility to help recruit future Retrievers, and a hotbed of high school basketball in the Baltimore-Washington corridor to use as his recruiting base, Odom, who made a $225,000 salary in 2017, has less reason to leave UMBC than Enfield did before going to Southern California.
Odom is young enough to rebuild his team, possibly with the help of a transfer or two who saw what Lyles did against the Cavaliers, and get the Retrievers back into the NCAA tournament pretty quickly.
Turning UMBC into Baltimore’s answer to Butler or Gonzaga is pretty unlikely. Still, there's no reason the Retrievers can’t become to the America East what Bucknell is to the Patriot League or Princeton once was to the Ivy League.
Eventually Odom will leave, as most bright and successful coaches do. Instead of him immediately going to a Charlotte, where he once served as the interim head coach, or East Carolina, where his name has been mentioned, Odom should hold out for a Power Five team.
Enfield didn’t stick around Florida Gulf Coast very long. Two years, including a 26-11 season that ended with a Sweet 16 loss to Florida in 2013, and he was gone to coach Southern California. A long time ago, Digger Phelps left Fordham for Notre Dame after one similarly magical season.
It could well happen this year, even as soon as this week with Odom, given his last name and growing legacy after what the Retrievers accomplished. Here’s hoping that it doesn’t, that what happened over the past weekend was the beginning of something special in Catonsville.