Candidate #3: How Athens Goes From The Classic City to Dunk City

Hiring Joe Dooley means one thing:  Dunk City, Here We Come!

Joe Dooley had a tough act to follow after Andy Enfield and his wife Amanda Marcum-Enfield left Fort Myers for Los Angeles.  Florida Gulf Coast was a Sweet 16 Team in Enfield’s last season and hiring his replacement was a challenge.  After all, who can replace the guy who took Florida Gulf Coast to heights previously unseen and viewed as improbable to repeat.  Would the same style of play be replicated and can Enfield’s replacement be expected to even come close in terms of success?  The answer is ‘yes’, Joe Dooley just had to tweak it a bit, but Florida Gulf Coast now dominates the Atlantic Sun Conference.  He’d be popular based on his last name alone in Athens should he be hired.

Joe Dooley’s Career and Success at Florida Gulf Coast

Joe Dooley was a former Head Coach at East Carolina who was able to reinvent himself after serving on three different staffs, most notably as an assistant on Bill Self’s staff at Kansas for a decade.

At Florida Gulf Coast, he continued the success laid down by Andy Enfield, but there were obstacles and even a choking off of pace.  In the midst of success, Dooley was trying to reinvent Florida Gulf Coast Basketball and this season returned to the ways of old to capture a second straight Atlantic Sun Regular Season Title.  Dooley has won three Atlantic Sun Regular Season Titles and is on pace to get a third straight NCAA Tournament appearance.  Right now, Florida Gulf Coast is projected to be a #16 seed, which is to be expected for a team in this conference.

If Dooley were to leave for another school, he would be leaving on a high note.

Style of Play is All About Fitting the Talent

Dooley has had methodical teams that played strong perimeter defense and this season’s team runs up and down the floor at a breakneck pace.  Offensively there is one clear constant:  Shot quality.  Joe Dooley’s teams are a major departure from the status quo at Georgia as far as the shot distribution.

Florida Gulf Coast is another team that will derive shots from the so-called “money zones” and the mid-range is rendered dead in his offense.  This season’s team is 3rd in the country in percentage of shots attempted in the restricted arc.  This has helped the Eagles get to 27th in the country in effective Field Goal percentage.

This season’s team gets 25.6% of their shots off in transition, which is 34th highest in the country.  It is no wonder why Florida Gulf Coast is 43rd in Adjusted Tempo per KenPom this season.

Regardless of the pace of play, the shot distribution remains very focused on getting dunks and layups.

  • 2013-14:  44.3% – 33rd, 66.2 Adjusted Tempo – 98th
  • 2014-15:  44.7% – 15th, 64.2 Adjusted Tempo – 176th
  • 2015-16:  46.9% – 7th, 67 Adjusted Tempo – 240th
  • 2016-17:  44.4% – 13th, 65.9 Adjusted Tempo – 280th
  • 2017-18:  46.7% – 3rd, 71.5 Adjusted Tempo – 43rd

Why the change in pace?

It has a lot to do with roster composition.  Guys like Demetris Morant and Marc Eddy Norelia were linchpins in the offense capable of scoring in the low post.  The guards on the roster were not on the same level as these guys and the desire to have an inside-out game through the posts slowed things down.  This season, the guards run the show and the posts are more mobile.  This is a team that is built to run and it would have made no sense to play like they have the past three seasons.

Next season, the team could end up playing even faster with the infusion of Troy Baxter Jr. and Haanif Cheatham.  There will be losses, but there is enough depth in the backcourt and incoming talent will make this team even faster.

Contrast this with what Mark Fox did when he had a roster imbalance that favored guards.  What did Mark Fox do in 2011-12 when he had Dustin Ware, Gerald Robinson Jr., Kentavious Caldwell-Pope and a serviceable Vincent Williams?  He also had a pair of Combo Forwards in Marcus Thornton and Nemanja Djurisic.  Fox slowed things to a crawl.  61.5 possessions per game, 315th fastest in the country.  Georgia went from a post-oriented and set-oriented team the prior season to a slowing down by 2 possessions a game with a guard-oriented team.  This is nonsensical.

Does Joe Dooley believe in the concept of fast breaks and transition offense?

He does and if metrics and the eye test do not prove it this season.  There’s always this.

Coaching instructional videos always are best inside of a ballroom right?

Reviewing the Metrics Under Joe Dooley

Tempo has been covered, but what about offensive and defensive efficiency.  This has changed over time and FGCU has improved during the Dooley era.  One of the biggest changes in offensive and defensive efficiency is the freedom of movement rules, which should be noticeable.

Let’s start with Andy Enfield’s squad to give some sort of an idea of what he did in 2012-13.

2013-14 Season:  Year 1 under Dooley

2014-15 Season:  Year 2 under Dooley

2015-16 Season:  Year 3 under Dooley

2016-17 Season:  Year 4 under Dooley

2017-18:  Year 5 under Dooley

Dooley has Florida Gulf Coast at a better level offensively relative to the rest of the nation than Andy Enfield’s Dunk City squad from 2012-13.  Defensively, they can be classified as average to slightly above-average.

For an undersized team, this is a team that rebounds very well.  The team shoots a good bit of Free Throws and because of their shot distribution are extremely efficient inside the perimeter.  Their ball movement this season is above-average, but they have turned it over a bit.

Their perimeter defense is solid keeping opponents from knocking down threes and playing strong enough inside the perimeter despite their backcourt heavy team.

This season, FGCU forces live ball turnovers pretty well, but their bugaboo is turnovers.  They are an excellent rebounding team, this is a team that despite their roster composition is able to get second chances and deny them from the opposition.

Last season, they had 2 turnovers less per game.  In 2015-16, they had 12.4 turnovers per game and in 2014-15, they had 11.6 turnovers per game.

Can Joe Dooley recruit?

Well, yes of course he can.  Dooley recruited very well at Kansas on the East Coast, but at Florida Gulf Coast it is a tad more challenging.  Recruiting ratings really mean nothing, but what is important is who is pursuing the talent and whether the talent fits.  It’s harder to gauge this way, but Basketball is a skill sport unlike Football, which is more of an athleticism sport.  The disciplines are less specialized and the roles are blurred, which makes everything far more subjective.

Dooley is very reliant upon transfers to enhance the talent of the team, but here are some notable straight out of High School talents he has brought in during the most recent classes.  FGCU is an Atlantic Sun program, there’s a level of obscurity to overcome.

Dooley’s Class of 2018:

  • Zach Scott – 6’4″ Point Guard from Fort Lauderdale, Florida.  He had offers from:  DePaul, Pittsburgh, UAB, UCF, Vanderbilt, Virginia Tech and Wichita State.
  • Caleb Catto – 6’5″ Shooting Guard from Fort Myers, Florida.  He had offers from:  Wofford, Furman, William & Mary, Northern Kentucky and Winthrop.

Dooley’s Class of 2017:

  • Brian Thomas – 6’9″ Power Forward from Marietta, Georgia.  He had offers from:  Cincinnati, Mississippi State, Richmond, UAB, La Salle.
  • Darnell Rogers – 5’3″ Point Guard from Fort Mill, South Carolina.  He was offered and committed to George Washington for a period of time.

Transfers on the Current Team

  • Brandon Goodwin – Transferred from UCF.
  • Quentin Jackson – Transferred from Charlotte.
  • Haanif Cheatham – Transferred from Marquette.  Eligible in December 2018.
  • Dinero Mercurius – Transferred from South Florida and UT-RGV.
  • Michael Gilmore – Transferred from VCU and Miami.
  • Troy Baxter Jr. – Transferred from UNLV.  Eligible in November 2018.
  • Brady Ernst – Transferred from Iowa State.
  • Antravious Simmons – Transferred from VCU.
  • Ricky Doyle – Transferred from Michigan.

What is impressive is that Dooley can take talent from other places and get the shot distributions like he wants.  He’s very good at fitting his talent to the style of play.

Joe Dooley’s Success, Style of Play and Experience Give Him a Leg Up

  •  Flexibility to play different styles.
  •  Improvement of the FGCU program to create a consistent NCAA Tournament team.
  •  Experience recruiting the East Coast and Southeast.
  •  Exciting offense that improved over the seasons.
  •  A National Championship ring.
  •  Efficient shot distribution.
  •  Would be leaving FGCU in a better place as a program.

With improved talent that comes along with a better conference, Dooley could build a powerhouse.  A significantly larger budget and better name recognition goes a long way.  His rosters are a hodge-podge and the talent level is improving every season at FGCU, but he has more options at a school like Georgia.  Dooley has picked up quite a bit from Bill Self stylistically and it has started to show.  This is a move in a very different direction and as Tony Schiavone once said, “That’ll put a lot of butts in seats.”  Well, temporarily because there will be a lot of standing up.


  1. Nice work on all of these potential candidates, HWT. I’m pretty ignorant about the intricacies of basketball, I just look at the W-L records. But I recognize there’s much more to it than that.

    I like Dooley simply because I want to cheer for Dooley’s Dawgs once again. If they play a fast, exciting game, all the better.

    Unfortunately, I agree with Slick Willy. I think McGoofity will keep Fox due to all the uncertainty around the FBI probe. If so, it will be interesting (and sad) to see how Fox shackles Hagans if he comes.

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