FGCU hires Kansas assistant Joe Dooley as new men's basketball coach

Florida Gulf Coast University has hired Kansas assistant Joe Dooley as its new men’s basketball coach.

Photo by Jeff Jacobsen, Jeff & Laura Jacobsen, Kansas Athletics

Florida Gulf Coast University has hired Kansas assistant Joe Dooley as its new men’s basketball coach.

ESTERO — Kansas men’s basketball coach Bill Self knows about jams, and he said Wednesday afternoon that Jayhawks assistant Joe Dooley will be a slam dunk as Florida Gulf Coast University’s new coach.

“He won’t be a good head coach, he’ll be a terrific head coach,” Self said. “Down there, the Fort Myers area absolutely should be so excited for what the previous staff has done, what the present players have done and certainly what’s getting ready to happen.”

FGCU athletic director Ken Kavangh, a one-man search committee, made the offer — a five-year contract worth $225,000 a season — and Dooley accepted Wednesday, two days before the next recruiting cycle begins. He’ll be officially introduced at a 1:30 p.m. Monday news conference in Alico Arena.

“Joe’s name first surfaced from a good friend of mine that I really value their opinion,” Kavanagh said. “Joe and I didn’t know each other. As I was narrowing the focus of the search, whenever Joe’s name was brought up to others who I highly respect, there was nothing but positive feelings that came out. Eventually we started doing some interviewing. Joe was in that conversation with us. I was very impressed with his responses and his understanding of what we want at FGCU.”

Dooley said he has been “extremely cautious” about previous head-coaching opportunities he’s had, but this one felt right.

“My wife (Tanya) and I and coach Self came up with a criteria for things that were important to me in being a head coach,” Dooley said. “We talked about a place where the administration gives you the best opportunity to be successful. We talked about a place where you have an opportunity to win. FGCU fit those criteria.”

A 10-year Kansas assistant who was the head coach at East Carolina from 1995-99, the 47-year-old Dooley takes over for Andy Enfield, who led FGCU to a 41-28 record in his only two seasons as a head coach. That included last season’s 26-11 Sweet 16 run that netted him the USC job on April 2. Enfield earned $157,500 last season.

A standout player at George Washington and a 25-year collegiate coach, Dooley helped the Jayhawks win 300 games (against 58 losses) and the 2008 national title. During his tenure, the Jayhawks won nine straight Big 12 titles, six Big 12 tournament titles and made six Sweet 16 and five Elite Eight runs. Kansas has been the winningest program in the country the last seven seasons with six 30-win campaigns.

FGCU assistant Marty Richter, who was serving as the interim coach, interviewed for the job and the Eagles made their support of his candidacy clear. But Dooley has offered Richter, assistant Michael Fly and Joey Cantens, the director of operations, spots on his staff.

“I think carry-over from the previous staff is important, the familiarity with the university, the players, the program, the league,” Dooley said. “I talked with coach Self about that, and everywhere he’s been, he’s kept people. This isn’t a situation where you’re walking into a train wreck. Andy and his staff did a heck of a job. These guys are obviously a part of it. Hopefully they’ll want to continue to be part of it and keep moving this thing.

“I’m appreciative that they want to be at FGCU,” Dooley said. “I’m looking forward to getting down there to speak with them — I’ve already spoken with several of them on the phone — and get to really know these guys.”

Richter, 36, complimented Dooley and the up-tempo Kansas style. He spoke with Dooley, and like Fly and Cantens, will sleep on the offer. Richter said he appreciated Kavanagh telling him before the announcement of his decision and that he had been told the areas he needs to grow into a head coach.

One of the Eagles’ key concerns in a coach other than Richter was playing style — the up-tempo type that led to the moniker Dunk City. The Jayhawks averaged 80 or more points three times and 75 or more nine times during Dooley’s tenure. That should sound good to the Eagles, who return four starters.

“I can’t imagine a better fit out there, I really can’t,” Self said. “The one thing about the Eagles, they were smart and they got the nickname Dunk City. But let me make myself clear — nobody throws the ball to the rim and dunks more than we have. Nobody. That’s so much of our offensive design — to throw the ball up and to put athletic and talented players in position to make plays.

“He’s got talented guys there and, trust me, Joe Dooley will incorporate a style that will incorporate a lot of the stuff they’ve done in the past but also incorporate what he believes in and what we’ve done here that has worked really well for us. I’m 100 percent confident that this transition will be smooth and the players cannot play fast enough for Coach. I can’t believe it wouldn’t be the best of all worlds for those kids.”

Dooley said the playing style “will be similar. We’ll take the best of some of the things they’ve done. We’ll add some things we’ve done here and other places I’ve been. Tweak some things that can be tweaked. There’s also a comfort level with the current team. Why would you tinker with things that don’t need to be tinkered with? We’re not trying to reinvent the wheel.”

Another element the Eagles wanted to keep was the coaching demeanor of Enfield, who sprinkled his practices with laughter. There were even many in-game grins. But he could also be super-serious.

“Joe wants to have fun,” Self said. “Joe is a guy who wants to have fun, but have fun as we prepare the right way. You ask anybody that’s played for us — lots of laughs, lot of giggles. But there’s also a lot of work to get you to the point where you can laugh and giggle.

“He’s going to be a blast to play for.”

Said Dooley: “You do need to have some fun. If you can’t laugh at yourself, it’s not any fun. That’s something I pride myself with my players. You’ve got to be serious when you’ve got to be serious, but when something funny happens, we might as well all laugh. If it includes me being the butt of the joke or getting some of these guys, I’m all for it. We spend our day here trying to throw each other under the bus here at Kansas, and we’ll continue to do that.”

Dooley said he had spoken to several players and would continue calling the rest and the two signees “into the night.” He even passed along the numbers of current and former Jayhawks, so the Eagles could get their takes on him. He will first meet with the players Sunday night.

“The approach to the guys will be, ‘This is not as big a transition as you think it will be,’” Dooley said. ‘”Talk to people who have gone through it and you will see that they developed a great bond and a family relationship among their teammates. Together we can do this.’”

Sophomore point guard Brett Comer was one of the more vocal Eagles in calling for Richter’s hire. But he has a Kansas connection, having attended a Jayhawks basketball camp. He also developed a friendship with former Kansas guard Travis Releford.

“We’re excited,” Dooley said. “I know Brett can be put in a lot of ball-screen situations.”

The Eagles were off-limits to reporters Wednesday but Richter said they are reserving judgment on Dooley until they meet him. Outgoing senior Sherwood Brown played a pickup game with the Eagles and chatted with them shortly after the announcement.

“It’s early, so it’s hard to tell,” Brown said. “For the most part, it seems like they’re going to give him a chance, which I think is the best thing to do.”

Self said the Eagles will love what’s coming.

“This will be an exciting time for those kids,” Self said. “They’re getting ready to have a lot of fun. They’re getting ready to win big.”

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