FORT MYERS (CBSMiami) – Dunk City. The last time that nickname was used, Florida Gulf Coast University was making an improbable run in the NCAA Tournament in March. A lot has changed for the FGCU Eagles since then, but they head into the next season hoping to show they aren’t a flash in the pan.
“I say it’s a continuation of last year,” Eagles guard Brett Comer said. “We want to come out with the same style of play, build off of what we did last year in that aspect. But it is a new year. We’ve got a new coach, we’ve put in some new stuff, we all love playing for him and we’ve got to get focused on playing this year and not living in the past.”
The team’s new coach is former Kansas Jayhawks assistant coach Joe Dooley. He was hired shortly after Andy Enfield left FGCU for Southern Cal. Dooley left Kansas, despite a great shot at a national championship with the Jayhawks in the 2013-2014 season.
“When you look from the outside, we’ve got some things that allow you to be in the top half of your league on a pretty consistent basis,” Dooley said, standing in the lobby of FGCU’s arena. “And I wanted to be a head coach. Leaving Kansas was very hard for our family, but this was a chance to go somewhere and win.”
Ironically, Dooley was drawing up a game plan to beat FGCU in the tournament last March. But, both Kansas and FGCU lost before the two teams were going to play each other. So, what was a scouting report, has not turned into a blueprint of things to fix for the coming season.
“These guys want to get better,” Dooley said. “It’s always neat to see those stories. Now, behind that story, it’s about how can we continue to have success and make sure that we keep progressing.”
It’s not like the Eagles were just some Cinderella last spring. In their home opener a year ago, they beat Miami, a team that went on to win 29 games and sweep the Atlantic Coast Conference’s regular-season and tournament titles. They hung with Duke for about 15 minutes — before a 30-0 run doomed them — and had won 15 of 19 games heading into the NCAAs.
Then came Georgetown, a 2-seed against a 15-seed. Comer lobbed the ball to Chase Fieler with just under 2 minutes left, and Fieler’s right arm seemed to extend about 2 feet over the rim before slamming down the pass for a nine-point FGCU lead that served as an exclamation point of sorts.
Then came San Diego State, when the dunks kept coming. Dunk City was born.
“A lot of people didn’t realize before those two games that we dunked the ball all year,” Comer said. “Our first game here against Miami we had more dunks than any other game. If they want to call us Dunk City, they can. We’ll go with it.”
The Eagles open this season Friday at Nebraska, a program Dooley obviously has some familiarity with from the Jayhawks and Cornhuskers formerly being Big 12 rivals. Kansas won the last 17 games in that series, all with Dooley on the bench.
He’s been a head coach before, at East Carolina in the late 1990s, and had chances to be one again over the past several years. In the end, he decided that a school hardly anyone on the national scene was aware of before last March — with an on-campus beach as one of its selling points — was the right place for him to be one again.
“We wouldn’t be Dunk City if they hadn’t won,” Dooley said. “No one would have known.”
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