Keith Marcum proudly wore his Florida Gulf Coast gear around Mustang the past couple years, and most folks there didn't pay it much attention.
Things have been different this past week.
“They're all wanting shirts and caps and everything like that,” Marcum said of friends and acquaintances in the Oklahoma City suburb. “But it's not like it's something you can go down to the mall and find.”
Not yet anyway.
“That might change,” Marcum said.
It sure might. Florida Gulf Coast is the darling of the NCAA Tournament, a No. 15 seed that has become a Sweet 16 team. The Eagles weren't even NCAA Tournament eligible until a couple years ago, and now, they've got everyone talking.
No one is happier to talk about them than Marcum.
His daughter, Amanda — yes, the former model who's one of the faces of the tournament — is married to Florida Gulf Coast coach Andy Enfield. That has given Marcum and his wife, Carol, access to one of the most amazing stories in NCAA Tournament history.
“It's just been crazy, crazy, crazy,” Marcum said.
The Marcums traveled to Philadelphia last week.
The primary reason: grandparent duty.
They had a room at the team hotel adjoining the room that Amanda and Andy shared with their three kids, 6-year-old Aila, 4-year-old Lily and soon-to-be 2-year-old Marcum. Whenever Andy and Amanda had something they needed to do, Keith and Carol stepped in and watched the three grandkids.
Keith and Carol are back on grandparent duty this week in Arlington, Texas, where Florida Gulf Coast plays Florida on Friday night.
“I'm on the starting baby-sitting team,” Keith said.
“I'm pretty much an All-American. I can take care of them and do other things at the same time.”
This whole ride through the tournament has been a blast for Marcum. Last week, after Florida Gulf Coast won its second game and secured a spot in the Sweet 16, he watched in wonder as fans in Philly swarmed the players on the arena concourse.
It happened while Duke was playing Creighton.
“I thought, ‘Duke is playing right there and you have seats and you're up here chasing these Florida Gulf Coast players,'” Marcum said. “I just couldn't believe it.”
What he can believe, though, is that his son-in-law has been successful. Marcum always believed Enfield was capable of basketball greatness.
Marcum recalled a story from Christmas a few years back. Amanda and Andy were living in New Jersey, and Andy, who had been an NBA assistant but was then working as a shooting coach, was doing individual workouts with players of all levels. Andy asked his father-in-law if he wanted to tag along to one of the sessions.
“I don't think they'd mind if you came,” Andy said. “We just meet at this little junior high.”
“Well, sure,” Keith said. “I'd love to go down there and watch.”
As they were getting out of Andy's car, a gigantic SUV rolled up beside them and an equally gigantic man got out of it.
It was Alonzo Mourning.
The veteran NBA player had come back from a kidney transplant, and for an hour, Andy put him through his paces.
“Worked him hard,” Marcum remembered.
The fact that a player of Mourning's caliber trusted Enfield spoke volumes to Marcum.
And yet, as highly as Marcum thought of his son-in-law's ability as a teacher and a coach, he has been as shocked as anyone that Florida Gulf Coast is in the Sweet 16 this year.
“I've watched them play since he took the job, and I knew that Andy had the ability to do whatever he wanted to do with them,” Marcum said. “But I didn't think it would happen this quick.”
Neither did Enfield.
Marcum said that his son-in-law told him that his goal for this season, his second at Florida Gulf Coast, was to win the conference and go to the NCAA Tournament. Winning games in the tournament? He hoped that would come next season.
The wins came a year ahead of his schedule.
The success that Florida Gulf Coast has had has made everyone a fan. Marcum has witnessed the mania firsthand. People at SPEC Building Materials where he works want to talk about the team. His golfing buddies, many of whom have hit the links with Enfield when he's visited Mustang, are buzzing. Marcum even heard from an old friend living in Oregon.
“Oh, gosh, it's crazy,” he said. “Everybody wants tickets. Everybody wants hats and shirts. Everybody's just jumped on the bandwagon.”
“I don't blame them. I probably would, too.”
But if that Florida Gulf Coast apparel he's been wearing these past few years is any indication, he's had a seat on the bandwagon from the beginning. He'd love for the ride to continue a little longer.
“It'll be a downer if they lose,” Marcum said, “but we've been blessed with two exciting games. Maybe we'll get another one.
“I've already been surprised two games. Might as well go for three.”
Jenni Carlson: Jenni can be reached at (405) 475-4125. Like her at facebook.com/JenniCarlsonOK, follow her at twitter.com/jennicarlson_ok or view her personality page at newsok.com/jennicarlson.