It’s never easy replacing a legend, and that’s one of the biggest tasks former Louisiana Tech men’s basketball head coach Michael White faces as he replaces Billy Donovan at the University of Florida.
“It’s an honor to sit in this office,” White said on Monday, when he was formally introduced as Donovan’s replacement. “But I don’t feel comfortable sitting in that chair right now.”
Donovan was 467-186 in 19 seasons at Florida, including four Final Four appearances and two national championships. White was 101-40 in four seasons at Louisiana Tech with three NIT appearances.
Jumping from Conference USA to the Southeastern Conference brings a new set of challenges. Following a national championship coach and probable future Hall of Fame inductee like Billy Donovan can also present even more challenges.
But Donovan, among others, lauded White’s hire.
“I’m a believer,” ESPN analyst Jay Bilas told Florida’s athletics website last week. “Yes, there are comparisons to Billy, but it doesn’t mean he’s exactly like Billy. Michael is his own but, but there are definitely similarities that I think are really uplifting when you look at his long-term potential as a coach.
“At Louisiana Tech, I really liked how he spread the floor. They’re very creative with the sets they run. Not everything is scripted, so players have some freedom. I think he teaches them how to play and let’s them play. He puts a lot on his guards and trusts them, as well as all his players, to make good decisions.”
Donnie Tyndall, former head coach at Tennessee, said the Gators hit a home run by hiring White.
“I feel that Michael White is a great hire for Florida,” Tyndall said. “Having coached against him on four occasions I can tell you his team will compete at a very high level. “They will play an exciting uptempo brand of basketball and they will be disciplined and play very unselfish.”
Tyndall made the move from Southern Miss and C-USA to the SEC in 2014 and said the biggest transition for White will be dealing with the media. “It is a totally different part of the job than what he was used to at Louisiana Tech,” Tyndall said.
Blaine Taylor, C-USA basketball analyst for American Sports Network, describes White’s relationship with the media in glowing terms. “The way someone engages the public, the community, and the campus as a whole is telling,” Taylor said. “Michael understands the value of positive media relationships. Professionally you can check all of the boxes. He has played, assisted, and led his own program.”
White also has been raised in the world of big-time athletics. His father Kevin is the athletic director at Duke University with prior stints at Notre Dame, Arizona State among others. “Family ties to athletics has fed his development and made him a very competent and well-rounded communicator, coach and educator,” Taylor said.
White is uniquely prepared as the son of a big time athletics director who has forged his own impressive head coaching resume. White also had success recruiting in the state of Florida, including C-USA player of the year Kenneth “Speedy” Smith.
While the pressures off the court will be a factor in how White transitions from Louisiana Tech to Florida, wins on the court will relieve those pressures. Gator fans are banking on him not only replacing Donovan but immediately putting his stamp on SEC basketball by challenging John Calipari and the Kentucky Wildcats.
Michael White’s record
|2012–13||La. Tech||27–7||16–2||T–1st||NIT Second Round|
|2013–14||La. Tech||29–8||13–3||T–1st||NIT Quarterfinals|
|2014–15||La. Tech||27–9||15–3||1st||NIT Quarterfinals|
|CAREER TOTALS||101–40 (.716)||50–16 (.758)|