By: Jenna Ladd
Taking over a major basketball program like the one at the University of Florida, that has the amount of prestige brought on by former Florida Gators basketball coach Billy Donovan, new head coach Mike White has had a lot on his plate. With each new fan he meets, everyone wants to know, what is he going to keep going and especially what he plans on changing about the men’s basketball program.
“I think Coach Donovan helped turn this more into a national program, of course and obviously were going to piggyback whenever we can on the success that Coach Donovan and his staff had and I like to include his staff because he had some great staff [members] as well- and some great players,“ White said.
In a time of such drastic change it seems that Coach White is focused on keeping some form of continuity, both for his personal staff that followed him, the staff that stuck around in Gainesville and the players. One of the ways he has helped to reduce culture shock is by bringing his entire staff from his former job at Louisiana Tech, as well as keeping the support staff that Coach Donovan employed.
The new head coach sounded like a broken record as he kept bringing up how incredible his support staff was and how much easier they have all worked to make this transition easier for him. From the communications director down to his film guy he brought along from LaTech, he said that without their help none of this would be possible.
When asked why he thought it necessary to bring over every assistant from his former job he said, “Loyalty, family more than anything else. Those guys did a great job for me and I have faith in how effective they are, how good they are as assistants and mentors and they deserved to be rewarded and I think they’ll do a good job for me here. “
Following an act such as Donovan, who brought National Championships, final four appearances and nationwide recognition to the Gators is a tough one, but White does not plan on doing it alone.
Coach White says that he has been keeping in contact with Donovan since he started with the Gators to learn as much as he can about the program that Donovan left behind.
“[Billy] has been really gracious with his time and energy because I know how busy he’s got to be, I’m going through something pretty similar,” Michael White said of his talks with Donovan. White goes on to say, “probably more so than anything we’ve spent time on our current roster because he knows those guys really well and he wants to help those guys.”
He elaborated even more, saying that, “[Billy] wants to see them be successful, he wants to continue to see Florida be successful. Any way that he can help he’ll offer help and I’ll continue to reach out to him over time. “
As for the players, he is still focusing on getting to know them better off the court. He mentioned that the staff encourages the team to come by the offices with an open door policy.
“Especially in a situation when you’re trying to fast track relationships and get to know your guys, we’ve challenged them several times, ‘hey we don’t see you enough, come on by, we need to get to know you better,’” White explained.
It seems that in this time of high-stress and intense change, Michael White is focusing on family – both those who have been loyal to him through his career and those newer members. He’s keeping any sense of continuity that he can to benefit the team, his staff and himself all with the help of former head coach Billy Donovan. If that doesn’t sound like a great approach to change, then I don’t know what is.