In his introductory press conference as the new men’s basketball coach of the Florida Gators, 38-year old Michael White didn’t sound like a coach who was in over his head.
White nodded to the work that his predecessor had done the past 19 years. Billy Donovan turned the University of Florida from an also-ran on the hardwood to one of the premier programs in the entire country and White knows that he is now the head of what could be a basketball juggernaut.
“It’s more of embracing the fact that you have a great, great job that Coach Donovan has built,” White said. “I think it was a good job when he got here, and now it’s a great job.”
So when the topic of the four signees that Donovan and the Florida Gators have came up, White didn’t mince his words.
Often times recruits will pick a school based on a coach, rather than the actual institution. You can’t blame them completely. Recruiting is all about building relationships and young 16-18 year old kids grow close to the coaches that call them, write them letters, interact with them on social media and visit them in person. The personal attachment players get with coaches is understandable and when you have a coach like Donovan, who spent nearly two decades at the same school, most recruits expect to play for him when they commit and sign a letter of intent.
Players quickly find out that college sports are a business. Wins and losses mean revenue and money makes the NCAA machine go. A coach who doesn’t get enough wins to keep their machine running at optimal levels will quickly be looking for a job — or in Florida’s case, a coach who shows he can win consistently will get an opportunity too good to pass up.
All too often kids pick a university based on a coach rather than the institution itself. It’s hard for a teenager to think far enough into the future and realize that a degree will stay for a lifetime, while a coach may last a year or two.
White met with all four of Florida’s signees but Jeff Goodman reported on Tuesday that power forward Noah Dickerson has asked to be released from his scholarship and the stepfather of shooting guard KeVaugh Allen went on the radio a week ago saying Allen intends to do the same.
“I’m not into begging,” White exclaimed. “I think this place to a certain extent sells itself.”
This may be the biggest question mark for White moving forward. How will the 38-year old coach fare going up against John Calipari and the other heavyweights of college basketball? Calipari gets to sell the Kentucky program, his NBA Draft factory and, of course, himself. The same goes or Coach K at Duke, Roy Williams and UNC and the bevy of new coaches — including former NBA head coach Avery Johnson — in the SEC.
White has a premiere program to sell but he’s largely an unknown commodity. A young coach who spent the past four years coaching in a one-bid league, White will have his work cut out for him sitting in the stands at AAU tournaments.
He does, however, get to enter the gyms and homes of prospective recruits with a Gator logo on his chest. The program, at least in the beginning, will have to be the biggest selling point. At least until White starts piling up wins and shows recruits the style of basketball he’s going to bring to the University of Florida.