An Oxford homecoming for Mike White

From 1995 to 1999, current Florida head basketball coach Mike White was the starting point guard for the Ole Miss Rebels. Eight games into his career at Ole Miss White became the starter and never looked back. This Saturday, Mike White will lead the Florida Gators basketball team into Oxford, Mississippi to take on his alma mater.

During his time playing at Ole Miss, he was a part of consecutive SEC West titles in 1997 and 1998. On top of that success in conference he was also a part of the school’s first NCAA Tournament win in 1999. A 72-70 win over No. 8 seed Villanova. They lost in the next round to Michigan State. White was a part of a team that made three consecutive NCAA appearances. White was a productive player leading his team in assist all four years and finishing sixth in school history with 370-career assist.

White’s success as a point guard has helped in the development of sophomore guard Chris Chiozza. Chiozza has taken over the starting point guard spot from former McDonald’s All-American Kasey Hill. Though his minutes remain the same as last year. Chiozza has double his production in points and assists, but the most improved area has been his free throw shooting. The Memphis, Tennessee native has improved from last year’s paltry 41% to now shooting 71% from the stripe.

The former 6’1” 180 pound point guard did not have much of a professional career, but his grit has made his time coaching a good one. White started his coaching career at Jacksonville State, but became a known commodity in the coaching ranks during his time at Ole Miss. During his stint as an assistant at Ole Miss he was a part of multiple SEC division titles, multiple 20 win seasons and help developed some of the best guards in the conference. This success at Ole Miss gave him the opportunity to lead his first program at Louisiana Tech where he won 101 games in four seasons.

His success at Ole Miss as a player and coach was the catalyst to him becoming the head coach at the University of Florida. In his 16 years of coaching, White has climbed the ranks and hopes to get the Gators back to the top of the mountain. Through his first 16 games as the head coach of the Gators, White has led the Gators to a 10-6 record and 2-2 in the SEC.

This Saturday when they take on the Rebels it will be another challenge for the young coach who has yet to hit 40 years old. Ole Miss enters the game 12-3, 2-1 in conference and undefeated at home. Florida has struggled this year in true road games going only 1-4. His former team Louisiana Tech fell to the Rebels earlier this year in Oxford 99-80.

Ole Miss has recently opened a new basketball arena and it should be an emotional time for White. He helped lay the foundation that allowed the program to build as they are. Michael White on the court and on the sidelines has been a proven winner and he hopes that success will transfer to his current players. Much of this team was a part of one of only three teams to have a losing record under Billy Donovan. The first since the 1997-98 season, the second season under Donovan.

White is confident and a competitor, this team will continue to need this moving forward into conference play. Florida is coming off of a tough 71-68 loss on the road to 15th ranked Texas A&M. The team has showed resilience and taken on the attitude of their coach, but it has not always translated into wins.

The Gators have shown fight against some of the better teams in the country. This Saturday, they will take on their coaches’ former team and they hope to walk away with a big win for Michael White in first trip back to Ole Miss. A win Saturday will mean a lot to a coach looking to make another mark in the SEC.