I better preface this with a disclosure, lest Gator Country won’t touch this one.
*The views expressed in this column are those of Brent J. Mechler II, and do not necessarily reflect those of Gator Country. *
Ok, with that out of the way – – some of y’all are nuts! No, not the legumes, and perhaps not certifiable, but you’ve lost your basketball brains.
In the wake of Florida’s second-round loss to Oral Roberts, the “Fire Mike White” Campaign has gathered a crowd large enough to make Donald Trump envious.
And though I will acknowledge some valid reasons for frustration, Scottie’s last-second airball has spurred an army of airheads.
Let me open with an indisputable fact: Mike White is the second most successful coach in program history. And it really isn’t close.
Read that again, because it’s truth.
Including a presumed bid last season, White has garnered an equal number of NCAA tournament invites (5) in his 6-year tenure as the program collected in its ENTIRE pre-Donovan history.
But therein lies the rub – for many, there is no “pre-Donovan” history. There is, instead, a complete and total lack of perspective . . . and some resulting lunacy.
Billy Donovan is arguably among the greatest to ever coach college basketball, and no readership is more aware of his accolades than that of Gator Nation.
But as incredible as Donovan was – he didn’t transform a program. He BECAME the program, and the program became him.
And it was fantastic.
And wildly successful.
Until he left.
The perception of Florida basketball was inextricably tied to Donovan. . . so much so that when he defected, so too did that Gators mystique.
Poof . . . gone!
The predominant national expectation was that “Florida would slide back to being Florida”.
But don’t tell that to the folks in Gainesville! Though anticipating a “transition”, Gators fans seemingly expected something far better than its historical achievements, but maybe a bit less than those of Donovan.
And so, that’s what Mike White inherited more than anything else … “expectations”.
From a historical benchmark, White has shattered ‘em . . . but the Billy bar is high, and it’s real. And its part of a basketball coaching job that isn’t quite as great as some think.
Blame a very top-heavy “expectations-to-support” ratio. This isn’t new, nor a function of the “product on the court”. Kruger lobbed some parting shots at Florida’s interest in hoops. And even Donovan saw inconsistent enthusiasm manifest in, among other things, Midnight Madness cancellations, and tepid tourney attendances.
The truth is, Florida basketball fans are more frequently heard than seen. And boy, they are being heard now.
And quite frankly, some it’s embarrassing.
A contingent of fans seek to runoff off a coach whose program is among six (fsu, Gonzaga, Michigan, Villanova, Kansas) . . . SIX . . . in the country to win a tournament game each of the last 4 seasons.
And the ideas for replacements run the gamut from “delusional” to “disastrous” to “dumb” . . . “Chris Beard” to “Rick Pitino” to “Udonis Haslem” (I love UD, but he has NEVER been a coach!).
If Florida was able to somehow justify moving from White, it would have to be with a very clear and obvious choice.
And this ain’t it!
Some of the other suggestions?
Bruce Pearl – Yuuuuck!
Mike Miller – Great player… lasted a season as an assistant coach.
Archie Miller – He was just canned for not making the tourney at Indiana!
Matt McCall – Ok. Based on what?
Josh Pastner – Good grief.
Andy Enfield – Sounds great, but save the staff seats for recruits’ relatives.
The list would be funny, if not meant to be serious.
Speaking of serious – let me try that for moment. I do understand the frustration, and acknowledge some Coach White shortcomings. But Florida is not a program capable of hiring a proven, established leader without blemishes or resume holes.
White had collected wins at La Tech, but arrived light on experience and void of NCAA tourney appearances. He has since collected the latter, and now must turn a very clear corner.
But what has White done deserve continued patience and opportunity?
Mike White has run a clean program in an absolutely filthy college landscape. He has brought in kids who have never once had an off-court incident, but rather been model student-athletes. White, himself, has handled his tenure . . . including a near-tragedy . . . with admirable grace. And through all of this, he has brought Florida to the NCAA tournament every season since his first.
In nearly all ways, Coach White has done The University of Florida proud.
Sure, he has hit an undeniable plateau. But White deserves an opportunity to push through. And an honest dose of perspective proves that true.
(But if you feel differently – word is that Will Wade may become available.)