New Name Emerges In Florida Assistant Coaching Search

Florida’s assistant coaching search, with two spots to fill, has been a bit of a bizarre situation with weeks piling on top of weeks without a hire. Many programs panic and kick things into overdrive with a desire to fill openings as quickly as possible but Mike White has shown a different approach, content to take his time and make sure he makes the correct decision.


Could this have something to do with the last, and one of the only, coaching hires he made?


Some of you will remember that before Al Pinkins was hired the Gators had Armon Gates on staff for what amounted to just under a month. Associate coach Dusty May took the head job at Florida Atlantic, and the Gators ended up hiring the first name that was floated out there, Armon Gates. Things got off to a rocky start, and within the month Gates was gone.


Little is known about what really went on there, but when an assistant is hired and lasts less than a month it might be fair to assume something was missed or miscommunicated during the interview process.


This time around, it would be shocking if there were any hiring disasters as White has been taking his time identifying prospective hires. 


On Sunday a new name emerged onto the scene and it’s one you should keep a close eye on–Erik Pastrana from Oklahoma State. 


Pastrana is a very popular young coach among everyone who has met him. That includes AAU coaches, college coaches, and media alike who all are drawn to his personality and work ethic. Pastrana is a grinder, who has cut his teeth at all levels of basketball. In addition to coaching at Oklahoma State, he’s been at Florida Atlantic (under former Florida assistant Dusty May), Stephen F. Austin, FIU, and Kansas State in terms of Division-I. He’s also coached at the junior college level at Daytona State, Labette Community College, and Northwest Florida State College, as well as coached several successful AAU teams.


His experience at the Division-I, junior college, and AAU level speaks to his pure love of basketball and his work ethic, and the fruits of working at all these levels means he is extremely connected. Pastrana is the recruiting coordinator at Oklahoma State, where he used his many connections around the country to haul in some fantastic players. Spending a lot of his time recruiting the state of Florida he has plenty of connections that would help him if he were to come to Florida, and his mix of personality, experience, and Florida connections make him an understandable target for the Gators.


One potential hurdle in hiring Pastrana could be the cost. Oklahoma State is a program that has paid assistants extremely well over the last few seasons, an underrated program when it comes to basketball spending. Pastrana made $300,000 last season, just below what Darris Nichols and Jordan Mincy were making, but for an Oklahoma State program that has paid their assistants extremely well (some of their assistants over the last decade have made upwards of $700,000) and is desperate to keep momentum after a successful season that featured Cade Cunningham, it wouldn’t be at all surprising if they ponied up to try to keep Pastrana. 


Originally from Miami, there might be some draw for Pastrana to return to the state of Florida which could help the Gators in their pursuit of him. 


Pastrana’s name has picked up a lot of steam, so don’t be surprised at all if he ends up taking one of Florida’s open spots.


For the other open spot, Virginia Tech’s Christian Webster is still considered the favorite to be hired though it’s a bit curious as to why it hasn’t already happened. It was weeks ago that I was first told the deal had been done and that he would be going to Florida, yet there hasn’t been any announcement yet. I am still told it’s likely he’ll be hired, though with every passing day it seems more and more strange that the hire hasn’t been made if it is to eventually happen.


In other coaching news, it sounds like Adam Cohen from Stanford, a coach that was rumored for weeks to be taking one of Florida’s openings, will not be coming. I was told he was heavily leaning towards taking the job, but for whatever reason backed out. Cohen is a very popular coach with lots of opportunities so there are a host of reasons why he may have chosen not to go to Florida, but whatever it was it doesn’t appear it will be happening. 


It is fairly clear that the Gators are going for more youth with their coaching hires to replace the youth of Darris Nichols and Jordan Mincy. There were two experienced coaches I was told that the Gators reached out to, one of which is currently in a head position at a good program so it was rather unlikely he’d leave for Florida. Many fans and media had been clamoring for some more experience on the bench to add some veteran savvy, but it looks like White is going more for energy and recruiting juice. 


I wish I could tell you when I thought one of these hires would take place but currently, no one seems to know. However, the leaders in the clubhouse definitely seem to be Erik Pastrana and Christian Webster.


Eric Fawcett
Eric hails from Edmonton, Alberta, Canada. His blend of sports and comedy has landed his words on ESPN, Bleacher Report, CBS Sports, Lindy's and others. He loves zone defenses, the extra pass, and a 30 second shot clock. Growing up in Canada, an American channel showing SEC basketball games was his first exposure to Gator hoops, and he has been hooked ever since. You can follow him on Twitter at @Efawcett7.