Friday, May 8, 2015

This coach moving on really was just a matter of time

This was the collage of photos posted on the Louisiana Tech Bulldog
Basketball Facebook page after the announcement that Coach Michael
White was moving on to take the Florida job.
     Those of us with Louisiana Tech ties knew that what happened Thursday was inevitable: Michael White, the successful and bright men's basketball coach, took a bigger and better job.
     Well, better if -- if -- he wins big at the University of Florida. He is following one of the nation's most successful and brightest coaches -- two national championships and three Final Fours for Billy Donovan.
     When Donovan finally made his move to the NBA two weeks ago, and didn't change his mind as he did several years ago, I told several friends that Florida athletic director Jeremy Foley would be interested in hiring White.
     My wife likes to say that if I throw enough "predictions" out there -- like I do --  some of them will stick. Dang, I don't like being right this time.
     I am not close to either program, although I lived near Louisiana Tech for 30 years and went to school there, and we lived close to Florida for seven years and attended (or did newspaper stories) a dozen Gators games in various sports.
     Just had a feeling, though, that Michael White would be Foley's kind of hire. The Florida AD is one of the best in the country and White reminds me (and obviously Foley) so much of Donovan when Florida hired him in 1996.
     There is a star quality there -- a smooth, clean image, humble, dedicated to his school, administrators, assistant coaches, players, fans ... and most importantly, to his family.
     And a great basketball background, as a player and then as a coach whose teams are well-drilled, pressure all over the floor defensively, shoot a bunch of 3-pointers ... in sum, are exciting to watch ... and win most of their games.  
     OK, there is a sticking point in Michael White's career as a head coach.          
     In four years as head coach at Louisiana Tech, his teams won outright or shared three conference regular-season championships. Their success -- 101-40 (.716) record and renewed interest in the program, a great atmosphere for games at Thomas Assembly Center -- made him attractive to other schools.
     But he never took a team to the NCAA Tournament. So there's that; not all the goals were fulfilled.
     Florida is not aiming for three consecutive National Invitation Tournament (NIT) appearances, as Tech had to settle for. But like Missouri and Tennessee -- which each tried to hire White a year ago -- the Florida people thought he was a great candidate for their open job.
     We all knew it was just a matter of time when the right job would open, the money would be too great, and he would move on.
     And the contract offered this time -- six years, $2 million a year -- was far, far out of Louisiana Tech's reach. The reported $600,000 a year Tech paid White this past season was probably a stretch for a mid-major university that doesn't have the financial clout most of the majors do.
     As several friends have commented, we can't blame him for moving on up.
     If you are an ambitious, relatively young (38) coach, you aim higher. Billy Donovan, going to the NBA, is aiming higher.
     Same for Michael White, going to the SEC, a league in which he played and was an assistant coach (Ole Miss), and going back to a state where he spent much of his youth and where he has recruited regularly (five Tech players are from Florida).
     So we wish him well. I actually like the Gators ... in basketball. But as an LSU partisan and with a daughter and son-in-law with Tennessee degrees and a home in Knoxville, not too much luck, Michael.


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