Michael White to Florida: Ranking the Biggest Challenges for Gators' New Coach
Florida moved fast to replace Billy Donovan, hiring Michael White as the next head coach of the men's basketball team. Unfortunately for the Louisiana Tech coach, the move will not be easy.
White has only been a head coach for four seasons, but he accumulated a 101-40 record with the Bulldogs including three regular-season conference titles. He also is the son of Duke athletic director Kevin White, ensuring that he has as much basketball knowledge as possible for his young age of 38 years old.
When asked about the hire, Florida athletic director Jeremy Foley had plenty of praise, via the program's official website:
Michael White is someone who came to the top of our list very quickly and he checks all of the boxes we were looking for. He is a winner who has a high level of integrity, plays an up-tempo style of play and has the respect of his peers and the basketball community. He has experience in coaching, recruiting and playing in the Southeastern Conference and has a strong pedigree. He has a certain authenticity with people and is not afraid of challenges.
The playing and recruiting in the SEC comes in the form of his time at Ole Miss as a player and assistant. This will help ease his transition from Conference USA to a major national program.
Still, there will be plenty of challenges for White along the way, and the changes will start instantly. Here is a look at the biggest issues facing the new Gators head coach.
6. Keeping Players on the Roster
In the current landscape of college basketball, coaches are forced to recruit their own players just to keep them around. Rosters are turned over all the time due to transfers and other attrition regardless of the coaching situation.
This is much harder when a new coach comes into town.
Add this to the fact that top recruit KeVaughn Allen will ask for release from his letter of intent, according to Danny West of Rivals.com, and the Gators could have trouble filling a roster next season.
It will be vital for Michael White to not let anyone else leave the program, including other members of the 2015 recruiting class. Scott Phillips of College Basketball Talk noted the other three prospects seemed fine with a coaching switch, but you never know with the way teenagers change their minds.
The new coach better convince the current and future players he has what it takes to lead them in the right direction, as well as make sure as much talent as possible remains in Gainesville.
5. Convincing Fans to Be Patient
With Eli Carter and Michael Frazier II leaving the program, Florida will lose two of its top three scorers from a team that was a major disappointment to begin with, finishing 16-17 on the year.
There will be talent on the roster, but you can be certain the team won't start in the preseason top 10 like it did last season. In reality, it might take some time for the program to get back to the level of success it has seen recently.
This could become scary for Michael White as the fanbase will call for his head after a couple of bad years.
The young coach has to convince supporters to remain patient with the team while also having enough success to prove a bright future is on the horizon. Otherwise, the Gators could be in the market for a new coach sooner than later.
4. Overhauling System
One thing Florida fans can look forward to next season will be a much more exciting brand of basketball.
Billy Donovan usually prided himself on his defense, but when the offense wasn't up to par, he utilized a slower pace to decrease possessions and lessen the impact. According to KenPom.com, the Gators ranked 235th or worse in adjusted tempo in each of the past six years, including 277th this past season.
Louisiana Tech was pretty much the opposite with a tempo that ranked 41st in the nation. Point guard Kenny "Speedy" Smith was one of the best in the nation at his position and was able to push the offense while racking up a great deal of assists every game.
This offensive style could be much more intimidating for opponents who could struggle to keep up for 40 minutes. It also might be just what is needed to get Kasey Hill to finally reach his potential.
Still, change is not always easy. Veteran players might struggle to adjust after years of playing the same way. White will have a hard time getting everyone to play his way right out of the gate.
3. Removing NCAA Tournament Stigma
One of the biggest complaints fans will have with this hire is the fact Michael White has never competed in the NCAA tournament. This is a bit of a surprise considering his three regular-season titles, although it's not uncommon for even a quality program to miss the Big Dance.
That said, it doesn't take much for a slight problem to become a big one and eventually be the only thing you are known for nationally. Ask Sean Miller about the Final Four, and you probably won't get a great response.
Florida will eventually get to the NCAA tournament, but it might not come in the first year or even the second. In this situation, questions will arise about whether the coach has what it takes to accomplish this seemingly simple task.
White has to not let this issue get out of hand or affect him in any way.
2. Long-Term Recruiting in a Loaded SEC
The biggest challenge mid-major coaches have when moving to a top program is keeping up with recruiting. It's a different atmosphere when you need to go after 5-star players and not just hope to find a diamond in the rough who was passed over by the big boys.
Michael White's best recruiting class at Louisiana Tech was his first in 2011, which ranked just 86th nationally, according to 247Sports.
This clearly won't be acceptable at Florida.
Additionally, this task will be even tougher going forward in the SEC. Kentucky's John Calipari is one of the top recruiters the sport has ever seen, while the addition of established recruiters like Rick Barnes (Tennessee), Bruce Pearl (Auburn) and Ben Howland (Mississippi State) will make things even more competitive.
White has a bit of a head start with three talented players coming in: Kevarrius Hayes, Keith Stone and Noah Dickerson. Rising senior John Mooney also committed to the school when he was just a sophomore.
Still, a major key to the team's sustained success will be White's ability to recruit the top players in the state and the country to come to Florida.
1. Matching Billy Donovan's Success
Florida had some quality years with Norm Sloan and Lon Kruger, but Billy Donovan turned this program into a national power. He won two national championships, went to four Final Fours and was a top contender for conference titles every year.
These are big shoes to fill.
No matter what Michael White does in his career, it will be almost impossible to match the accomplishments of his predecessor. This isn't an enviable position to be in for a new job.
There is no reason to doubt White's ability to keep the Gators at the level that fans have become accustomed to seeing. He is a quality young coach who has proved himself—not in fluke NCAA tournament runs but with sustained success at a program that hadn't seen much in the past.
The challenge will be getting fans to forget about Donovan as the new coach makes his own history in Florida.
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