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There is a saying among coaches. Do not replace the legend. Replace the guy who replaced the legend.
It’s a little easier.
Former Florida men’s basketball coach Mike White never could come close to living up to the coach he replaced. That was two-time national champion Billy Donovan, who took the Gators to four Final Fours in all and three Elite Eights among 14 trips to the NCAA Tournament from 1996-2015.
White, 45, reached four NCAA Tournaments from 2017-21, but after a promising Elite Eight finish in his second season in 2017, he never got past the second round and failed to reach the NCAA Tournament this past season. Before possibly being fired sooner or later, he left fresh start as head coach at Georgia, which is obviously admitting lowered expectations.
White’s offense was also getting stale, some said. Now, he just has to be better than Tom Crean in the short run. Crean was was 6-26 and 1-17 in the SEC in the 2021-22 season at Georgia, and his only winning season in four years was 14-12 and 7-11 in 2020-21. Georgia has not reached the NCAA Tournament since 2015 under Mark Fox and last won the SEC in 1990 under Hugh Durham. White is Georgia’s eighth coach since Durham left after the 1994-95 season. If he’s slightly above average there, he’ll last.
In turn, new Florida coach Todd Golden will not have to match Dononvan – only White. He was hired Friday after just leading San Francisco to the NCAA Tournament and a 24-11 season. The No. 10 seed Dons lost to No. 7 seed Murray State, 92-87, in overtime Thursday night in Indianapolis, and a day later Golden had a new job.
Murray State’s coach is another rising young star named Matt McMahon, 43. He could be a new SEC coach as soon as he loses in the NCAA Tournament as there are still four openings in the league at South Carolina, Missouri, Mississippi State and LSU.
McMahon has the well-named Racers (31-2) in the NCAA Tournament for the third time since 2018. Murray State plays Cinderella No. 15 seed Saint Peter’s (20-11) on Saturday (7:45 p.m. eastern, CBS). The proud Peacocks just beat No. 2 seed Kentucky on Thursday, which means keep on eye on their coach – Shaneen Holloway, 45, in his first NCAA Tournament.
Florida athletic director Scott Stricklin was watching that San Francisco-Murray State game on TV late Thursday night. He got one of the coaches before anyone else did.
Funny thing, though, Golden, 36, is no more qualified and may be less qualified than White was seven years ago at age 38. Golden has been a head coach for just three seasons. A year ago at this time, he had just finished an 11-14 season, including 4-9 in the West Coast Conference. He was 22-12 and 9-7 in his first season with no tournament. He is also more of a defensive coach, which was the word on White lately as well.
But White had turned in three straight excellent seasons at Louisiana Tech with three straight WAC titles from 2012-15 – 27-7 and 16-2, 29-8 and 13-3 and 27-9 and 15-3 with three advances in the NIT.
Then again, all Donovan had done before he went to Florida in in 1996 was go 18-9 and 10-4 and 17–11 and 8-6 at Marshall.
Then again, McMahon would have been a better hire than Golden now and White then.
Hiring coaches is a crap shoot, yes, but Stricklin may have been seduced by March Madness. If Golden isn’t in the NCAA Tournament this season, he is probably not looking for a house in Gainesville.
Golden does have SEC experience. He was an assistant from 2014-16 at Auburn under coach Bruce Pearl. Now that’s impressive. Then again, White had SEC experience when Florida hired him. He was an assistant at Ole Miss from 2004-11 – the last five under coach Andy Kennedy when the Rebels were competitive in the SEC, and the first two under Rod Barnes. Look for Kennedy, who just got UAB in the NCAA Tournament before a loss to Houston, to possibly get an SEC job soon as well.
“As we called around, people kept saying, ‘Hey, the guy at San Francisco is really good,'” Stricklin said. “He checked all the boxes. From the relationship factor, which I believe is really important, to embracing the cutting-edge analytical piece, which to me shows an active mind and someone who wants to figure out an invest in trying to be different than others. He brings an outstanding track record and a high level of integrity to the job.”
Hmm. Was that a shot at White?
Funny, when Florida athletic director Jeremy Foley hired White in 2015, he said about the same thing Stricklin just said about Golden.
“Michael White is someone who came to the top of our list very quickly, and he checked all of the boxes,” Foley said seven years ago. “He is a winner who has a high level of integrity, plays an up-tempo style 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.”
Apparently, they’re cloning coaches, and Florida just got a younger one.
And the fans are excited for the same thing they just lost. Why? Because he’s new.
One CommentLeave a Reply
Yeah, not sure about this hire. Hope I’m wrong. I wonder what happened to all the candidates on all the short list of coaches articles that were proliferating. How is Golden more qualified than any of those guys? Or did the Gators AD think we couldn’t get them?