ATHENS — New Georgia basketball coach Mike White led his team to the NCAA tournament four out of the last five years, and that sounds good to a program that hasn’t made the big dance since 2015.
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White’s teams have failed to get past the Round of 32 in the NCAA Tournament its past three appearances — and that sounds bad to a program that made three trips to the Elite Eight and a trip to the Final Four the five seasons before he was hired.
So, yes, it makes sense Georgia basketball is excited to hire a 45-year-old coach who has been the Coach of the Year in three conferences and has an NCAA Elite Eight, four NCAA appearances and a clean compliance record.
It also makes sense that Florida, which won two national championships under Billy Donovan, who preceded White, is aiming for higher finishes that White has recently delivered.
But don’t get it wrong: White was not going to be fired this season, and UGA athletic director Josh Brooks in no way feels the Bulldogs are “settling” for anything.
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White’s Florida program, for example, was the only one in the SEC to make the previous four NCAA tournaments before this season, and that says everything about consistency.
It’s fair to wonder if White can have the same sort of success at Georgia, which has been a coaches graveyard and has no SEC tradition to speak of, having only won one regular-season title in its school history.
But in terms of hiring a proven coach with a clean compliance record, it’s hard to imagine Brooks finding a more qualified candidate.
The fact Florida AD Scott Stricklin felt compelled to compliment White going out the door speaks volumes for the new UGA basketball coach’s reputation.
“Mike White informed me this afternoon that he was accepting another job,” Stricklin said. “It’s been a pleasure having Mike, Kira and the White family with us in Gainesville, and we wish them well. They are a wonderful family who always represented the Gators in a first-class manner.”
Here are three more things to know about Mike White:
Character and knowledge
Florida sources confirm some in the Gators’ fanbase had turned on White, but that was likely hardly surprising to White or his wife, former Ole Miss All-SEC volleyball player Kira Zschau.
White knows the business as well as anyone, as two of his brothers are athletic directors — Danny, at Tennessee, and Brian, at Florida Atlantic. White’s sister, Mariah Chappell, is the assistant athletic director at SMU.
The value to that access to institutional knowledge, beyond Brooks, is White could and should be at the forefront of understanding the ins and outs of the NIL legislation.
Indeed, the key to Georgia basketball is as much the school’s ability to put the resources in place for White to secure and retain players, as it is the Xs and Os he draws up courtside.
3-time Coach of the Year
White is best known for winning the 2017 SEC Coach of the Year Award after leading the Gators to the 2017 Elite Eight.
White was also very successful at Louisiana Tech, winning three-straight conference crowns, including in 2013-14 when his Bulldogs beat those coached by Mark Fox with Jonas Hayes on staff in the postseason NIT.
White was both WAC (2013) and Conference USA (2015) Coach of the Year during his four-year stint at Louisiana Tech.
Former SEC player