White’s father proud of growth to Gators job

Duke athletic director Kevin White returned home from the office early last Thursday to help his wife prepare for a Board of Trustees dinner at their house that night.

His house was a mess. Caterers were running franticly around the house, trying to set up before the 70-80 guests arrived. That’s when White’s phone rang and his son’s name popped up on the screen. He picked up the call and got some of the best news of his life.

It was Michael White and Florida athletic director Jeremy Foley on the other end, calling to tell the older White that his son would be the new head basketball coach at Florida.

“And then I have 80 people walk in the front door. I’m not sure I’ve recovered yet,” Kevin White said, carrying the grin of a proud father after his son went through his introductory press conference Monday morning in Gainesville.

The dinner went well and the Duke athletic director continued to make progress for his job in Durham. On Sunday night, White boarded a plane and flew to Amelia Island where he was serving as the chair for an ACC athletic directors meeting. He had somewhere more important to be in Monday, watching his son be introduced as the head coach at Florida.

As Michael White fought back tears in his eyes early in the press conference, he walked through what the moment meant. He has turned down overtures from other Southeastern Conference schools last offseason, betting on himself to get a bigger job one day. Then the Florida job came open.

“It’s surreal to see one of your children be so passionate about something and have some level of success,” Kevin White said. “It’s absolutely surreal. It’s far better than if you were ever capable to do it, which I was not. It’s far better and more meaningful for one of your kids to do it.”

The other jobs were tempting. Kevin White spoke with his son throughout the process last offseason and watched him struggle to decide whether or not to make the jump to a program like Missouri and Tennessee. The jobs intrigued him and served as a chance to move up in the coaching industry, but there was also the thought that something bigger might come up.

The Florida job was always one he thought about.

“I’ve been so excited about this,” Kevin White said. “When he almost took a couple opportunities a year ago, I was pretty excited. But Florida takes it to another level. He’s not going to come off as a sales guy to you guys, but if you could have told him any school in the country, pick one, where do you want to go? It was this one, which was amazing. He thought Billy was going to be here forever, and he wouldn’t have allowed himself to think it, but this would’ve been the place. To come full circle at this point, it’s amazing.

“Very few of us have the opportunity to live our dream. He’s got the opportunity.”

The White family has a history in the sunshine state. Kevin White was working as a golf coach in Dunedin in 1977 when Michael was born, but the family moved two weeks after that when Kevin and his wife, Jane, accepted track coaching positions at Central Michigan.

The family moved across the country a lot as Kevin White took different jobs and moved up, eventually becoming the athletic director at Duke. As they moved, their five children grew closer. With three boys, there was always competition between the group. And Michael always stood out.

“He’s crazy competitive,” Kevin White said about his son. “There’s a lot to that. He has done a million things like that. That’s who he is.”

It’s also why White thinks his son will be able to handle the pressure that comes with a major college basketball job like Florida. His toughness stood out from a young age and never went away throughout his basketball career. Now it has translated to his time as a coach.

“You’re talking to his father here, so there’s a grain of salt, but I’ve been in this for 41 years, and arguably, and maybe not even arguably, he’s the toughest S.O.B. that I know,” Kevin White said about his son. “He’s a very tough kid and he’s a tough professional. He’s got the altar boy appearance, but he’s very tough. Passionate, intense and tough. He’s tough, and you have to be in this business.”

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