You only get one chance to make a first impression. With four words Michael White ensured that his first impression resonated not only with the four kids who signed letters of intent to play basketball at the University of Florida next season but with every top tier talent in the state and nation.
“I’m not into begging,” White said at his introductory press conference Monday morning when he added a voice to the face that is now Florida basketball. He was talking about Kevaughn Allen, Noah Dickerson, Kevarrius Hayes and Keith Stone. He’s talked to two of the four although he didn’t elaborate which two and has plans to talk to the other two as soon as possible. He will state his case why they ought to remain Gators and if he happens to take along a few DVD’s of his last three years at Louisiana Tech, there is a really good chance they’ll honor their commitments. Louisiana Tech used all 90 feet of the floor for 40 minutes and the Bulldogs were quite content if the game turned into the basketball version of a track meet.
The way Tech played is the way White wants to play at Florida and at UF he’ll have better athletes than he ever had in Ruston to run the floor and harass opponents into submission. It’s the kind of style that kids should embrace but White won’t beg them – whether it’s the four signees or future recruits.
He will state his case and the rest is up to them. He’s confident enough to know that if he stays true to himself and the style of play that he’s in the process of perfecting that he won’t have to ask twice. As White has discovered already, some of those big time kids who wouldn’t give him the time of day when he was coaching at Louisiana Tech already have him on speed dial now that his home is Gainesville.
And, if any of the four signees or nine returning Gators or future Gators out on the recruiting trail think the new guy is the slightest big intimidated by his quantum leap from Louisiana Tech to a school that has won three of the last five SEC championships and is one of a handful to ever win back-to-back national championships (2006-07), then they need to think again. This guy is comfortable in his own skin and rather than run from the Donovan shadow, he’s comfortable standing in it.
In case you didn’t catch the press conference, which streamed live Monday morning, White was anything but nervous. If anything, he acted like a guy who has been there and done that. That’s probably what Jeremy Foley saw last week when he spent time with White, wife Kira and their five kids in their Ruston home.
Foley posed the question to White about the pressure of filling Donovan’s big shoes. Without hesitation, White answered, “I would absolutely embrace the opportunity to follow a legend and to learn a lot from the people that helped him along the way.”
That’s the kind of guy you want taking over the Florida basketball program. You want a guy who is confident and self-assured, someone who believes in himself and has the confidence to surround himself with good people.
White is enough of a coaching talent that he had numerous opportunities to leave Louisiana Tech prior to the Florida opening. He turned down Missouri and Tennessee last year because they didn’t feel right.
Florida felt right.
“We were committed, my family and I, Kira and I, and our five kids, to staying at Louisiana Tech until something really special presented itself,” he said. “And this is certainly special.”
Speaking of special, Florida has something special in softball coach Tim Walton, whose Gators will start their quest to repeat as national champs this weekend as the #1 seed in the NCAA Tournament. As the #1 seed, the Gators will host a regional this weekend and if they get past a field that includes Florida A&M, Florida Atlantic and Hofstra, they will host a Super Regional the following weekend against the winner of the South Bend Regional (Notre Dame, Ball State, Kentucky and Northwestern).
At Florida, Walton is 552-120. In his ten seasons on the job, he’s taken the Gators to the NCAA Tournament every year and to all six of their Women’s College World Series appearances in school history. When he first came to Gainesville, his teams were known for great pitching and three-run homers. They still hit their share of three-run homers but Walton has adapted and now the Gators can beat you with the long ball or the small ball. Great pitching is still a part of the equation as is great defense.
What makes this 2015 Florida team so special is they don’t give games away. Florida pitchers have only walked 85 batters all season and they’ve hit on 27 opponents with pitches. In the field, the Gators have committed only 28 errors all season long. Meanwhile, the Gators have taken advantage of 246 walks and 73 opponent errors and they’ve been hit by pitches 109 times. When you face a team that hits .312 and has hit 70 home runs, you don’t win games extending innings by putting extra runners on base.
This is a dynasty that Walton has put together. Before he arrived, Florida was the classic underachiever, good but never good enough. With Walton calling the shots for the softball program, Florida is going to be a threat to win more than just that first softball national championship earned last year.
The dominant SEC: Thirteen Southeastern Conference schools play softball. Eleven of them made it to the NCAA Tournament and five of them (Florida, #4 Auburn, #5 LSU, #6 Alabama, and #8 Tennessee are assured of Super Regionals if they can get past their opening weekend. Georgia also made the field as a #16 seed. Only Arkansas and Ole Miss failed to make it to the NCAA Tournament.
My grandfather used to say you spend a lifetime building your reputation but it only takes 10 seconds of stupidity for all that hard work to go down the drain. Tom Brady’s legacy as one of the great quarterbacks of all time has been forever tarnished by the four-game suspension handed out by the NFL Monday for his alleged role in deflating footballs to make them easier to throw before a cold weather playoff game against the Indianapolis Colts last season.
The NFL says it suspended Brady for “conduct detrimental to the integrity of the NFL,” something Brady and the New England Patriots don’t seem to understand. The Patriots claim there is no evidence that footballs were tampered with, which technically might be true, but despite the lack of a smoking gun the fact that Brady refused to cooperate with the NFL investigation and wouldn’t turn over a cell phone that might have implicated him in wrong doing speaks volumes. You would think that someone with the legacy and reputation that Brady has earned as perhaps the greatest QB of his generation would do everything in his power to keep his name free from smear.
Brady didn’t speak about the suspension Monday, but his agent, Don Yee, did, calling the suspension without pay (it will cost Brady approximately $2 million in salary) “ridiculous.”
What is ridiculous is that a player of Brady’s stature either felt the need to cheat or when confronted refused to clear his name.
Former Notre Dame quarterback Everett Golson visited Florida State Monday. His list of potential transfer destinations includes Alabama and South Carolina. He’s a native of Myrtle Beach so don’t be surprised if he winds up playing for Steve Spurrier … Pac-12 commissioner Larry Scott is addressing his conference’s problem with football officials. Hey, Larry, when you get through, send that message to John Swofford up in Greensboro. When it comes to bad officiating, the Pac-12 has nothing on the ACC … Jameis Winston’s lawyers have counter-sued Erica Kinsman, who filed a civil suit against Winston last month. Kinsman accused Winston of rape, a charge he denied and the Tallahassee Police Department conveniently couldn’t prove since they botched all the evidence … The SEC ranks 1-2-3 (Texas A&M, LSU and Florida) in men’s outdoor track and field. On the women’s side, the SEC holds down three of the top four positions (#1 Arkansas, #3 Georgia, #4 Florida) … Maryland will go into next basketball season as one of the favorites to make the Final Four. In addition to a loaded team coming back and a strong recruiting class, Mark “The Sturgeon” Turgeon added Duke transfer Rashad Sulaimon Monday … Alcorn State coaching legend Davey Whitney died over the weekend. Not only was he a great coach, but a remarkable human being. Prior to becoming a basketball coach, Whitney played baseball in the Negro Leagues … Unless something dramatic happens between now and next month, Karl-Anthony Towns, Jalil Okafor and D’Angelo Russell will go 1-2-3 in the NBA Draft.
Do you think new Florida basketball coach Michael White will be able to retain the four signees?
Growing up in apartheid South Africa, Hugh Masakela was inspired to learn to play the trumpet after seeing the movie “Young Man with a Horn” which starred Kirk Douglas. Given a trumpet by the Anglican Archbishop Trevor Huddleston Masakela became one of the great jazz artists of all time. His song “Grazing in the Grass” hit #1 on the Billboard pop charts in 1968, quite a distinction for a jazz musician from South Africa. Today’s music is a live performance from 2009. Masakela is 76 years old but still performing live.