Mike White meets the Sweet 16 media

Florida head coach Mike White is in his first appearance in the Sweet 16 of the NCAA Tournament and talks Thursday to the media prior to the Gators big match up with Wisconsin.

I think 13 of the 16 coaches in the tournament have never won it. Only Cal, Self, and Roy have won it. What does that say about how many great coaches are in this tournament that have not won it and the opportunity for guys like yourself coach Huggins, Frank Martin, Mark Few, Scott Drew, to possibly break through and win a first championship.

MIKE WHITE: I think it's neat you just mentioned a bunch of really, really good coaches outside of the guys that have won and of course the guys that won it, it goes unsaid that how talented those guys are and successful those guys have been. So happy for a handful of guys that get these opportunities. These opportunities are unique and they're exciting, just as these opportunities are for all of our guys. All of our players in particular. And all of our different programs. So, this is what it's all about, it's March Madness, it's the Sweet 16. It's really cool. And who knows, I think it's wide open and I think all of us probably right now are not worried about the end result, we all have our hands full. I know the Gators do with Wisconsin, of course.

Q. How do you balance that you're talking about the excitement of reaching a Sweet 16, but obviously there's more basketball ahead. How do you personally balance that and then with the team especially when you come back after you have a couple days after the rush of last weekend.

MIKE WHITE: This is our first time through it, so I don't claim to have all the right answers, my personal answer, our answer as a staff has just been the next one. It's not about the basketball down the road, it's not about the bracket and who we may play and where we may be next weekend. It hasn't been from the start of the tournament with us. In fact, going back to the SEC tournament, where we didn't have any success, the whole thing was 100 percent on Vanderbilt, just didn't play quite well enough, of course. Didn't make the plays down the stretch. And this tournament was simply about East Tennessee State. That's all it was. Period. It was a one game deal for us. And then all attention was turned to Virginia. And that's it's been Wisconsin all week and that is it. We're just hopeful that we can play well enough to be competitive and to have a chance at the end. And we'll take it from there. That's it.

Q. Talk to Danny yesterday, he talked about how proud he is of you. I'm wondering, he's going to be here next week, UCF's in the NIT Final Four at the Garden. Can you talk about you guys growing up basketball and how satisfying this week may have been for you guys?

MIKE WHITE: Yeah, it's really cool. I'm glad you brought up Danny and in fact Pops is out here as well my father. I look forward to seeing him. He stays so busy, I don't get a chance to see him enough. Just like Danny, we're an hour and a half away for those of you that don't he's the athletic director at central Florida and we just don't get to see each other very often. He hired, I thought he made a great higher in Johnny Dawkins who is a great coach and great man and they have, it was a great run for the Knights. Very rewarding, I know for Danny, I know he's going to be really excited to come up here and have these opportunities. But growing up in an athletic family, not only Danny and I, but with my other brother Brian, probably led by my mother, my father would admit that, we were basketball junkies and I watched these tournaments on the couch with mom and brothers from five years old to eight years old to high school I remember so many of them. I remember so many of the great players that had success and so many of the story lines and following the Dukes of the world. And for us to be just a small small part of it is really neat. Because you forget, but it's reality, I'm a coach in this thing, he's an AD in this thing and we're both still college basketball fans.

Q. As an aside, Danny blames you for the neighbors complaining about the bouncing ball in the driveway at 2 o'clock in the morning. Coach Gard mentioned in his press conference, he was kind of playing down the experience advantage of his team in this tournament. I'm just wondering, how do you feel about that, is that a bigger concern or is it more about how you're going to guard them in the interior?

MIKE WHITE: He would be better served answering that question, because I only look at it one way and that's the, we're looking at it as a first-time thing, of course. I don't know how much of a factor it is. I got to think it's a little bit of a fact to, I got to think that his guys having made runs like this, feel confident. Not saying that my guys feel unconfident. But for us, we're not sitting here complaining that we don't have a bunch of experience at all. It is, that is our biggest issue. That's our biggest concern is how we defend their interior. They have two borderline All-American bigs that are both tough, physical, skilled, can score on the interior, can draw fouls on the interior and they both can pass it. And then you've got a seven or eight guys that can really shoot it led by Koenig who is one of the best shooters in all of college basketball. So that's a pretty unique balance there. They present some issues and in trying to defend them.

Q. Obviously, a lot of people didn't have you going this far after the Egbunu injury after the way things finished up. Is it kind of your message to be greedy and keep it going for your team?

MIKE WHITE: Yeah, absolutely. It's just about Wisconsin. This is a group that enjoys playing with one another, it's a group that I've enjoyed coaching all year. I told you guys that even after a couple losses. These guys, conversely, after a couple wins, we weren't very happy, obviously. You remember that. But this is a good group. They play well with one another, they again they like each other, they play hard, they have sold out to the defending at the highest possible level and we feel like when we continue to do that and we're focused and locked in and we compliment that with some made shots we can compete with anybody in the country. So, we are here, there's a game to be played, and why not see if we can keep this thing going as long as we can.

Q. I know you talked about this before, but how much pressure did you feel taking over for Billy Donovan with the success that he had and how does getting to the Sweet 16 validate at all the job that you're doing right now?

MIKE WHITE: I'll leave that for you guys and our fans I've never worried about it much. There's pressure on every coach in the country at every level -- and some coaches deal with it differently -- some coaches probably put more pressure on themselves than other coaches. I'm probably one of those guys, to be honest with you, going back from my assistant days and from an then leading into carrying over into my first year at Louisiana Tech we weren't supposed to be very good and my, not only myself, my staff and I. We're all very competitive, of course, like every coach, pressure's talked about a lot. Today's day and age, with the rabid fan bases, of course, and with the social media and the way that you guys do a great job of covering the sport, but no one's going to put more pressure on me and my team than I am. No one. So I haven't worried about it. I just, I haven't. Billy made this a tremendous job, the University of Florida is a special place, and we're going to work at it every day as long as we are here to do the best job we possible can do.

Q. Specifically with Wisconsin they ranked 332 in free throw percentage. Not saying you're not necessarily going to go about and foul them, but is Hack-a-Happ necessarily a bad strategy to assess a more physical defensive approach in the interior?

MIKE WHITE: Yeah, we're not going that way. We're not. The big concern is foul trouble, because we're already thin up front, of course without John and we have got to be really physical, we have got to use physicality and legality at the same time. We have got to show our hands, we got to be very smart, those guys just really understand how to draw fouls. You mentioned Happ, he's a really good player. I don't anticipate him going 4-10 from the foul line. I do anticipate, regardless of how God of a job we do on him he's going to get to the foul line, he just understands how to do it.

Q. 10 years since the second Florida title. You were at Ole Miss for those two teams. What do you remember about those two teams and especially the way they carried themselves as defending champions the second year?

MIKE WHITE: The second year it seemed harder for them. It seemed like it was them against the world. It seemed like -- and the documentary that was done on those teams, what, a couple months ago, you were in it, it was really well done -- I think that that documentary spoke to the fact that it was a little bit harder the second go round. But it probably made it a little bit more rewarding, too. I remember the first year us as a staff at Ole Miss we talked about after a Gator loss, naturally, we sat there in the locker room after the game and said, my goodness, they're really starting to put it together, despite what their record is, despite what seed they're going to get, they can make a run. And I'm not going to lie and say that I picked them to win it, but I think we picked them to make a pretty significant run and, boy, it was a unbelievable two-year run for the Gators.

Q. When you took over it seems like the image of you coming to Florida had the run-and-gun guy with the three-point shots coming to Florida. But it seems to me like you're maybe that was a misrepresentation, you're more of a defensive minded, tough hard nosed type of coach. Right or wrong?

MIKE WHITE: Tough question there. What do you think?

(Laughter.)

I don't know how I was advertised. I would tell you from day one when I was first afforded the opportunity to coach at Louisiana Tech by Wisconsin's Bruce Van De Velde, my guy, love him to death, it was about defending and rebounding at the highest possible level. Period. Now we played at a faster pace. It was more who we are, who we were, our roster makeup was that of the pressing nature. We had tremendous team speed at every position. And then with the success we were having with it we started recruiting to it. I would love to press and run and shoot a million threes and I feel like we have shot a bunch of threes in the last couple years, of course. Our offensive tempo has been really fast of the we slowed it down in the last month or so a little bit and we're making somewhat better decisions. Year to year I think it's going to change. I'm not, I'm convicted, but I don't want to be stubborn about a certain style, I like to think that we could win at Florida a few different ways and year to year we'll evaluate it in the fall. Right now, I think we're playing the best way for this particular team.

Q. Obviously, Greg's followed a legendary coach in his own right there. But he also had the benefit of 23 years with the previous coach. 15 at Wisconsin. Do you think that path to following a legend is easier than yours or just different?

MIKE WHITE: Yeah, totally different. I wouldn't go there. I'm sure Greg's had a ton of obstacles that he's had to overcome. And we go back to pressure. I'm sure Greg feels heat every day. But I'm also sure I would bet on the fact because of the amount of success that he's had and the job that he's done the way that his kids play, that he's more focused on Greg Gard and just more focused on his current job and not the external pressures. He's done a tremendous job. Love watching his teams play. Haven't had a lot of fun preparing for them. But to know of respect for him and their program.

Q. How do you balance guarding the interior and dealing with Bronson Koenig, who can get on a roll from the perimeter?

MIKE WHITE: And that's the key to the whole game. They put you in a quandary. They really do. And I don't even know what that word means, but it's funny, I wish my managers were in here, because they would get a kick out of me saying that. Every day at noon ball, which never takes place at noon, I always say -- we took an L yesterday to the managers, so they have been talking trash the whole time we have been up here in New York -- but every time we score on them we say, "We got you in a quandary, you don't know how to guard us." It's just constant bad trash talking. But they really do put you in a quandary, again, if that is the right word. If you, if you're too extended on Wisconsin, Happ and Hayes have going to have a field day. And if you, if you're too condensed, if you put too much emphasis on defending the interior and they get 20 threes off and Koenig gets nine threes off, you just, you, it's lose-lose. And so do you go into the game saying, that we're just going to do whatever, we're going to double the post, triple the post, those guys aren't going to get touches we're not going to foul them? You're going to give up a million threes and they shoot the heck out of it. And Koenig is not the only guy. The guards they bring off the bench shoot it and all of their guards shoot it. If you're too extended, those front court guys are going to foul out our whole team. So, we're going to try our best as everyone that they have played has tried to do, we're going to try to do a pretty good job doing both and see where it leads. Who knows, with the, with in game adjustments if we sell out to one or the other. But we have got to limit amount of threes taken, obviously Koenig can't get anything easy. He's too good of a player. He's had an unbelievable run here as of late. And those other guys Happ and Hayes, again, we have got to limit their touches, nothing can be easy for them. They can't live at the foul line. We have got to be physical, but we have got to be smart, we have got to be sound we have got to understand their actions. They're tremendous defensively and we're sitting here we just spent five minutes on their offense, they're just very difficult to defend as well.

Q. Could you talk about what Barry has meant to the team the addition of him.

MIKE WHITE: Oh, Canyon's been terrific for us, he's had a great year. We have considered him a starter all year, even though he's been the, he was the SEC Sixth Man of the Year, very well deserved. He's got great leadership qualities, he's a great kid. Through the year he's become more and more vocal. I think he's become more and more comfortable, because you forget, he was a newcomer and he didn't just come in and I don't think feel overly comfortable saying, hey, this is my show and this is what we're going to do. He's eased his way in. He's very smart, very empathetic, he's become a much better defensive player throughout the year, better rebounder. And he's a guy that, he's a very dangerous offensive player as well. I think that the under-appreciated value that we all, that we all are more familiar with now is his ability to draw fouls and then, of course, he converts at the foul line at a really high rate. Really glad that he chose to choose Florida. I think he's also a great example of the student-athlete. He's a really neat story. He's the national guy. He wins the national award. He's a nuclear engineer major that's amazing.

FastScripts Transcript by ASAP Sports


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