Kim Klement / USA TODAY Sports

Mike White reflects after Gators' Elite 8 run

The Florida Gators (27-9) had a terrific 2016-2017 basketball season, one where they delivered more than most thought possible before the season started. Picked to finish just in or just out of the Top 25 in the preseason, the Gators concluded with an Elite Eight appearance in the NCAA Tournament and a No. 10 finish in the USA TODAY Coaches’ Poll. Head coach Mike White says the thoughts after are good and bad.

Reflecting on a good year overall is a fun thing to think about, but White’s mind often turns to ‘what if?’”

“You kind of go back and forth like, ‘aw it was great, but we were so damn close. But the Elite Eight was so special, but my goodness we still could’ve been playing this weekend’,” White said at his Tuesday press conference. “You find yourself going through those two feelings, going back and forth all week.”

“The Final Four is literally, usually for us at least the last few years have been: season's over, you get to unwind, you got a week and a half, maybe two weeks, and you plan on going to the Final Four as a fan. And now we’re sitting here talking about, my assistant’s actually gonna fly out the Final Four here in a couple days; we could have flown out together as part of it. And we’ve played so long that it’s actually a couple days from now or a few days from now as opposed to two weeks from now. It’s an odd plethora of feelings. I mean there are so many things that we could’ve done just a little bit better. And we would’ve maybe had an opportunity to play last night. But it’s exciting at the same time, that we were that close.”

White says there are different ways that the big run has helped his program. One of them is impacting the departing seniors and their goals to play at the next level.

”I think it's helped,” he said of the impact of getting that far. “Our fan base, I think, is probably pretty excited, hopefully excited about what we've done and they're deserving to feel good about it. They've been a huge part of it.

“Our guys, hopefully it open up more doors, more opportunities for these guys that are on their way out. I think it will. Kasey Hill hopefully will get more opportunities, more looks, more tryouts, just because of the fact that he didn't get these numbers for a good team. He got these numbers and led a team to the Elite Eight. Canyon Barry's going to Portsmouth (Virginia) any day now. When does Portsmouth start? He's got a great opportunity there. Justin Leon, we get calls on a bunch about potential professional opportunities. I'm not sure their resume is quite as attractive if we don't make that run.”

After a year where the Gators faded and just missed the NCAA in 2016, the feeling is much more positive about the way things are headed now.

“I mean it’s exciting,” he said. “I’m excited for our guys on our staff. I’m excited for our program. I feel better about our program than I did a year ago, of course. You know, if we weren’t confident that we can get it done, we wouldn’t have come. It’s a great job, it’s a great place. We thought it was going to happen. Is it a little extra neat that it happened pretty quickly? Yeah. It’s pretty cool.

It was almost a meteoric jump for White who had never been a part of a coaching staff in the tournament, and then to make it as far as he did. He would love to celebrate, but because the season went on so long, there is no time.

“Going to the Elite Eight is pretty cool, considering the fact that I hadn’t been to the tournament,” he said. “It’s pretty cool, not going to lie. I guess you just don’t have time to have a party and toast to it. It’s, heck, we’re recruiting a hundred guys and Kasey and Devin’s gone and you never know what’s going to happen. You might have a guy come in and want to transfer in two weeks. You just never know. Recruiting 2018s, I’m scheduling, Mike Hill is working on scheduling and who we’re going to scrimmage, and meeting with all these guys. I’m sure it’ll sink in at some point this spring, when you find a 3-4 day weekend to get away. Looking back, ‘That’s pretty neat.’

White wants to move forward and make sure everyone around him is being realistic and doesn’t have their heads in the clouds.

“We’re in a good spot, but we’ve got to capitalize,” he said. “I’m going to tell my players a billion times, and I don’t need to tell my staff, but all of this preseason stuff that’s coming out, I mean come on. My goodness. We were very fortunate to get to the Elite Eight. We were this close to the Final Four, but we were also this close to maybe being one round and out. East Tennessee State, a couple bounces here and there. Who knows? A couple shots don’t go in early in the second half. Who knows? And then we’re not having the same conversation. I just think there’s such a fine line to all of it.

“It’s exciting, you’ve got something to build on. No time for rest, let’s get better. Let’s see where it leads, see how quickly we get back, see how quickly it takes for us to get back.”

 

 


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