Introduced to gathered media and a national online audience Monday, new Florida Gators head basketball coach Michael White touched on a number of topics during an extensive stay at the podium, not the least of which was how he compared to – and would try to replace – a program legend in coach Billy Donovan.
Like Donovan was 19 years ago when hired by athletic director Jeremy Foley, White is young, talented and runs an up-tempo offensive system. He’s also never won an NCAA Tournament game and comes to Florida from a smaller program in Louisiana Tech.
To many, he sounds exactly like a young Donovan, a juxtaposition White takes great pride in even if he does not think the comparison is perfect.
“Let me first say anyone who is comparing us to Billy Donovan, in any way, it’s an absolute compliment. I’m not sure how much we play like Florida [on the court]. I guess we’ll find out a lot more about that in these coming months as we get a chance to go back and watch a lot of film,” White said.
“Just as Coach Donovan was entrenched into this team and the process for this team to make strides next year, so was I with Louisiana Tech here until a few days ago. So, [I’m] very, very new to all of this. It will be educational for me over this next time period to figure out what we have and how to best serve these student athletes and how to best play.”
More importantly, White did not have any trepidation “whatsoever” about replacing Donovan, which he said Monday is one of the first questions Foley asked him upon their meeting about the job.
“My answer to him was, ‘I would absolutely embrace the opportunity to follow a legend and to learn from a lot of the people that helped him from along the way,'” he recalled. “From what I understand and from what I’m starting to understand in person, the administration here and the support staff of the basketball program in all facets is absolutely incredible.”
White also admitted during an appearance on The Paul Finebaum Show later Monday that he has spoken with Donovan thrice in the last week with each conversation serving as an educational opportunity for the 38 year old to learn about the Gators.
He said that he did not want to bother Donovan while he was preparing for his new job with the Oklahoma City Thunder but that Donovan reached out to him to begin the dialogue.
White spoke about the same topic during his introductory press conference earlier in the day.
“He’s obviously very endeared to these people,” said White of Donovan’s care for the future of the program. “We have a very, very talented group of administrators and support staff. So I’m just anxious. I’m anxious to work with all of them. Again, it’s more of embracing the fact that you have a great, great job that Coach Donovan has built. …
“The people that are really important to him. Obviously, he wants to see The University of Florida continue to be really successful. He’ll continue to be a great resource, and I’m extremely appreciative because I know how busy he is.”
White understands the opportunity in front of him. Florida may have had a down season in 2014-15, but Donovan built the Gators into a program that sustained success and can keep the momentum going as long as he helps it remain on the tracks.
He put it quite simply: “I think it was a good job when he got here, and now it’s a great job.”
Now it’s up to White to ensure it stays that way.