Florida coach Mike White leaves for Georgia after seven seasons as Gators head basketball coach

By Adam Silverstein
March 13, 2022
Florida coach Mike White leaves for Georgia after seven seasons as Gators head basketball coach
Basketball

Image Credit: Courtney Culbreath/UAA

The Florida Gators and head basketball coach Mike White parted ways Sunday with White being hired away from Florida by the SEC rival Georgia Bulldogs, according to CBS Sports’ Jon Rothstein and Matt Norlander. The move comes just a few days after the Gators were bounced in the second round of the 2022 SEC Tournament, their earliest exit from the postseason event since 2009.

Sources told OnlyGators.com that Florida was planning to move on from White at the conclusion of the season, likely after the NIT. The Gators expected other programs to have interest in White’s services and believed a separation could come without needing to buy out his contract as they did to head football coach Dan Mullen four months ago.

It was thought that Ole Miss, White’s alma mater, would be in play for his services given the team’s poor play across the last three seasons. However, the Rebels appear set to retain coach Kermit Davis despite not having a winning campaign since 2018-19.

The loss in the SEC Tournament was Florida’s fifth in the last eight games, and it capped a third straight season in which the Gators were unable to amass 20 wins. UF was not a candidate for selection in the 2022 NCAA Tournament, an event it will miss for the first time since 2016 (White’s inaugural season).

Florida finished 19-13 overall and 34-23 across White’s final two seasons, the program’s worst record over consecutive campaigns by the same coach since Billy Donovan’s first two seasons (27-32). The Gators also finished 9-9 in SEC play for the third time in seven years under White; Donovan was .500 or worse in league play just four times across 19 seasons, including his first two.

The long-embattled White led Florida to the Elite Eight round of the 2017 NCAA Tournament, but the Gators fell to a higher seed in SEC rival South Carolina and have failed to advance past the second round as no better than a No. 6 seed in three appearances since.

Florida has not finished better than fourth in the SEC since 2018. The Gators became a middle-of-the-road team under White’s tenure during a time in which SEC basketball is stronger than its been in years thanks to a concentrated effort throughout the league. Five teams are currently ranked among the AP Top 25, and there’s star coaches and players littered throughout the conference.

Florida used to battle Kentucky for top billing in the SEC every season; it has become a complete afterthought in the league. Furthermore, the Gators were neither playing nor recruiting well enough for White to remain coach.

Though White and the program were unable to capitalize on the talent of star Keyontae Johnson across the last two seasons — Johnson collapsed on the court with a heart issue early in the 2020-21 campaign — White had plenty of time to build and rebuild his roster. This past offseason, Florida lost four players to transfer. While White did recruit acclaimed transfers to replace those departures, the team was built without a second ball-handler or strong post player; instead, he added a swath of inefficient spot shooters who contributed heavily to poor offensive performances throughout the campaign.

White was hired out of Louisiana Tech after he led the program to 27+ wins in three straight seasons. He was seen as bright, youthful hire for Florida who many compared to Donovan given his success at a lower league, young age, personality and potential. However, White never led the Bulldogs to the NCAA Tournament, and detractors believed that the Gators should have swung bigger for Donovan’s replacement given the basketball program was far more established and successful compared to when Donovan took over two decades earlier.

The departure of White comes less than four months after Florida fired head coach Dan Mullen following four seasons leading the football program.

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