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Wednesday, April 17, 2024

Mike White's tenure comes to an end

After seven season with White in charge, Florida will begin the search for its next head coach

<p>Gators head coach Mike White sends signals to his team during a Feb. 22 matchup with Arkansas. Florida lost in the second round of the SEC tournament </p>

Gators head coach Mike White sends signals to his team during a Feb. 22 matchup with Arkansas. Florida lost in the second round of the SEC tournament

With the end of his seventh season at the helm, former Florida head coach Mike White, 45, has elected to step away from the Gators, filling the vacant head coaching position at the University of Georgia.

Calls for his job were deafening, and failing to make the NCAA Tournament for the first time since his inaugural season Sunday only amplified the already nauseating frequency. 

The news was first reported by CBS Sports insider Jon Rothstein via Twitter, and was later confirmed by Georgia’s official athletics account. 

White is leaving Gainesville due to a toxic environment created by the fanbase and fear it would begin to affect his five young children, according to a tweet from the Associated Press’ Mark Long.

Georgia brings in White to replace Tom Crean, who was fired March 10 after an abysmal 6-26 season. The Bulldogs posted a statement from White Sunday evening. 

"I am extraordinarily grateful to the leadership of Scott Stricklin and to the entire Florida Athletics staff for an amazing experience during my tenure," White said. "Thank you to each and every one of our current and former players. Your hard work, commitment and dedication was and continues to be an inspiration. I will cherish our relationships forever.”

After losing to Texas A&M in the second round of the SEC Tournament Thursday, White called the overtime defeat “a two-hour microcosm of the season.” Taking the comparison a step further, this season was representative of his entire UF tenure. 

Both of which have now come to a close. 

White is the third Florida head coach to leave the university after receiving a contract extension.

On June 1, White, former football head coach Dan Mullen and former women’s basketball coach Cameron Newbauer were all granted extensions. Mullen was canned after a mediocre season and Newbauer exited with allegations of an abusive program looming.

White’s tenure was a full circle story, his final season playing out similar to his first. 

This season’s Gators and the 2015-16 team finished with an under .600 regular-season record, a 9-9 conference record and got bounced from the SEC Tournament by the Texas A&M Aggies. 

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In his first season, White failed to lead Florida to the NCAA Tournament.

In the following years, he brought the Gators into the 68-team postseason tournament four times. The last three appearances resulted in UF winning just a single game and then getting eliminated before the opening weekend concluded. The trend became an infamous trait of White’s teams. 

His best season came in 2016-17. The Gators forged a deep run into the NCAA Tournament, knocking off Wisconsin in the Sweet Sixteen on one of the most iconic plays in Florida basketball history, a miracle shot by guard Chris Chiozza. The Elite Eight appearance was his best result while at UF. 

White was always in the shadow of his predecessor, legendary head coach Billy Donovan. 

During his 19 seasons, Donovan’s Gators made 14 NCAA Tournament appearances. Mixing in seven Elite Eights, four Final Fours, a runner-up finish and two-consecutive national titles.

There’s a reason the court inside the Stephen C. O’Connell Center will forever bear his name.  

Prior to this season in August of 2021, UF Athletic Director Scott Stricklin spoke about the trajectory of the program under White. 

“I think Mike has an incredibly bright future.” Stricklin said. “Mike is going to win a ton of basketball games and he’s going to be on teams that cut down nets. I think the Gators are really fortunate to have him at such a young age.” 

With Sunday’s developments he will have to start from scratch. 

“The search for the next Gator men’s basketball coach has already begun,” Stricklin said. “I look forward to identifying a leader who will embody the UAA’s vision of providing a championship experience with integrity.”

Florida named Al Pinkins, a longtime assistant of White, interim head coach for the National Invitational Tournament The Gators were selected as a No. 3 seed Sunday and will host Rick Pitino, who is a former mentor of Donovan, and the Iona Gaels in the first round. Tipoff is set for Wednesday at 9 p.m. on ESPN 2.

Contact Joseph Henry at Follow him on Twitter @Josephhenry2424.

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Joseph Henry

Joseph Henry is a fourth-year sports journalism major and is the Alligator's sports editor. He previously worked as senior news director, assistant sports editor, men's basketball beat reporter, volleyball beat reporter and golf beat reporter. He enjoys sitting down to watch a movie as often as possible, collecting vinyl and drinking Dr. Pepper. 

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