After Cuonzo Martin chose the sunny skies of California and elected to become the head coach of the California Golden Bears on April 17th, the University of Tennessee was left to pick up the pieces and search for a head coach in a major sport for the 7th time since 2009 (football, men’s and women’s basketball, and baseball).
The administrative brass at the University of Tennessee wasted no time in beginning their search, and an early list of candidates was soon released after Martin’s departure.
Fan favorites such as Gregg Marshall of Wichita State, Shaka Smart of VCU, and Richard Pitino of Minnesota are likely out of the picture now, however. According to a report by Gary Parrish of CBS Sports, several candidates have turned down the Vols’ head coaching position.
A source told CBSSports.com that UT has informally contacted some “A-list” candidates but that the interest hasn’t been mutual. Another source told CBSSports.com that at least one potential candidate expressed no interest mostly because Tennessee’s roster is in bad shape given that the Vols are losing four of their top five players from a Sweet 16 team.
In the same article, Parrish states that the Vols have zeroed in mostly on Louisiana Tech’s head coach, Mike White. Many reports are now linking White to the Vols, and a decision from both sides seems imminent at this juncture.
So what does White bring to the table for the Vols? Is he a good fit for where the Vols stand now and historically?
According to his bio on Louisiana Tech’s website, White was a point guard for the Ole Miss Rebels, helped lead them to 3 straight NCAA Tournament appearances, and helped the team win their first NCAA Tournament game in program history in 1999. His career with the Rebels, however, was just getting started. He went on to become an assistant coach on the Rebels’ staff from 2004-11 before becoming the head coach at LA Tech.
His time at Louisiana Tech has been quite impressive as well. The 37 year-old has compiled a 74-31 record while coaching the Bulldogs, including 27 wins in 2013 and 29 wins in 2014. He helped the Bulldogs transition from the WAC to Conference USA this season, and his teams the past two seasons have boasted an offense Vol fans have been clamoring for ever since Bruce Pearl was fired.
According to statistical guru Ken Pomeroy, the Bulldogs ranked 22nd in the nation in adjusted offensive tempo in 2013 and 18th in 2014. Their style is far from the pace Martin’s Vols played those two seasons, as the Vols ranked 274th in 2013 and 323rd in 2014. The Bulldogs also averaged 81 points per game this previous season, far surpassing the Vols’ 71.3 points per game.
The aforementioned bio on Tech’s website praises White’s style. They praise his “pressuring man-to-man defense and fast-paced, dribble drive offense” and credit him with some of the best success Louisiana Tech basketball has ever seen.
Those worried about hiring another head coach from Louisiana Tech should take comfort in knowing that the similarities between White and former Louisiana Tech and Tennessee football head coach Derek Dooley end there.
White has won while at Tech and has posted some respectable and impressive numbers while there. Dooley was unimpressive at Louisiana Tech and only had one good season, leading the Bulldogs to an 8-5 record in 2008. That season was sandwiched between 5-7 and 4-8 seasons, however.
In his three seasons as the head coach of the Bulldogs, White has gone 18-16, 27-7, and 29-8 – a far cry from Dooley’s tenure. His Bulldogs have also won the regular season conference championship the past two seasons, something Dooley never did. The comparison to Dooley isn’t much of one.
Vol fans who fondly remember the days of Bruce Pearl when the offense ran up and down the floor and the defense used full-court pressure to wear down teams will likely welcome White’s style with open arms. One of the reasons fans were so displeased with Martin was because his teams weren’t as exciting to watch.
If White is hired as the Vols’ new head coach, fans shouldn’t have to worry about games lacking exciment.