Loran Smith on Georgia basketball coach Mike White
Loran Smith | Special for the Banner-Herald
As the basketball season kicks off in January, there’s good news for UGA fans as the Dawgs appear to have reached a fruitful deal with the new coach. Mike White comes from a family of coaches and sports administrators and seems to have one very important ingredient in his makeup: know-how.
There is more. and all his professional strengths first come under the heading of fundamentals. Sometimes coaching styles can be simplified. They can be elementary. In basketball, if you play defense and make three shots, these influences alone will likely lead you to enviable status.
With defense, you have to “want to play defense”. I remember a conversation with the legendary Walt Frazier who had this to say about defense. “When you look at the stat sheet, there’s no reference to defence. It’s about the points that have been scored, that’s why it has to be instituted by the coach. No coach appreciates that. saying more than Coach White.
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“Offense can be hot or cold,” Frazier said, “but defense is something that can always be a constant. You can always apply pressure, you can always force teams into turnovers and when your offense don’t click, your defense can keep you in many games.
The Knicks point guard, a Hall of Famer who led his team to two championships, also said that to be good on defense you have to “want to do it”, adding: “I was excited when I was went to practice. The fundamentals are so important but there is no secret to playing defense. You have to work hard and bust your ass. Get these rubber-burning sneakers. Your back will hurt. You will be tired. I used to rely on defense because I had such a reputation as a ball stealer that guys didn’t want to be embarrassed. When I got close to them they would often pass the ball to me, they had so much respect for me in defence.
Georgia has had so many consolidations in basketball that the most passionate Dawg fans would take a wait-and-see stance with the last coach, which is fair, but we can already say the white path is the one that will bring positive results. .
Traditionally, there have been two steps forward and three steps back with UGA basketball. So much promise and too little results, but White is imbued with intellect and a sense of ground that should generate an enthusiasm that will fill the Stegeman Coliseum in the winter. One of White’s most loyal defenders is former Bulldogs basketball assistant Mark Slonaker, who is as fired up as I’ve seen in years. Slon sees an encouraging engagement with White in charge of UGA men’s basketball.
“Mike coaches all phases of the game,” says Slonaker. “He’s a proven winner. He’ll ask his players to play defense. He’ll emphasize teamwork and limit a kid’s playing time if they lose defense.
Growing up in New Orleans, White was a relentless competitor at Ole Miss as a point guard, leading his team to two SEC Western Division titles, three consecutive NCAA Men’s Tournaments and a brief stint with New Mexico. Slam. The man knows competition at the highest level.
As a coach, he paid his dues at Jacksonville State and Ole Miss as an assistant before becoming a head coach, first at Louisiana Tech and then at Florida. Along with the Gators, his teams became an annual participant in the NCAA Tournament. He brings high experience to his job as the Bulldogs head coach.
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His brother, Danny, is the athletic director of Tennessee; her brother Brian is an AD at Florida Atlantic and her sister Mariah Chappell is an assistant AD at SMU. His father, Kevin, had a distinguished 30-year career in administration, highlighted by stops as athletic director at Notre Dame and Duke. The Bulldog basketball boss has an impressive pedigree.
FLASHBACK FROM THE PAST
As it goes, there is a light and unforgettable memory of the days of Jim Whatley who coached football and baseball in Georgia and also coached Bulldog basketball in 1950-51. A highlight for him was beating Kentucky in old Woodruff Hall. Rupp swore he would never play Woodruff Hall again. But he did.
Whatley was 6-6. In a hotly contested game one night, he came out onto the field and started berating an official who was standing at around 5-7. After a few minutes, the official pointed his finger at Whatley and told him that it was going to cost him a technique for every step it took to get back on the bench.
Perplexed, Big Jim, as he was called, fell to his knees and crawled off the field.