Ole Miss coach Andy Kennedy sees some Josh Pastner in Michael White.
Notre Dame coach Mike Brey draws the comparison to Sean Miller.
Either would do fine. If White can turn Louisiana Tech into a winner, it'll be a home run hire.
Of course the praise being tossed at White should be placed in context. He hasn't lost a game yet. This is his spring training. But the various voices that are backing White in his new gig are genuine enough to make it seem like he’s bound to succeed -- even if he’s at one of the tougher jobs around as he tries to make basketball relevant again in Ruston, La.
“He’s highly competitive, passionate and at the same time he’s a deep thinker,’’ said Mike White’s father, Kevin White, the athletic director at Duke. “He thinks about things for a long time. He’s not a guy to jump to quick conclusions.’’
Kevin White said he was convinced that his son was ready for a head coaching job two years ago. Mike had bounced around from Jacksonville State to Ole Miss after playing for the Rebels under Rob Evans.
His father was the athletic director at Notre Dame prior to his stint at Duke and that’s where Brey got to know the AD's son.
“He’s a natural,’’ Brey said. “I’ve spent a lot of time with him. He played the game. He can communicate the game. He has tremendous experiences, experiences that most don’t have. His dad is a great educator and a people guy.’’
White grew up in Orono, Maine, where his dad worked for the University of Maine. He then went to high school in New Orleans when his father was at Tulane. He didn’t follow him to Arizona State or Notre Dame since he started his college career at Ole Miss.
“Mike has always been a coach,’’ Evans said. “When he played point guard for me he would come over during timeouts and tell me everything that was going on and how we could attack it. He’s very smart and aggressive. He’s not afraid to take chances and make suggestions. Louisiana Tech is a tough job, but Mike saw at Mississippi how we made it work. He will be a very successful head coach because he is very organized and knows what it takes to get it done. This is exactly what I told the search firm when they hired him.’’
Kevin White said it was important to him that his son work for a quality athletic director. He was sold on Bruce Van De Velde.
“That was critical to me,’’ the elder White said. “Michael always considers himself a Louisiana kid. This was a job in his backyard. He’s our Southerner.’’
At 34, White is also one of the youngest head coaches in the country.
“He grew into his role as our associate head coach,’’ Kennedy said. “Mike possesses the drive and experience necessary to rejuvenate the Louisiana Tech program.’’
Mike White is looking at this job like he did his playing career at Ole Miss. He was tossed in to being the point guard as a freshman, whether he was ready or not.
“I was the guy who started four years in the SEC and my career average was five points a game,’’ White said. “I wasn’t on the floor to score. The reason I was on the floor will be the reasons that will help me as a coach.’’
White said he looks at the successful young coaches today (and he includes Brad Stevens of Butler in this group) as having been overachieving players, players who had the intangibles that have made them good coaches. There is a sense of confidence when White speaks -- not arrogance, but confidence.
“I love the game, I bring passion to the game and I feel fortunate to lead a program period,’’ White said. “It starts with recruiting. The most important part is evaluating and you have to make great evaluations. We’ve got as strong a base as any. We just have to take the right guy and knock down one or two a year. People can complain all they want about the disadvantages of traveling out West [as a member of the WAC], but we have the same homecourt advantage as well.’’
Louisiana Tech has always made more sense for the Sun Belt or even Conference USA. But the Bulldogs are in the WAC for the foreseeable future. And in the immediate future, Tech is picked to finish last in the league by the coaches and media.
That hasn't dampened White's enthusiasm for his new job, however.
“I think the young guys have the advantages that we weren’t far removed from the game,’’ White said. “We have the relationships with the kids. I can go back 12 years and I was sitting in that locker room. I look at the Miller brothers [Sean at Arizona and now Archie at Dayton], Brad Stevens, Shaka Smart [at VCU] and see these younger coaches emerging. They’ve been given opportunities and they’ve taken advantage of them.’’
Now it’s Mike White’s turn to see if he can as well.