Expectations are notably high this season for No. 6 Florida basketball. Are they justified expectations and what pressure is on head coach Mike White?
I was reading an interesting article this morning on college basketball coaches starting this season on the hot seat — don’t worry, Florida basketball coach Mike White wasn’t on the list.
But, it did get me to start thinking: What kind of pressure is White and the program under to win this season?
More importantly: Is the pressure justified?
We all know there is pressure with just about any college basketball coaching job. Programs want to win because winning leads to exposure and exposure (positive, anyway) leads to dollars in the bank.
But, even with two national championships, five Final Four appearances, four SEC tournament titles and 22 NCAA tournament appearances, Florida basketball has never really been known for being a high-pressure program — at least not like Kentucky, UCLA, Kansas and Indiana.
Lon Kruger left on his own accord, even after Florida had a losing season in 1995-1996. Billy Donovan was given a lot of rope after his first two seasons were pretty rough — of course, it turned into two national titles.
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Even after the losing season in 2014-15, Donovan wasn’t fired, he left for the riches of the NBA and the Oklahoma City Thunder.
Now, White has produced a pair of winning seasons in his first two with Florida basketball, which would lead one to suggest things are fine in Gainesville.
And that would be a correct assumption.
However, the stakes have been raised a bit now that White signed a two-year contract extension, which yields him a nice $3.212 million annually.
They’ve also been raised because of the roster White has to work with this season.
In addition to bringing in McDonald’s All-Americans Scottie Lewis and Tre Mann, White also scored big in the graduate transfer sweepstakes when he landed Virginia Tech’s Kerry Blackshear. Couple that with returners Andrew Nembhard, Noah Locke and Keyontae Johnson and you have a much different Florida basketball team than the one that stepped off the court last season.
Those pickups led Florida basketball to a preseason No. 6 ranking and Blackshear to be named the SEC Preseason Player of the Year.
The Gators have also been talked about to contend for the national championship because of this stellar lineup.
Now, while Florida basketball has lost junior forward Dontay Bassett and junior Gorjok Gak for unspecified periods of time and guard Ques Glover has a finger issue, the expectation is still strong for the Gators.
You have to consider the fact that the schedule is pretty advantageous for White and the Gators. Outside of a road matchup against UConn Nov. 17, Florida basketball doesn’t have a significant challenge until a Dec. 7 road game against Butler.
They don’t get Kentucky until Feb. 22 at Lexington then, 13 days later in Gainesville — the final regular-season game before the tournament.
The bottom line here is that by bringing in a solid recruiting class — including Blackshear — and retaining Nembhard, Locke and Johnson, the bar has been elevated quite a bit for White’s third season at the helm.
There is some justification in that hype. This is a strong lineup for Florida and it does mean there should be an expectation to win.
Now, if they don’t I don’t believe White is in jeopardy, but not having a strong season this season could see a little more heat under that chair White is sitting in.
No. 6 Florida basketball has an exhibition against Lynn on Oct. 29 before opening the season against North Florida on Nov 5. The Gators’ first three games of the season will be at home.