Dooley: Gators prepare to give fans what they want, play fast
Originally Published on: Jul 22, 2020 at 14:43
Mike White told us Wednesday that he has a couple of guitars in his office, but hasn't played them in a while.
He didn't need to.
What he said on a Zoom call for a handful of beat writers was music to the ears of a lot of Gator fans.
Forget the slow, plodding Gators of the last couple of years. No longer will you be able to get to the bathroom and back during a Gator possession.
"Playing fast is in my DNA," White said. "It's what our guys want to do. I know it's what our fans want to see."
Obviously, we don't know WHEN we will see it, but as soon as this Florida team is playing real basketball games, it will be more like a Lamborghini than one of those Ed's discount scooters.
Look, we all understood why White last year had to play slow. He had a point guard who was built that way and the offense went through Andrew Nembhard and Kerry Blackshear Jr. with his awkward running style. Now, when I say we understood Florida's style of play, I am obviously not speaking for the entire Gator Nation, some of whom had to bleach their eyes after watching that team play.
And there are no guarantees that a fast-paced team is going to be successful. It's not going to be old-school Loyola Marymount (for the avocado toast generation, you can Google it).
But it has to be more fun to watch. I mean we all knew this was coming because of the changes in personnel. But the music was still pretty sweet Wednesday.
"It's the first time in a while we'll have a high level of speed, quickness, athleticism throughout the whole roster," White said. "We'll be really deep and we look forward to playing fast."
(Was that a harp I heard in the background?)
"I'm convicted to press more, especially early on," White said. "We're going in with the mindset we're going to press more."
(Cue the celestial choir.)
"Offensively, I'd like to play more downhill."
(Somewhere, someone is playing your favorite song.)
Florida basketball last year was hardly a disaster. The Gators were headed to their fourth straight NCAA tournament under White and freshmen like Scottie Lewis and Tre Mann were figuring things out.
But at times it was painful to watch, especially after the expectations going in were so unrealistically high.
"We were overrated last season a little bit and we proved that a little bit," White said. "On the other hand, we were picked second in our league and were one rebound away against Kentucky from being the second seed (in the SEC tournament).
"I really don't care (about where Florida is ranked this preseason). I just want to max out. I want to grow everybody and max out and eventually win another national championship here as it has been done in the past and has been done in other sports."
First things first. White and his staff have to see what this team looks like in person.
Since the SEC tournament was canceled during Florida's pregame meal at the tournament March 12 and the team flew home, White's in-person relationship with his team has been like so many other coaches.
It hasn't existed.
Instead, it's been Zooms and texts and phone calls. White said that his players are finally "Zoomed out," which means they can join the rest of America missing interaction with humans.
The team is allowed to report on Sunday for voluntary workouts, when they will be eyeballed and weighed and checked for body fat to see who worked hard during the time away and who smells like Doritos. White said he was eager to see the players who come back and that they are just as eager to get to work.
Especially Mann, who was the last player to opt out of the NBA draft and return to school. According to a Tuesday night tweet, he's grown to 6-foot-6.
"I didn't see that," White said. "I hope he's 6-6 but he was pretty good at 6-2."
Even while Florida has to wait for news on the eligibility of Michigan transfer Colin Castleton, it's a thick roster filled with players who can play multiple positions. The preseason rankings won't reflect that this may be a better team than last year's because Nembhard bolted, but it's clear that White is excited about getting back to his roots with this team.
"I think we're really versatile, as athletic a team as I've ever been able to coach and as athletic a team as there has been at Florida in awhile," he said. "We look forward to implementing the stuff we've done before with this team. We could have success doing it.
"These guys have grown a little bit and if you listen to the guys they will tell you they have been working their butts off."
There's that music again.
— Contact Pat Dooley at 352-374-5053 or at firstname.lastname@example.org. And follow at Twitter.com/Pat_Dooley.