Report: White on Arizona's Hot Board, Could He Consider Leaving Florida?

Mike White emerged as a potential candidate for Arizona's head coaching vacancy, but would he actually entertain the idea of leaving the Florida Gators?

This story is based on reporting from credentialed media outlets and features the opinion of AllGators' publisher Zach Goodall.

Florida has undergone significant turnover this offseason across its basketball roster, frankly, unlike anything these eyes have seen.

Six players announced their departure following the end of the 2020-21 season and the Gators' second-round exit from March Madness: Two to the NBA Draft, and four to the NCAA transfer portal. A seventh player, Second-Team All-SEC forward Colin Castleton, put his name in the draft hat as well but has left the door open for a return to UF and college basketball.

Not to mention, there is no certainty regarding the status of 2020's Preseason All-SEC Player of the Year, forward Keyontae Johnson, following his traumatic collapse on the court against Florida State this past December. It is unclear whether or not he will play again.

Mike White, UF's head basketball coach, has a ginormous amount of work cut out for him in order for Florida to return to the tournament for a fifth consecutive trip. Despite inconsistent and sometimes frustrating play down the stretch of this past season, and White's lack of an SEC title in five seasons (2019-20's tournament was canceled amid the coronavirus pandemic), UF decided to stick it out with White and trust him to rebuild its roster.

Then on Wednesday, White's name came in at No. 10 on Arizona's coaching hot board of "main candidates," according to Wildcat Authority of 247Sports, citing sources and other intel.

It is unknown whether White would have an interest in the Arizona gig or not after the university relieved coach Sean Miller earlier on Wednesday. Although 247Sports is a well-respected outlet, this is nothing more than a rumor until something such as an interview substantializes. 

But, could that happen? Would it make sense for either party?

White has already put on the hardhat and gotten to work this offseason by filling to vacated spots on the roster with incoming transfers: UKMC guard Brandon McKissic and Boston College forward C.J. Felder. Furman forward Noah Gurley listed UF in his top eight schools with the intention to announce his transfer destination this Sunday.

Update: Minutes after this story was published, former Penn State guard Myreon Jones committed to Florida.

UF also anticipates the enrollment of Sports Illustrated All-American candidate guard Kowacie Reeves this year, after the Westside (Ga.) star prospect signed with the Gators last November. An elite athlete with a gifted shot, Reeves will be expected to take on a rather immediate role as a wing player during his freshman season.

Losing First-Team All-SEC guard Tre Mann to the draft was expected but stung nonetheless, as he was Florida's go-to playmaker and most effective scorer last season. Add in the losses role players such guards Noah Locke and Scottie Lewis, as well as forward Omar Payne, and it becomes hard to forecast a successful 2020-21 season for White and the Gators.

But when you factor in his two additions to the squad before the 2021 NCAA Tournament even ended, the loads of talent remaining in the portal for UF to target, and Reeves' potential to play immediately, an argument emerges that White is off to a good start.

Arizona owns a more traditionally accomplished basketball program than Florida, although UF exploded onto the scene as a major program during the Billy Donovan era in the mid-2000s. White could admire Arizona's history enough to make the jump, but it's hard to imagine that he views the Wildcats' legacy in drastically higher regard than Florida's.

It's also hard to consider UA as an attractive job, at the moment. The school received five Level I violations in March, including one lack of head-coach responsibility charge against Miller, for the likes of not promoting compliance, academic misconduct, and other issues deemed unethical. Arizona self-imposed a one-year postseason ban in December, but the NCAA could elect to extend that ban should the violations be considered aggravated.

The NCAA confirmed in December that Arizona's infractions are being reviewed by the Independent Accountability Resolution Process.

Considering Arizona's current situation, the university isn't exactly in an ideal position to pry the coach of a major program away from his school. White has enjoyed some consistent success with Florida, although there's undoubtedly room for improvement, so it's safe to assume Arizona would need to thoroughly impress him or any proven candidate at the interview and negotiation table to land an esteemed coach.

Not to mention, Arizona has dealt with some roster turnover, too. Guards Jemarl Baker Jr. and Terrell Brown Jr. entered the transfer portal after the season ended, and fellow guard James Akinjo maintained his eligibility but entered the NBA Draft as well.

Wildcat Authority's scoop could very well be legitimate in the sense that Arizona covets White in some capacity. What we don't know as fact is whether or not White would even consider the job, or any other opening. 

Although his tasks are far from complete in order to yield a contending Gators basketball team this year, the responsibilities of the Wildcats' vacancy and the weight the job would carry makes the hypothetical idea of White leaving Florida for Arizona feel like a longshot.