Earlier today, Danny White made his introductory press conference as the Athletic Director at Tennessee. White, impressive on all accounts, did not dodge questions, and he won the room, social media (while making a statement about negative media), and everything in between. I share my key takeaways below.
Not here to lose
White made it clear that he never thought he would be leaving his job at Central Florida, while also making it clear that he came here to win. I know that seems trivial even to say, but Tennessee has been a holding spot for several coaches and administrators over the last 15 years. White appears to understand the task at hand and embraces the challenges it will present. White stated that he did not play golf or have hobbies while reiterating that he enjoys grinding on the college athletics side. “I hate to lose, and I imagine our fans hate to lose. I want the same thing they want. I want us to get extremely competitive. I want us competing for championships. If that could happen tomorrow, I would snap my fingers,” he said. Since announcing Jeremy Pruitt’s firing, Tennessee leadership has reiterated a desire to win the right way, and White made that even more clear during his press conference. White wants a positive culture around his student-athletes, made evident by his comments about social media, which could bode well for his future success in Knoxville.
Coaching Search Insight
White stepped out of a comfortable job at Central Florida with no pressure around his choices to become the face of a coaching search that will be highly indicative of the success of his tenure in Knoxville. White was questioned about the search, obviously, but one line stood out to me. “It starts and ends with the student-athletes. I want them to be the first to find out who their new coach is. What happens in between. I’m going to be doing a lot of homework.” In today’s world, that tells me that Danny White gets it. He is not bullish in his decisions; he is transparent and open, which is likely why his hires have been successful during his other stops. On multiple occasions, White jokingly told people in the room they were candidates or “send me your stuff”, but it shows just how open the new AD is. He is willing to listen, learn, and adapt, which former administrators have struggled mightily with.
A Sense of Trust
White is officially Tennessee’s athletic director, but not just in title. He is the true athletic director. He is not a figurehead. Donde Plowman made that clear. She was relaxed and comfortable around her new hire while complimenting his ability at every turn. She made it apparent White would be in control of making the next move, and he will have her full support. White was in control during the press conference, and it was apparent he trusts himself. To me, a lot of times, that is easier said than done. White just made a big jump, and in doing so, he left his comfort zone. That can create doubt, hesitations, and misspeaks, none of which White presented. White bet on himself as the guy to turn Tennessee’s program in the right direction, and I believe he earned a lot of trust at the podium today.
All eyes will continue to be on him as he looks for Tennessee’s next head coach in the coming weeks.