Top Ten list of reasons Nick Saban probably never watched David Letterman Show

In tribute to David Letterman and his farewell season on CBS:

David Letterman ends his final broadcast of the "Late Show With David Letterman" on Wednesday, May 20, 2015, at the Ed Sullivan Theater in New York. (Jeffrey R. Staab/CBS/TNS)
David Letterman ends his final broadcast of the “Late Show With David Letterman” on Wednesday, May 20, 2015, at the Ed Sullivan Theater in New York. (Jeffrey R. Staab/CBS/TNS)

Here is my Top Ten list of “Reasons why ultra-disciplined football coach Nick Saban has probably never wasted a moment of his ultra-programmed time watching a single episode of Dave’s show.”

10. Dave can’t run 40 yards at any speed

9. Dave interrupted and made goofy faces when entertaining guests. Not the Bama way.

8. Dave was smart-alecky while interviewing Bill Belichick after the Super Bowl, accusing the coach of “horseplay.” Not the Patriot way.

7. Dave did not begin his show with a coin flip.

6. Dave’s show came on after bed check and light’s out.

5. People didn’t drive RV’s into Manhattan and park them around Dave’s theater when they came to see the show. Where’s the passion?

4. When you draw up a bunch of X’s and O’s for Dave, he automatically thinks hugs and kisses.

3. Dave’s musical director and sidekick Paul Shaffer looks and acts more like a sideline mascot than an actual person.

2. When you fly a blimp over Dave’s theater, all it sees are a bunch of dirty buildings.

1. Dave consistently was No. 2 in the late-night ratings but he seems happy anyway.

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Marshall fans cheer during first half action during the Boca Raton Bowl between Northern Illinois University Huskies and The Herd of Marshall in Boca Raton, Fla., on Tuesday, Dec 23, 2014.  (Thomas Cordy / The Palm Beach Post)
Marshall fans cheer during first half action during the Boca Raton Bowl between Northern Illinois University Huskies and The Herd of Marshall in Boca Raton, Fla., on Tuesday, Dec 23, 2014. (Thomas Cordy / The Palm Beach Post)

The Boca Raton Bowl has announced a Dec. 22 date for this year’s game at FAU Stadium.

The American Athletic Conference is expected to be represented this year against a MAC team. UCF and USF are in the American, which could increase local interest in the game.

UCF played in the St. Petersburg Bowl last year, losing 34-27 to North Carolina State. USF missed out on the bowls at 4-8 but with a little improvement could be in the running for the Boca Bowl, which is on the lower rungs of AAC tie-ins.

Here’s hoping Boca Raton Bowl officials play a little straighter with us in the run-up to the game. Last year’s inaugural event, a 52-23 Marshall win over Northern Illinois, was announced as a sellout but there were huge gaps of empty seats.

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I’m taking a break for about a week. Hoping you’ll come back in June to see my vacation photos.

Only kidding. Just more dopey blogs.

Ryan Tannehill will earn that franchise-quarterback extension if Dolphins ever learn to protect him

Dan Marino was sacked six times during the 1988 season. Ryan Tannehill was sacked seven times in a single game at Buffalo a couple of years ago.

That’s a stark reminder of how little help Tannehill has gotten from his constantly-changing offensive line these last three seasons, and how deserving he actually is of the $45 million in guaranteed contract-extension money that the Miami Dolphins gave him the other day.

Miami Dolphins quarterback Ryan Tannehill (17) scrambles away from Minnesota Vikings defensive tackle Corey Wootton (99) and Minnesota Vikings defensive tackle Shamar Stephen (93) at Sun Life Stadium in Miami Gardens, Florida on December 21, 2014. (Allen Eyestone / The Palm Beach Post)
Miami Dolphins quarterback Ryan Tannehill (17) scrambles away from Minnesota Vikings defensive tackle Corey Wootton (99) and Minnesota Vikings defensive tackle Shamar Stephen (93) on December 21, 2014. (Allen Eyestone / The Palm Beach Post)

As many times as he’s been sacked, it’s fairly amazing that Tannehill hasn’t missed a start, and even more so that his passing numbers have risen at such a rapid pace. He’ll never come close to Dan Marino in production, but if a guy can earn franchise-quarterback money for toughness alone, Tannehill has done it.

Here is a chart that shows the most passing yards ever thrown in the first three seasons of an NFL quarterback’s career. Match that with the number of times those quarterbacks were sacked over the same period.

 

Player                                       Passing Yds                   Times sacked

Andrew Luck                           12,957                             100

Peyton Manning                     12,287                               56

Dan Marino                             11,431                                41

Andy Dalton                             11,360                               99

Cam Newton                           11,299                               114

Ryan Tannehill                         11,252                             139

 

Will Tannehill be around to collect all his contract-extension treasure if this kind of punishment continues? Is it realistic to expect him to lead the Dolphins anywhere important if his blockers can’t keep him from being crushed?

It’s an interesting debate, but I’m optimistic he has more to show us. For a guy who only started 19 games at the position in college, Tannehill’s first 48 starts as a pro have probably gone better than they should.

NFL not shy about changing rules on PATs or anything else

I’m fine with the longer conversion kick, the latest evolution in the NFL’s mission to make us watch every single play in every single game rather than wandering off to the fridge or the can. Anything that adds drama, in this case putting coaches on instinct mode from the first quarter until the last, is a good thing.

Let me say just one thing, though, before moving on to a list of some of the potential consequences here. Never again do I want to hear that college football’s overtime rules are too quirky or contrived to be believed. Why, there’s even a copy of college rules in the new package, with NFL players allowed to score two points by returning a fumble or an interception for a score on an unsuccessful conversion try.

The NFL makes arbitrary changes to its basic rules without worrying about what the ancient legends of the leather-helmet era would have said or thought about it. Why, I’ll bet some of you out there never even knew the goalposts used to be planted right in the middle of the end zone rather than on the back line.

Sometimes the league calls some new rule an experiment to be reviewed after the season, though that’s not how this one is being sold. Doesn’t matter. When you alter the fundamentals of something as vital to the game as scoring, like this new extra-point snap from the 15-yard line does, all the old stats and records are thrown out of whack.

Baseball does a significant makeover in the order of business, seemingly, once in a lifetime. The NFL could do it every 15 minutes and the addiction of fans to the entire entertainment package would not be lessened in the slightest.

They really do seem to know what they’re doing, even when they’re just taking shots in the dark with potential improvements. So we’ll try the new PAT rules for a season. Then we’ll tweak them. Or we’ll discard them. No problem. The only rule you really need to know about the NFL is that the NFL rules.

Miami Dolphins kicker Caleb Sturgis (9) has his first quarter field goal blocked and returned for a touchdown by the Patriots at Gillette Stadium in Foxborough, Massachusetts on December 14, 2014. (Allen Eyestone / The Palm Beach Post)
Miami Dolphins kicker Caleb Sturgis (9) has his first quarter field goal blocked and returned for a touchdown by the Patriots at Gillette Stadium in Foxborough, Massachusetts on December 14, 2014. (Allen Eyestone / The Palm Beach Post)

Now, here are a few instant reactions to moving the one-point PAT kick to the 15-yard line and thus making coaches think harder about trying for two points from the 2-yard line.

  1. The new kick comes from around the 33-yard line, which is anything but automatic. Miami’s Caleb Sturgis, for instance, is 17-for-20 from the range of 30-39 yards in his NFL career. Meanwhile, he’s perfect on 74 PAT kicks. Could be that mid-range accuracy begins to have greater impact on which kickers make the roster rather than the emphasis on long-range punch.
  2. Teams in bad-weather cities may worry more about developing a two-point unit than those in domes or sunnier climates. All teams will spend more time on this facet than they previously did, just in case the one-point kick gets scary for some reason.
  3. Tim Tebow may finally have gotten his foot in the door in Philadelphia. He’s a bull of a short-yardage runner and, before anyone snorts or laughs, remember how he completed a crazy Denver fourth-quarter comeback in 2011 by plowing across for a two-point conversion. If ever there was a reason for carrying a third quarterback on the game-day roster, this is it.

4. Two-point conversions are rare enough as it is but they sure played a big part in a Dolphins game just last year. Miami led Denver 28-17 after three quarters until Peyton Manning completed a touchdown pass plus a two-point conversion pass to make it a three-point game. Later, after the Dolphins had fallen into a desperate hole, Daniel Thomas ran it in for two-point conversion to pull Miami within 39-36. The onside kick didn’t work out for Miami but heart rates never dropped below 120 all afternoon.

5. Feeling queasier about Joe Philbin’s decision-making, though. With the potential for more gambles by rival coaches, he may feel the need to stockpile timeouts just in case he needs to “Kodak” a two-point formation.

Hiring Jennings is the closest possible thing to Loria managing the Marlins himself

Dan Jennings is a great guy, so personable, so knowledgable, that I just couldn’t make myself come right out and say that any plan featuring him was poorly conceived. Now, though, a few days have passed since the Miami Marlins turned Jennings the GM into Jennings the on-field manager so there’s no use putting this off any longer.

In my opinion, Jeffrey Loria’s faith in managers is so shaken, and the concept of wasting big money on them has proven so counterproductive to him, that the Marlins owner figures he can just handle the job himself, by proxy.

The Miami Marlins new manager Dan Jennings stands in the dugout during the second inning of a baseball game against the Arizona Diamondbacks in Miami, Monday, May 18, 2015.  (AP Photo/J Pat Carter)
The Miami Marlins new manager Dan Jennings stands in the dugout during the second inning of a baseball game against the Arizona Diamondbacks in Miami, Monday, May 18, 2015. (AP Photo/J Pat Carter)

By placing Jennings, never a manager, in direct command over in-game decisions, Loria eliminates the annoyance of pushback the next time he wants to bench somebody or write up a new lineup card or promote a minor-leaguer in response to a galling loss or string of losses.

That “new voice” that president of baseball operations Michael Hill spoke of is really an echo of Loria’s own.

Jennings has often stated how much he loves the owner and how he has been treated as a valued Marlins employee. He feels that he owes Loria for every opportunity with the organization, including this one. They talk pretty much daily about every facet of the team and that won’t change now just because Jennings is wearing a uniform instead of a suit.

Also avoided here is the need to dedicate another big-money budget item for a manager. Ozzie Guillen and Mike Redmond are old contracts that must be paid. Jennings is already on the payroll. The other guys may be losses but Jennings is a two-for-one special. Loria, who rolled out all the dough for Giancarlo Stanton and Christian Yelich, doesn’t mind spending money but he wants it to be on his terms.

That’s why the 16-22 start was so galling. Redmond got a two-year extension at the end of the 2014 season. Marlins president David Samson wants to take the blame for Loria on that one, giving a guy a new deal without having enough faith in him to ride out a couple of bad months with him.

“The old story is a turnaround specialist may be different than the person needed once the turnaround is ready for its next phase,” Samson said Monday. “I think that may be something I got wrong. Red was really great turning it around and navigating through … I may have been wrong for the same voice continuing that process.”

Miami Marlins president David Samson, right, responds to a question as general manager Dan Jennings, left, looks on during a news conference where Jennings was named Marlins manager, Monday, May 18, 2015, in Miami. Jennings replaces Mike Redmond. (AP Photo/Lynne Sladky)
Miami Marlins president David Samson, right, responds to a question as general manager Dan Jennings, left, looks on during a news conference where Jennings was named Marlins manager, Monday, May 18, 2015, in Miami. Jennings replaces Mike Redmond. (AP Photo/Lynne Sladky)

Listen, though, to what Samson said this spring about the Marlins’ botched try at achieving instant karma by putting volatile Ozzie Guillen in charge of a team peppered with freshly acquired stars. That strategy, remember, was quickly abandoned via a midseason roster flush.

“As I look back on it, we thought that we were doing it right and we weren’t,” Samson said on March 23. “Now, I think we’re doing it right again and I think it makes more sense.
“We may have underestimated the importance of clubhouse culture back then. As we thought back to 2003 and thought back to winning, the clubhouse culture and who you had in the clubhouse may have made a big difference. This clubhouse, with Red at the helm, is special.”

Pick a message, any message. Just know that Samson has taken the role of designated fall guy for Loria and Jennings, never a manager at any level in professional baseball, is Loria’s attempt to minimize the instinctive pitch-by-pitch power of the manager while maximizing the global reach of the owner and his front office.

In effect, the front office runs the whole show now, not from up in the stadium suites but up close and personal, just in case any player is unclear on exactly what Loria expects of him on a given day or a given at-bat.

Jennings, again, is a smart guy. The Marlins, however, have fired a guy who had very little managerial experience and replaced him with one who had no managerial experience whatsoever until Monday night’s 13-inning loss to Arizona.

Being realistic, the best you could hope for from Jennings is to do no worse than Redmond on the pitch-by-pitch decisions that alter but seldom actually dictate wins and losses. Maybe that will be possible with former Seattle bench coach Mike Goff at his side in the dugout.

In truth, this is the closest thing to Loria managing the team himself. It’s such a grind, though, that no team owner would want to put himself through that.

Better to have Jennings give it a try, at least until some other epiphany presents itself on the question of how to motivate every last player on the Marlins roster to play at an all-star level from April until October’s World Series parade.

 

Any coach who doesn’t make one of 43 bowl games deserves to be fired on the spot

Nick Saban was grumbling the other day about his disappointment with the new four-team College Football Playoff system. Sure, Alabama was a part of the inaugural field but Saban does enjoy a good grumble.

Talking at a celebrity golf tournament in Birmingham, Saban said he worried from the very first that the new playoff system would minimize the interest in other bowl games, “which I think is sort of what happened and I hate to see that for college football.

“Maybe we need to go one way or the other,” he said. “Either have bowl games or have playoffs but not try to have both.”

Marshall fans cheer during first half action during the Boca Raton Bowl between Northern Illinois University Huskies and The Herd of Marshall in Boca Raton, Fla., on Tuesday, Dec 23, 2014.  (Thomas Cordy / The Palm Beach Post)
Marshall fans cheer during first half action during the Boca Raton Bowl between Northern Illinois University Huskies and The Herd of Marshall in Boca Raton, Fla., on Tuesday, Dec 23, 2014. (Thomas Cordy / The Palm Beach Post)

Maybe the importance of most bowl games has been minimized, but the sheer number of them has been maximized. There are four new ones on the schedule this year, bringing the total to 43.

Orlando’s putting on something called the Cure Bowl Dec. 19 on CBS with American Athletic Conference and Sun Belt teams. That’s pretty close both geographically and on the calendar to the Boca Raton Bowl, which has yet to announce a 2015 date but was played last year on Dec. 23.

The other new bowls are in Tucson, Little Rock and Austin, Tex. Guess they’ll just fit them in wherever they can on the TV schedule, according to ESPN’s needs.

UPDATE: Got an e-mail update from Arkansas today saying that Kevin Crass, chairman of the War Memorial Stadium Commission, has declared Little Rock unable to get a deal done to hold a bowl game there in 2015 but might try again later.

Altogether, this makes room for something like two-thirds of the whole Div. I field in the postseason bowl system.

We’re pretty much at the point where it can be said that any coach who doesn’t make a bowl deserves to be fired on the spot.

If you ask me, though, there’s not such thing as too much college football.

How about that Bahamas Bowl last year? Central Michigan ran up 607 yards in total offense and scored a touchdown on a three-lateral play that covered 75 yards and still they lost 49-48 to Western Kentucky.

They haven’t invented the sitcom or reality show that works better than that on a winter night.

 

Tom Brady’s Legal Eagles Should Look To Former Commissioner

Roger Goodell’s Thursday decision to hear the Deflategate appeal himself is daring Tom Brady’s legal team to go outside the NFL family with a lawsuit against the league.

If Tom Brady’s fancy team of lawyers is worth their hourly rate, they will do exactly that, going all Al Davis on the NFL.

Still, there might be an acceptable alternative short of that nuclear option. The Brady bunch could negotiate the selection of a former NFL commissioner to review the work of the current one.

We’re talking about Paul Tagliabue, who was appointed by Goodell to rule on the appeals of four New Orleans Saints players suspended in the 2012 Bountygate case. Tagliabue overturned the suspensions, basically saying that Goodell was correct in finding fault but overstepped his bounds with the punishment.

Tom Brady  (Allen Eyestone / The Palm Beach Post)
Tom Brady
(Allen Eyestone / The Palm Beach Post)

Goodell apparently didn’t want to take that chance again, but really, would Brady be out of line in demanding the most informed and appropriate candidate to settle his appeal?

Tagliabue got his law degree at New York University and worked for more than 20 years at a powerful Washington, D.C., firm so he surely is up to speed on what it takes to make a winning argument in court. He and Brady’s lawyers would be speaking the same language, while Ted Wells, the NFL investigator more famous as a white-collar defense attorney, would be forced to defend why a first-time offender like Brady should be made to sit four games.

Roger Goodell (left) and Paul Tagliabue (AP photo)
Roger Goodell (left) and Paul Tagliabue (AP photo)

Most of all, Tagliabue was the NFL’s top boss from 1989 to 2006. He cleaned up all kinds of messes along the way and clearly believes he sees things more clearly than most. How else could he overturn Goodell’s Bountygate player rulings rather than blindly backing the judgment of his hand-picked successor?

Brady’s team couldn’t have been surprised by the news that Goodell intends to run this whole show himself. This only adds a fresh layer of contention to the process, the kind that allows lawyers to run out the clock with a vital deadline approaching, in this case the Sept. 10 season opener against Pittsburgh.

After all the public outcry, could it be that Brady won’t miss any games at all?

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Wrote quite a bit yesterday about Miami’s remarkable run of four consecutive trips to the NBA Finals. Here’s one last note, however, to demonstrate how difficult it is to make it all the way to the championship series each year.

None of the three Western Conference teams that the Heat faced in those four NBA Finals are alive in the 2015 playoffs. San Antonio and Dallas lost in the first round and Oklahoma City, like Miami, didn’t even qualify for the postseason.

The Heat negotiated their way through a lot of hairpin turns in a highly competitive field over those four years. Nobody else even came close.

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We’ve had some fun with limericks in previous posts. Well, at least I have.

Let’s try a topical sports haiku today in our cultural corner. You know how it works. Five syllables, seven syllables, five syllables.

 

When known ‘Deflator’

Makes urgent bathroom visit,

Move away quickly

 

 

 

It’s High Time To Appreciate The Heat’s Four Straight NBA Finals Trips

All right, so the Miami Heat didn’t make the NBA playoffs. So they won only two NBA titles with the Big Three of LeBron James, Dwyane Wade and Chris Bosh. Can we back up just a minute now that it’s all over to savor what they did achieve?

Try this one for size. Miami played in four consecutive NBA Finals from 2011-14.

In the history of major professional sports on this continent, there have been only seven instances of a team reeling off a longer string of appearances in the league championship round.

In the NBA, the Boston Celtics made the Finals an astonishing 10 times in a row with Bill Russell, Bob Cousy, John Havlicek and other stars between 1957-66. No other run has ever topped Miami’s four NBA Finals in a row, though at different times the Lakers and the Celtics have matched the Heat.

Dwyane Wade and LeBron James  (Allen Eyestone/The Palm Beach Post)
Dwyane Wade and LeBron James (Allen Eyestone/The Palm Beach Post)

In hockey, there have been three long strings of appearances in the Stanley Cup finals. The Montreal Canadiens got there 10 times in a row from 1951-60 and five times in a row from 1965-69. Also, the New York Islanders, an organization run by Bill Torrey of West Palm Beach, had a five-year run of Stanley Cup trips in the 1980s.

Baseball has two examples of a franchise topping Miami’s four-year run of championship appearances. The New York Yankees did it each time, going to five consecutive World Series from 1949-53 and showing up again five years in a row from 1960-64.

The Cleveland Browns made six consecutive trips to the NFL Championship game between 1950 and 1955, which is better than the Heat’s recent run of NBA Finals, but the Super Bowl has been a much tougher return gig.

No has ever topped Buffalo’s four consecutive appearances in the Super Bowl. The Miami Dolphins come next with three from 1971-73. Seattle could stretch it to three consecutive appearances if they get there again this year.

The Heat aren’t the greatest team in sports history and they won’t be any time soon but they sure had it going for a while there. We shouldn’t be too spoiled to see that.

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And now a limerick to lighten the mood for South Florida fans missing that postseason buzz.

 

Ndamukong is quite a name, sure

Buy one vowel or two at your pleasure

With Suh on the roster

Ndamukong Suh doesn't wear this Detroit Lions uniform anymore. He's a Dolphin and couldn't be prouder. (Getty images)
Ndamukong Suh  (Getty images)

The Dolphins will prosper

And spelling bees aren’t what we’re here for

 

Jupiter’s Billy Gabor Gets NBA Championship Ring He Earned 60 Years Ago

Here’s a wonderfully entertaining entry from the better-late-than-never file and it involves feisty former NBA player Billy Gabor of Jupiter, whose 93rd birthday is Wednesday.

Bill Gabor, age 91, played in the NBA in the 1950s. He was photographed at his home in Jupiter on Wednesday, January 29, 2014, holding an engraved ice bucket. "When we won in 1955, we didn't get anything from the NBA," he said. "The stockholders gave us this engraved ice bucket." The engraving reads "Presented to Billy Gabor World Champions Syracuse Nationals 1954-1955 by the Stockholders." (Bruce R. Bennett/The Palm Beach Post)
Bill Gabor, age 91, played in the NBA in the 1950s. He was photographed at his home in Jupiter on Wednesday, January 29, 2014, holding an engraved ice bucket. “When we won in 1955, we didn’t get anything from the NBA,” he said. “The stockholders gave us this engraved ice bucket.” The engraving reads “Presented to Billy Gabor World Champions Syracuse Nationals 1954-1955 by the Stockholders.” (Bruce R. Bennett/The Palm Beach Post)

“Billy the Bullet” was his nickname when Gabor played for the Syracuse Nationals of the longago NBA. He was part of a league championship team in 1955 with Hall of Famer Dolph Schayes as a teammate but they never got a championship ring.

RELATED: For more on Billy’s NBA career in the George Mikan era, here’s a feature I wrote last year.

Pro basketball was not a big-money sport back then so the Nationals’ ownership group couldn’t spring for rings. Gabor displays in his home the engraved ice bucket that the team awarded its players instead.

After all this time, however, the rings are finally in.

Howard Dolgon, owner of the American Hockey League’s Syracuse Crunch, had diamond-studded 1955 NBA championship rings made for the four Nationals players still living. Gabor wasn’t feeling well  enough to make the trip to Syracuse, where a ceremony recently took place at the old War Memorial Auditorium there. That’s where the hockey team plays now and where the Nationals played then.

On Wednesday night at an Outback restaurant in Jupiter, Gabor and friends will gather to celebrate the arrival of the ring, and to admire its shiny brilliance.

That ice bucket soon will have to share space with a new artifact of Gabor’s youth on the mantel of his seaside Jupiter condo.

 

So glad that Herb Score’s story hit the spot for many of you

I’ve gotten all sorts of nice feedback from readers who enjoyed my article on Herb Score, the Lake Worth legend whose astonishing major-league debut as a strikeout king in 1955 made him a Hall of Fame candidate — until his career was cut short by a line drive that struck him in the face.

The May 8, 1957 edition of The Palm Beach Post describes Score's injuries.
The May 8, 1957, edition of The Palm Beach Post describes Score’s injuries.

So glad that readers got a chance to hear about one of the greatest athletes in local history, even if it is 60 years late, and so appreciative that people are taking the time to tell me.

Score is one of those names in the Palm Beach County Sports Hall of Fame that slips through the cracks, but there still are people who went to school with him Lake Worth High and remember what a terrific and humble guy he was.

If you didn’t see the story in Sunday’s Palm Beach Post, here’s a link to the digital version, which looks so much better thanks to the presentation skills of Post illustrator Mark Buzek.

As lengthy as the story was, there always are a few tidbits that get left out.

Herb Score 1952 Lake Worth High School yearbook (Contributed by Dennis and Doris Dorsey)
Herb Score
1952 Lake Worth High School yearbook
(Contributed by Dennis and Doris Dorsey)

When Score was in the hospital in 1957, for instance, recovering from injuries sustained by the line drive that struck him in the right eye, the citizens of Lake Worth got together to send him a get-well telegram. There were so many names affixed that the telegram wound up being 125 feet long.

Also, there was a spring-training game in Miami when Score was still trying to make the Cleveland Indians roster. He was scheduled to pitch against Willie Mays and the New York Giants. A few local civic groups attended the game to show support and even managed to get a few representatives on the field prior to the game to declare it “Herb Score Night.”

This kind of thing would never happen today, but it’s kind of sweet to think about.

The service groups, Civitan and Rotary and such, even presented Score with gifts that night before he went out to pitch — a silver plate and a set of steak knives.

It’s been a long time since Gators had simultaneous restart in football and hoops

Not since 1990 have the Florida Gators simultaneously started over with new coaches in football (Jim McElwain) and basketball (Michael White). Spooky stuff, but it really did work out pretty good that other time.

 Michael White (yahoo.com)
Michael White
(yahoo.com)

All Steve Spurrier did was give Florida its first SEC title. Then he won five more of those and the 1999 national championship, too — another Gator first.

Meanwhile, Lon Kruger — who also came on in 1990 — was making something of Florida basketball, too. He took the Gators to their first Final Four in 1994, the highest achievement for the program until Billy Donovan came along.

White’s turn at the wheel begins Monday with his introductory press conference in Gainesville.

White seems painfully young at 38, but he’s eight years older than Donovan was when he took the Florida job in 1996.

White is a coach’s son, but his father moved on from small-college track and field to become an athletic director. Today Kevin White is the athletic director at Duke. They seem to know a little about basketball up there, so that’s a good sign.

Florida AD Jeremy Foley had more than just White’s coaching record at Louisiana Tech (101-40) as a job recommendation. In his college days, White played basketball for Ole Miss, starting at point guard from his freshman year on. That sounds like leadership. What’s more, White is tied for seventh on the Rebels’ career assists list. That computes as leadership, too, and is an example of the kind of team-first concept that Donovan made work at Florida.

And how did White do as a player in games against Florida? Well, it’s pretty tough digging up box scores from 1998 and 1999 on the fly, but the overall results suggest he had a pretty good handle on the Ole Miss offense.

Jim McElwain (Getty Images)
Jim McElwain (Getty Images)

The Rebels beat Florida 90-79 at Oxford during White’s junior year. As a senior, he was part of a 79-68 win over the Gators at the O’Connell Center. That Gators team went 22-9 and made it to the Sweet 16 for the first time under Donovan. Matter of fact, that Ole Miss game was the only one Florida lost at home that season.

White is getting $2 million a year to coach the Gators. Not bad, considering Billy D signed for $400,000 per year on his original contract at Florida.

Not much pressure, then, on McElwain and White. Like I said, this double dose of change hasn’t happened at Florida since 1990. Prior to that, you have to go back to 1960, when Ray Graves became the football coach and slippery old Norm Sloan began his first of two runs in charge of Florida hoops.