In the summer of 2010, NBA star LeBron James famously uttered, “not one, not two, not three, not four, not five, not six, not seven,” implying the Miami Heat were building a dynasty after an offseason of superstar acquisitions.
While the Heat ultimately earned the No. 2 seed in the Eastern Conference on the way to an NBA finals appearance, many seem to have forgotten the first month of the season.
Miami opened the season 9-8 after losing four out of five in November. Rumors were rampant that head coach Eric Spoelstra would be replaced due to the slow start.
However, team president Pat Riley backed his head coach, and the team made a run to the finals and culminated with two titles in a four-year span.
What does all this mean?
It means it’s way too soon to judge Mike White and his Florida basketball team, regardless of what fans on social media think.
Mike White might as well be our McElwain or Muschamp. Which makes @ScottStricklin cowardice around firing White all the more fucking infuriating
— GatorCritic (@GatorCritic) November 17, 2019
Let’s check in on Mike White during the timeout pic.twitter.com/NLp9eOxCO1
— Tim McRaw (@Gator_Alum) November 15, 2019
When does this fan base start to critique Mike White? I mean—what’s the red line for him/them? That’s a legitimate question and not meaning to be shady—but I’d like some Mike White fans to answer this question.
— ATL Gator (@champton85) November 17, 2019
The Gators started the season ranked No. 6 in the AP Poll, but have quickly fallen out of the rankings after a 2-2 start.
This Gators team returned only five players from a year ago, meaning as many as six newcomers are seeing significant action.
As the 2010-11 Heat proved, sometimes it takes time for players to gel.
White has already made an adjustment in the starting five as freshman Scottie Lewis has replaced sophomore Noah Locke in the starting lineup.
Lewis is a potential one-and-done player who can score in a multitude of ways. Maybe more so than anyone else on the team, Lewis has the ability to go off at any time and is Florida’s best pure scorer.
Note: It will be interesting to see what White does with the starting lineup if Tre Mann (day-to-day, concussion) is unable to play.
None of this is to say Mike White is without fault for the rough start. Losing to rival Florida State is never going to be acceptable, and White’s 0-5 record against the Seminoles is not going to make the Florida faithful happy.
But this team deserves time.
A Potential Answer:
One of the biggest problems for Florida thus far has been its shooting from distance. As a team, the Gators are shooting just 24.1% from beyond the arc, despite nearly twenty attempts per contest.
Talented transfer big Kerry Blackshear rarely gets an easy basket down low because the opposition can collapse in the paint, largely due to the poor shooting along the perimeter.
Freshman Omar Payne has proven his ability to play at this level and should see more time on the court with the senior forward. With Payne on the floor, Blackshear would have the opportunity to play a more stretch-four position. The Gators would also likely play more of an inside-out game, which should lead to open shots from deep.
The Gators would then play a much more traditional five of Payne, Blackshear, Johnson, Lewis, Nembhard. This lineup should find plenty of opportunities in the paint and would allow Tre Mann and Noah Locke to come in off the bench and provide a spark when necessary.
Mike White will get the ship righted. He’s proven his coaching acumen with four straight 20-win seasons and an elite eight appearance with far less talented teams.
Instead of overreacting to the early season struggles of a young, up and coming team, let’s sit back and watch the development.
By the middle of the SEC schedule, we will know a lot more about this team.