Jon Teitel continues our season preview series by chatting with Louisiana Tech coach Mike White about how to deal with conference realignment.
Your program moved from the WAC to the CUSA over the summer, what impact has this had on your off-season preparation? Changing leagues has not really impacted our workouts or philosophies much. We think we have a chance to be an NCAA tourney team if we can keep improving, regardless of what league we play in. However, we realize that the CUSA will be tough, and we are excited to be a member.
Your team went 14-0 at home last year and returns 9 of its top-10 scorers: what are your expectations for the upcoming season? We expect to be competitive in every game and put ourselves in another position to find a way into the tourney. This time we hope to capitalize by playing better down the stretch and not taking anything for granted. We have several areas to improve in, and that is our focus right now. We do not expect to be dancing in March, but we certainly hope to be.
In the 1998 NCAA tourney as a player at Mississippi, Bryce Drew scored 22 points including his famous ESPY-winning three-point shot at the buzzer in a one point win by Valparaiso. What kind of defense did Coach Rob Evans set up in the final huddle, and where does that rank among the most devastating losses of your career? Coach is a man-to-man guy so naturally we stuck with our bread and butter. Unfortunately, Bryce hit a great shot and the rest is history. That was the toughest loss that I have ever been a part of.
In the 1999 NCAA tourney you had a game-high seven assists in a two-point win over Villanova. How big a deal was it to get the first NCAA tourney win in school history? It was an amazing experience to be a part of the first NCAA tourney win in school history when considering all of the greats that have donned the Rebel jersey. It was a breakthrough of sorts for Ole Miss basketball.
You graduated with 370 career assists, which remains among the best totals in school history: what is the secret to being a good point guard? I am not sure if there is one secret to being a good point guard, but I know that it helps to possess speed and quickness along with some leadership skills and basketball IQ. I have been very fortunate to coach a few really good ones including my current point guard Speedy Smith.
In the 2010 NIT as assistant under Andy Kennedy at Ole Miss, Murphy Holloway scored 17 points including a three-point play with three seconds left in a three-point, two-overtime win over Texas Tech. Where does that rank among the most exciting games of your career? That game was a roller coaster! It was definitely as exciting a game as I have ever been involved with. We had a buzzer-beater a few years ago to beat Kentucky that comes to mind as well.
In 2011 you were named head coach at Louisiana Tech. Why did you take the job? I jumped at the opportunity to coach at Louisiana Tech! We have all the necessary resources to become a really good mid-major program and to maintain success. We have a national brand name, a tremendous recruiting base, and we have had several terrific players come through this program (including Hall of Famer Karl Malone). In addition, Ruston is a wonderful place to live.
In the 2013 NIT you had a five-point road win over Florida State before losing to Southern Miss. What did your team learn from those games that you think can help you get back to the postseason? One thing we learned is that we have the ability to compete with anyone, but competing and winning are two separate entities. We made winning plays in Tallahassee, but Southern Miss made most of those plays in Hattiesburg.
After an 18-game winning streak and the program’s first AP top-25 ranking in almost three decades you were named WAC COY. What did it mean to you to win such an outstanding honor? It was a tremendous honor to be named the Don Haskins WAC COY, especially when considering how well-coached the league was. However, I understand that COY awards are won by coaches with great staffs/players.
Your father Kevin is athletic director at Duke, your brother Danny is athletic director at Buffalo, and your brother Brian is an associate athletic director at your current school. When are you going to put down your clipboard and move from the sideline to the front office? I always tell my brothers that I will be selling football tickets for one of them one day! I am very proud of their successes and could not be prouder of the person and professional that my father is, we are very blessed to have such a great role model. Unfortunately my father was not a hoopster, so he cannot give me any advice on shooting free throws or defending the pick-and-roll.