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Sports Illustrated gives Todd Golden hire great grade, same as Mike White

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Florida basketball saw some significant turnover on its bench after the conclusion of a disappointing 2021-22 season, with Mike White departing to Athens to take the reins of the Georgia Bulldog‘s program while the Gators grabbed San Francisco Dons head coach Todd Golden to lead its team. Despite a mutual decision to split, the former departed UF with great acrimony while the latter was welcomed by the Gator Nation with much fanfare.

Kevin Sweeney from Sports Illustrated took a look at the many recent head coaching hires throughout the college basketball landscape and graded each acquisition accordingly. The top grade (A) was earned by three schools: Seton Hall, Mississippi State and Xavier, who added Shaheen Holloway, Chris Jans and Sean Miller, respectively. It is in the next tier where the Gators get a strong mention.

In the A-minus class are four hires, two of which are Bulter’s Thad Matta and Kansas State’s Jerome Tang. The other two are a pair of schools that are very familiar with each other — and share even more familiarity on the sidelines as well — are Florida’s Todd Golden and Georgia’s Mike White. Here is what Sweeney had to say about the Golden hire.

There’s certainly some risk involved here for AD Scott Stricklin, who handed a top-20 program with national championship history to a 36-year-old with three years of head coaching experience and a 23–22 career record in the WCC. But Golden is universally lauded among industry insiders as a rising star in the profession, and what he was able to accomplish at San Francisco is far more impressive than his record indicates. He’s the first coach in two decades to bring a WCC team not named Gonzaga, BYU or Saint Mary’s to an at-large NCAA tournament berth, using an analytically savvy approach to build a winner at an under-resourced program.

The big question here is whether Golden can navigate the tricky recruiting waters of the SEC against powerhouses like John Calipari, Eric Musselman, Rick Barnes, Bruce Pearl and Nate Oats. Early transfer signings of Will Richard (Belmont) and Alex Fudge (LSU) are a somewhat encouraging sign on that front.

In regards to the other guy, Sweeney blames White’s woes at Florida on the large shadow cast by Gator great Billy Donovan, who took the team to stratospheric heights during his tenure in Gainesville. Perhaps some new scenery will benefit Florida’s ex-coach, but given the weakness of UGA’s men’s basketball program overall, he is unlikely to see much more success than he did with the Gators.

All in all, an A- grade seems pretty fair (Editor’s note: this is the grade I gave the hire in our Gators Wire roundtable), especially if Golden can live up to the lofty expectations. With his modern brand of analytics-driven basketball coming to town, there is a lot for Gators fans to be excited about in the coming seasons.

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