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Georgia hires Mike White from Florida to replace fired Crean

Florida head coach Mike White directs his players during the second half of an NCAA men's...
Florida head coach Mike White directs his players during the second half of an NCAA men's college basketball game against Texas A&M at the Southeastern Conference tournament in Tampa, Fla., Thursday, March 10, 2022.((AP Photo/Chris O'Meara))
Published: Mar. 13, 2022 at 8:02 PM EDT
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ATHENS, Ga. (AP) - Georgia lured Mike White away from Southeastern Conference rival Florida on Sunday, a surprising hire by the Bulldogs’ moribund basketball program only three days after Tom Crean was fired.

White’s hiring was approved by Georgia’s athletic association’s executive board in a conference call that was held just as the NCAA Tournament men’s selections were being announced.

The Bulldogs haven’t received an NCAA bid since 2015 and are coming off perhaps the worst season in school history.

They hope White can change that.

The 45-year-old coach was 142-88 in seven seasons at Florida, including a 72-52 mark in SEC games. The Gators were 19-13 this season with a 9-9 conference record.

Florida finished .500 or better in conference games in each season under White, who guided the Gators to four NCAA Tournament appearances.

Taking over in Gainesville after Billy Donovan’s 19-year tenure that included two national titles, White’s most successful campaign was in 2016-17. Florida went 27-9 and reached the East Regional final before losing to fellow SEC school South Carolina, one win short of the Final Four.

The Gators failed to advance past the second round in their other three NCAA appearances under White, sparking a bit of discontent from a fan base that was used to far more success under Donovan.

Just making the NCAAs would be a huge step up for Georgia, which has reached the Big Dance only three times in the past 20 years — a lack of success that was only heightened by the Bulldogs winning the national title in football this past season.

Georgia’s hoops team, on the other hand, went 6-26 this season — the most losses in school history. The Bulldogs went 1-17 in the SEC, the fewest conference wins in the post-World War II era.

Florida’s hopes of improving its resume for NCAA Tournament consideration this season ended with an 83-80 overtime loss to Texas A&M in the SEC Tournament on Thursday.

Crean was fired that same day after the Bulldogs lost their final 12 games, including a 35-point rout by Vanderbilt in the opening round of the SEC Tournament.

Crean was 47-75 overall and 15-58 in SEC games in four seasons. He was been unable to duplicate the success he enjoyed at Marquette, where he advanced to the Final Four, or Indiana, where he coached three Sweet 16 teams.

Details of White’s contract with Georgia were not immediately available. Before taking over at Florida, he went 101-40 in four seasons coaching Louisiana Tech.

The hiring of a coach from one of the Bulldogs’ biggest SEC rivals was hardly expected.

When it became apparent late in the season that Crean’s days were numbered, much of the speculation about his successor focused on former Georgia player Jonas Hayes, the associate head coach at Xavier.

But Georgia athletic director Josh Brooks, in his first major hire since taking over the post last year when Greg McGarity retired, caught everyone off guard.