Who should replace Mike White at Florida? Choice #3: Dana Altman

Dana Altman
Photo credit: Kyle Terada, USA Today

Now that the Gators’ NCAA Tournament dreams are all but officially dashed, it’s time to turn all Gator basketball-related focus to who Florida should hire to replace Mike White. Today, we take a look at choice #3 on my board: Dana Altman.

Again, this is all under the assumption that Scott Stricklin chooses to be competent this offseason. Admittedly, that is a pretty big stretch given that his laissez-faire attitude toward Gator basketball has already resulted in two of my top three choices last year (Chris Beard and Porter Moser) taking other jobs and my top choice this year (Andy Enfield) being locked up at his current job with a monster extension.

But let’s assume Stricklin finally sees the light and does what has to be done, and creates an opening at the position of Florida’s head men’s basketball coach. With Enfield off the board (thank you again for that, Mr. Stricklin,) my top choice would be Scott Drew. I truly do believe Drew would give Florida sincere thought one way or another, but if he says no, where does Florida go next?

3: Dana Altman, Oregon (formerly CreightonKansas State and Marshall)

Age: 63

Highlights: won the Pac-12 four of the previous six seasons with Oregon, took the Ducks to the Sweet 16 five times since arriving in 2011, and reached a Final Four in 2017

Complete coaching record: 709-366

Why Altman?

In short, Altman is a proven program CEO, knows how to recruit, and most importantly, knows how to win. As I wrote a year ago:

“Altman is an interesting case study of what happens when you let someone hone his skills at a so-so program, and then poach him when you think he’s ready. A quick stop at Kansas State preceded a renaissance at Creighton: the Blue Jays had only been to nine NCAA Tournaments, ever, before Altman arrived in 1995.

He then took them to seven in the ensuing decade and a half, raising the level of expectations there and consistently keeping the program at that new level of expectation. He even got them to the Round of 32 twice- which, unlike at Florida, is a big deal at Creighton.

Then he departed for Oregon. There, after a bad first year, he flipped the program around and reached five consecutive NCAA Tournaments, winning at least one game in each and leading the Ducks to an Elite Eight in 2016 and the Final Four in 2017. The Ducks fell back to earth over the next two years, but Altman led them to an unlikely Pac-12 tournament title and a trip to the Sweet 16 in 2019, showed more promise in the COVID-canceled 2020 season and now has the Ducks back in the Sweet 16.

And unlike White, Altman is known for overseeing explosive offenses. Almost every year since his arrival, the Ducks have ranked in the top 20 of KenPom’s offensive efficiency rankings. No doubt he could replicate that at Florida with an unfair amount of nearby talent to recruit.”

Pretty much every word of that remains in effect today, although he’s 63 now as opposed to 61 when I wrote that. But if his heart is in it- and that’s a big if, meaning that needs to be gauged before making an offer- there’s little doubt he’s still got a solid decade of coaching left in him. And that decade may as well be at Florida.

Would Altman take the job?

The problem with Dana Altman now is that, as is the case with Andy Enfield, Porter Moser, and Chris Beard, Scott Stricklin might have already blown his chance to get him. Like everyone else on this earth, Altman ages sequentially- and now he’s 63 years old, and turning 64 soon. That’s not to say he can’t give Florida a great nine or ten-year run if he were to make the move, but the potential desire to pack up and relocate to the opposite corner of the continent is probably decreasing by the year.

But before you dismiss the possibility out of hand, consider the fact that Florida pulled in $54.6 million this academic year simply for being a member of the SEC- and that’s before booster donations and revenue. Being the de facto official university of Nike means Oregon is not exactly impoverished; they take care of Altman. However, for a coach of his stature, Florida could sweeten Altman’s contract in a state with no state income tax (which is NOT the case in Oregon), place him in a more prestigious conference that’s somehow not much more difficult than the Pac-12 to win, and let him retire in the state where pretty much everyone wants to retire.

Concerns: not a long-term option

As mentioned above, Altman is already 63- and he’s been a head coach for 33 years now. It’s only natural to wonder how long his heart would be in the job before burning out. He’s proven his worth at enough different schools for me to think he could do it one more time, but I’d prefer not to be in this same situation six or seven years from now if he abruptly decides to retire.

Verdict: best “safe” hire

There’s probably not a “safer” option out there than Dana Altman, not even Drew. At least in the short run. Once you look more than a decade or so down the road, the future looks murky. If Altman can load up his staff at Florida with some hotshot young assistants, though- guys like, say, Mike Miller- there would then be a setup for success in the long run if one of them excels in his assistant role, and is then able to pick up where Altman leaves off when he retires. That’s probably the best Florida can do from both a floor and a ceiling standpoint in both the near and far future if it can’t get Drew.