The White family text chain is relatively quiet right now.
No talking trash. No picking sides. Just a handful of “good luck” sentiments before arguably the biggest basketball game involving a handful of households with the same surname.
Nothing else needs to be said. Everyone knows the stakes because they’ve experienced this level of competition their entire lives. It comes with being part of “the First Family of college sports.”
But it doesn’t make the Sweet 16 matchup between fourth-seeded Tennessee (25-10) and ninth-seeded Florida Atlantic (33-3) on Thursday night any less awkward for brothers and fellow athletic directors Danny (UT) and Brian White (FAU).
“It’s not ideal,” Brian White said. “But it’s a reality at times.”
Added Danny White: “We always get kind of silent about competition amongst each other. We talk trash about a lot of things but not about our teams competing against each other.”
As two of five children of longtime college administrator Kevin White, whose stops as AD include Tulane (1991-96), Arizona State (1996-2000), Notre Dame (2000-08) and Duke (2008-21), they know the cost of winning and losing. And they realize one of them will be on the wrong end of the scoreboard at Madison Square Garden.
“It’s not fun for us ‘cause these games matter a whole lot,” Danny White said. “Getting into the Sweet 16 and advancing to the Elite Eight, which is going to happen to either us or FAU, that’s a life moment that you’ll always carry with you. So it’s just too heavy to be flippant about.”
Three of the five White children followed in their father’s footsteps and became college athletic administrators: Brian landed at FAU in 2018 after several years at Missouri; Danny took the Tennessee job after a decade at Buffalo and Central Florida; and Mariah Chappell is an assistant AD at Southern Methodist University.
Eldest daughter Maureen Treadway is a high school English teacher in Arizona, and eldest son Mike just finished his first season as Georgia’s basketball coach after seven years at Florida.
The White family is beyond tight. Not only do the five siblings exchange messages daily, Mike and Danny bought beachside condos a floor above and below their parents’ vacation home. And when Danny was hiring his first head coach, he used Dad’s connections at Duke (Coach Mike Krzyzewski) to land Bobby Hurley at Buffalo. And when Brian needed a basketball coach at Florida Atlantic, he turned to Mike’s staff at Florida and lured away Dusty May.
“Why would you not bounce ideas off the people you know, ones who have your best interests at heart?” Brian White said. “You know they’re giving you real advice even if it’s advice you might not agree with.”
The Whites try to gather at least twice a year, usually around Christmas and the Fourth of July. The five siblings have a combined 16 kids of their own, and there’s a good chance one of them will end up working in athletics.
Kevin and Jane began their careers as high school teachers and track coaches in New Port Richey, Florida. They moved often from there, working their way around the country and up the collegiate ladder. Kevin served as track and field coach at Southeast Missouri State and assistant cross country and track and field coach at Central Michigan. His first AD job was at Division III Loras College in Iowa.
He built a legacy – and a lineage – from there. He also built three houses with nearly identical floor plans to provide the kids with some level or normalcy as they bounced from city to city.
As the story goes, Kevin and Jane drew a rough sketch of what they wanted at a restaurant one night, took it to an architect and had it built in Kenner, Louisiana. They had it replicated in South Bend, Indiana, and again in Durham, North Carolina – where they still live today.
“Pictures are in the same places. It’s creepy,” Mike White said.
Admittedly neat, too.
“I never lived in the Durham house, but when I’m there, it feels like I’m in my childhood home,” Brian White said. “It’s very cool. We’ll be sitting around at the holidays and someone tells a story and says, ‘I was sitting right there.’ Except it was in the South Bend house. A lot of memories in that house, but not that actual house.”
Two of the homes even had identical basketball hoops in the driveways, where “trash talk, bloody noses and skinned knees were nonstop,” Danny White said.
Danny and Brian expect to get together briefly before the Sweet 16 matchup and surely will exchange condolences/congratulatory texts following the game. In the meantime, this is the closest they would come to stoking each other:
“I know deep down (our parents) are rooting for the Owls,” Brian quipped. “Tennessee beat Duke; they never should have done that.”
Responded Danny: “I’m sensing more orange out of the rest of the family.”
AP March Madness coverage: https://apnews.com/hub/march-madness and bracket: https://apnews.com/hub/ncaa-mens-bracket and https://apnews.com/hub/ap-top-25-college-basketball-poll and https://twitter.com/AP-Top25