Almost without rival, Greg White is one of the most energetic and enthusiastic coaches in the country. His will to win and his desire for success are clearly evident just by seeing the man coach. Watching the sidelines is nearly as entertaining as the game itself.
Last season, a rebuilding basketball team advanced to the Mid-American Conference Tournament for the second consecutive year. This was a team that at the end of the season started two freshmen, two sophomores and a junior. Along the way, the Herd handed perennial national power UMass an 88-66 defeat in the Henderson Center.
After the season, White and his staff put together another solid recruiting class for the third straight year. The initial class included Travis Young, who was the league's Freshman of the Year, and Joda Burgess, who was also a member of the MAC's all-Freshman team. Last year's class included J.R. VanHoose (6-9, 220) who was named to the MAC's All-Freshman Team and Honorable Mention All-MAC. The Paintsville, KY, native became the first freshman in school history to lead the team in both scoring and rebounding. Tamar Slay (6-8, 195), was the other freshman brought in. The former West Virginia Player of the Year started 15 games and showed signs of brilliance on the floor. The Herd also added Cornelius Jackson (6-4, 190), a transfer from the University of Tennessee. Jackson led the MAC in assists and assist-to-turnover ratio. Josh Perkey (6-7, 210), an all-conference player from the Universtiy of Charleston, also joined the squad last season.
This season White added three proven post players from the Junior College ranks. William Butler (6-7, 200) comes from Santa Fe Community College where he played for current Marshall coach Jeff Burkhamer. Marques Evans (6-8, 235) played at Paris Junior College and will add tremendous strength underneath. Sean Wuller (6-10, 235) rounds out the transfers. Wuller comes from Belleville Area Community College. Also coming in is Monty Wright (6-4, 190). Wright, who is a cousin of Cornelius Jackson, comes from Fork Union Military Acdemy and will add depth and strength to the off guard position. Jon Bentley (6-8, 200) comes to Marshall from Hazard (KY) High School where he averaged 27 points and 14 rebounds. Also joining the Marshall roster is redshirt freshman Edwin Johnson (6-9, 210). With Johnson's size and shooting touch, he has the ability to help both inside and out.
Add these new players to a team that returns all five starters and it is easy to understand White's excitement.
When White joined Marshall, he was the fifth head coach at Marshall in a decade. White pieced together a team that won the North Division of the Southern Conference and advanced to the finals of the league tournament. The Herd lost to Chattanooga, a team that advanced to the Sweet Sixteen, by one point in overtime in the championship game.
His love of Marshall basketball is worn on his sleeve. White is a motivator and dynamic public speaker. The fact is, if you looked back through the distinguished and storied history of Marshall University basketball, you would be hard-pressed to find a person more dedicated to the program than White.
First as a fan, then as a player, twice later as an assistant coach and now as head coach, White, 40, has poured his heart and soul into the Thundering Herd basketball program. On April 8, 1996, while serving as an assistant coach on the UCLA staff, White's lifelong dream came true when he was named head coach for the Thundering Herd.
It was White, a native of Mullens, WV, who followed in the footsteps of his boyhood idol Mike D'Antoni, also a Mullens native, and came to Marshall in the fall of 1977. Fresh from a stellar career as West Virginia High School Player of the Year, White's freshman average of 38.8 minutes per game established a rapid tempo that has remained in his coach's role.
White culminated his playing career at Marshall with a school standard, and previously a Southern Conference record, of 701 assists. He was named to the league's All-Freshman team and twice named all-conference. Among his performances in his 113 consecutive games was a record-setting 18 assists in one contest (versus CCNY).
Tabbed as the player who brought Marshall into the Southern Conference in 1977, White brought Marshall into the Mid-American Conference in 1997.
One only has to look into White's eyes to find the enthusiasm he holds for his alma mater when he says, "I'm from West Virginia and I played at Marshall. I've been preparing for this opportunity all my life. Nobody can sell Marshall basketball better than me."
A Marshall Athletic Department Hall of Fame inductee in 1993, White has gone full circle from player to coach. He signed a five-year contract, thus fulfilling the university's search for more than just a head coach.
"We wanted a good coach, but we needed more than that," said Marshall President Dr. J. Wade Gilley. "We were looking for someone willing to commit himself to building and maintaining a strong basketball program at Marshall University for a period of at least five years."
With White, Marshall found someone who had made that commitment years ago.
AS A COACH
White brings both head coaching knowledge and big time basketball experience to the Marshall sidelines. His most recent stop prior to taking over the Marshall program was a one-year stint at UCLA.
At UCLA, White teamed with Charleston, WV, native and Bruins head coach Jim Harrick. White's time with the Bruins as an assistant coach helped pinpoint the expectations and pressures of coaching at the major college level.
Of course, coaching at any level is demanding and pressure-packed. White's 10 years of experience at both Pikeville College and the University of Charleston add to his strengths in both of those areas. At Pikeville, White inherited a team that had one win the year prior to his arrival.
From 1984 through 1989 White guided Pikeville College to a 51-84 record. The 1990 through 1995 campaigns saw White compile a 68-70 mark at Charleston. His Charleston teams won one West Virginia Conference regular season title and one conference tournament title. In 1992, White was honored as West Virginia Conference Coach of the Year.
White's coaching resume also includes two stops at his alma mater as an assistant. In 1981-82, White was a student assistant coach with the Thundering Herd and then followed as a volunteer assistant in 1982-83. White returned to Marshall as an assistant coach for the 1989-90 campaign.
AS A PLAYER
In his four years in a Marshall uniform, White started 113 consecutive games and dished out a school record 701 assists. He also etched his name in the history books with a single-game record of 18 assists. During his Marshall career, White scored 1,024 points and led the team in assists each of his four years. His free throw percentage of 86.4% (260 of 301) ranks second best in school history. In April of 1981, White played in the prestigious Portsmouth Invitational Basketball Tournament.
As a high school player, White starred for the Mullens Rebels and was named to the All-West Virginia Class AA team three times. His senior year, White was honored by the Morgantown Touchdown Club as its Player of the Year. During his three seasons as a varsity player, White scored 1,281 points in 66 games, an average of 19.4 per contest. He culminated his prep career by appearing in all-star games in Sharon, PA, Buffalo, NY, and Akron, OH.
White was born March 31, 1959, in his hometown of Mullens, WV. He is married to Dr. Donna Slayton and the couple has one son, Hunter and one daughter, Alexa Morgan.
White earned a B.A. in marketing from Marshall University in 1982 and a master's in sports administration in 1993, also from Marshall.
During the summers, White operates one of the largest camps in the country. They are camps that deal with not only basketball, but several important aspects of life. This past year, White's camps drew over 900 campers in just two weeks. White also headed up the prestigious UCLA camps in 1996.
White is also known world wide as a motivational speaker. He has worked with companies such as Converse, Mercedes and Acordia, as well as all the top basketball camps in the country. He is also a consultant for Reebok and Big Ball Inc.