E.A. Sports Today

The White Plains choice

Longtime White Plains assistant has interim tag removed from title

New White Plains football coach Chris White (L) talks with Calhoun County school board member Phil Murphy after being approved by the board Thursday night.

New White Plains football coach Chris White (L) talks with Calhoun County school board member Phil Murphy after being approved by the board Thursday night.

By Al Muskewitz
East Alabama Sports Today

When White Plains administrators suddenly found themselves without a head football coach last month, they knew it was important to act quickly to find a successor to limit the uproar of transition.

The perfect choice was in front of them all along, and not just because he was close.

Chris White was approved Thursday as the next Wildcats’ new football coach. He was their defensive coordinator under Larry Strain, who left the program after nine months and one football season to take the head coaching job at Handley.

Stunned administrators quickly named White the interim head coach and Thursday the county school board removed that tag for a more permanent label.

“The kids are always our No. 1 priority and coach White has been the popular pick among the kids forever,” White Plains principal Andy Ward said. “It was an easy decision, but not because of anything other than he was the right guy for the job at this particular time.”

White, 44, almost was the right guy the last time the job was open, but came up second because administrators didn’t feel they could pass on an opportunity to get a coach with Strain’s experience and resume.

The Munford native could’ve pouted and even left, but instead took the high road because he wanted to learn under Strain. When Strain left for his dream job, the players went to bat for White with the administration.

“I’m real excited about the opportunity,” White said. “I’ve been under some real good head coaches who have groomed me, but Larry coming in last season probably changed a lot about my coaching in the last year.

“The way he delegated duties, the way his relationship was with the kids. I really thought I was pretty good at all that, but I wasn’t, watching what he did.”

It didn’t take long for the White to sense the transition was going to be smooth. The first school day after he was elevated to interim head coach he was in the weight room with the players and never heard a discouraging word about the change.

White brings coordinator experience on both sides of the ball with the Wildcats, which should serve him well in his first head coaching job.

In addition to the DC duties last year, he was the offensive coordinator under former coach Heath Harmon for five years before taking a year to gain some head coaching experience in the program’s lower level.

His first varsity team is expected to have the identical defense and passing game it had a year ago. He does plan to tweak the running game “just a little bit” to take advantage of his assistant’s expertise.

The Wildcats must replace a dozen seniors, but return the likes of Drew Hudson, Lawrence Jackson, Caleb Morrow and Caleb Turner.

White also is an assistant coach for the White Plains softball team, but it has yet been determined if he’ll maintain those duties. He’ll at least finish the current season with them, he said.

The opening had drawn more than 100 applicants of varying degrees of experience, including many from out of state. Ward is said to have interviewed about 20 candidates.

But in the end it came down to only one.

“We had nobody who applied that I feel like our kids would respect like they do coach White,” Ward said. “It was just the perfect timing. Hated that coach Strain left, but it was the perfect timing for coach White. He’s put his time in and he deserves a shot to see what he can do with those kids.”

On the cover: Chris White directs the players on the field after former coach Larry Strain was showered with the ice bucket in the closing seconds of his first victory with White Plains in September. White was approved as Strain’s successor Thursday night.

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